In my last two blogs, I wrote more globally, or theoretically, about living life with intention. With this post, I want to focus on what I think are three first, good steps in that direction: making the decision; opening up; engaging in self-reflection. These three steps are, at the same time, both simple yet difficult.
STEP ONE: MAKING A DECISION
This first step – that of making a decision to live more intentionally – is the easiest to understand and (perhaps) the most difficult to do. It is the step that gets the ball rolling if it’s going to roll at all.
Making a decision to live more intentionally sounds simple, and it is. Make the decision. What more does it take?
The decision must be a real decision. It takes a significant commitment to live with more intent. It means committing not just mind, but soul. And it means committing time and energy and focus.
As I said: simple, yet difficult.
If you feel, from time to time, that life has gotten away from you, or that you haven’t lived exactly the way you wanted to, or that you have things you want to accomplish – dwelling on that for a little while might bring the impetus you need to break through the inertia. Inertia, having no strength of its own, is still a powerful thing. It is much easier to continue to do the same-old, same-old than it is to change.
Step #1: decide that you really want to give your life more direction and shape.
STEP TWO: OPENING UP
Once the initial decision is made, a second decision needs to follow: that of opening up.
Becoming more intentional will bring, undoubtedly, change. Some of it will be welcome change. But some will be difficult, threatening, difficult. We will resist seeing it. We will resist acknowledging it. We will resist agreeing to it.
So, the next step is to take some time to imagine your heart and mind opening. I mean that literally: close your eyes and picture your heart opening an entryway, your mind pulling open the gate that stands at its front. Imagine your way into being a welcoming soul.
I like to use the term “supple heart.”
STEP THREE: PERSONAL REFLECTION
The last of these three steps is to reflect on your life and its patterns, its habits, as they are. To become aware of the “background noise” of everyday rote elements, the times when you are sleepwalking through life.
One way to do this is to keep a journal of what you do each day. A simple one or two-word entry, along with the time, is all that’s needed. Then, at the end of the day or right at bedtime, look through it. Is this how I want my days to look? What was good about it? What was needless routine? Or you can do this without the journal, just sitting and recalling the day’s activities.
Another subject for reflection is personal weaknesses. Where do I not behave up to my standards? Where am I crotchety or aggressive or selfish? Mussar teaches us to look at flash points – difficult encounters. Why was I so impatient with my daughter? Why was I so angry at my co-worker? Rather than reflecting on someone else’s behavior, though, this reflection turns a mirror on our self. Instead of blaming your daughter or co-worker, you look inside to ask “what’s going on inside of me? Do I like that? Is that the person I want to be?”
Finally, personal reflection can focus on actual mistakes we’ve made and problems we’ve caused. Why did I do that? Am I in danger of repeating it? What do I need not to? How do I fix it? What can I do to better my relationship with my brother or my mother or my son?
SIMPLE, YET DIFFICULT
Three steps, all easy to understand but difficult to do: deciding to become more intentional; opening up to change; reflecting on our self and its patterns: these are first steps towards living more intentionally.
This Friday night I look forward to dialogue with you about these ideas and to hear your thoughts about how to live intentionally.
Next week, I’ll take up the roles of growing our knowledge as a means towards gaining more intentionality, and then the step of choosing to act and acting.