Sunday, September 12, 2010

Don't Go with the Flow

Riding the high-speed momentum train of life, days tend to blur into one another. Who you are today is pretty much who you were yesterday and the day before and the day before. Variances tend not to be self-inspired, but instead other-inspired. Unexpected events. Challenging situations. Challenging people. These are the catalysts of change and variation.

Sometimes, the right catalyst can touch off a violent exchange among the otherwise inert elements of our lives. The everydayness of our lives builds up like crud, accruing layer upon layer into a sleeping volcano waiting for just the right moment, just the right event, just the right trigger to awaken. The tectonic plates of who you are becoming and who you would be grind against one another building up friction and resistance until the juxtaposed forces snap. And everything changes!

No one sees it coming, but there it is. "Suddenly", you're not going to take it anymore. "Suddenly", it's time to do something about it. "Suddenly", you're moving forward and never looking back.

For most of us, that's when change occurs. We accept and accept and accept and accept until we don't. The last straw. The tipping point. The catalyst. Something leads us to change.

But until then, we're pretty much the same person today as yesterday. Pretty much.

I Meant to Do That
We've talked before about setting intentions. About living intentionally. Setting intentions is the alternative to waiting for change. It's a way to live your life more deliberately. It's kind of like New Years Resolutions, but... well... it's the same thing, only different. Setting intentions is an activity that you do daily, not every year. The intentions needn't be big, just small steps towards what you want.

You can set intentions for daily activities: to dust the window blinds... to avoid refined sugar... to exercise for twenty minutes... to write a thank you note. These types of activity-oriented intentions can be quite useful. You can also set intentions for daily states of being: to be more relaxed... to not worry... to enjoy everyone you meet... to be loving. These intentions can also be quite useful.

Of course the trick is not only to set intentions but to follow through on your intentions. To do this it's great to set intentions and share them with someone who's also setting intentions. Get up in the morning and share your five intentions for the day. Throughout the day, check in with one another to see how it's going. At the end of the day, review what intentions you achieved, what you didn't and why.

The exchanges needn't be face-to-face or even realtime (you can email). But sharing the process with someone can be wonderfully empowering.

Why Set Intentions
In the absence of intentions, we tend to flow with whatever comes our way: sometimes with great resistance and sometimes with ease, but nonetheless, flow we do. The problem with going with the flow is that you're no longer defining who you're becoming; the flow is. Going with the flow doesn't make that big a difference in the near term, but after a few months or a few years or a few decades, you find yourself somewhere far from where you intended to be.

As the disparity between intended and actual destinations increases, unhappiness increases. It's typically a long, slow and imperceptible slide into deep unhappiness. Nonetheless, at some point unhappiness reaches critical mass and then big changes occur.

Of course, you can be happy wherever you are regardless of how well it aligns with your original goals and intended destination. Still, seeing that you can be happy anywhere, why not make it where you want to be.

When you live more deliberately on a day-to-day basis, you significantly increase the likelihood of being who you want to be where you want to be and doing what you want do.

Easy Steps
Here are some steps you can take to living more intentionally.
  1. Share:Find someone with whom you can share your daily intentions
  2. Small Steps: Each day, share 3-5 intentions for that day. These intentions are for you based on what you want for yourself: no shoulds or have-to's. Make your intentions specific, clear and attainable. Small steps.
  3. Check In: Throughout the day, check-in with yourself to see how you're doing with you intentions. If your intention is state-of-being-oriented (e.g., to be more relaxed), then identify some physical indicators of your state-of-being, (e.g., how tight are my shoulders right now).
  4. Support: Periodically check-in with your intention-partner to see how she's doing. Sometimes the best support is simply to ask, "So, what were your intentions for today?"
  5. Review: At the end of the day, review your intentions and how well you achieved them. What worked? What didn't work? What would you do differently? What would you repeat?
  6. Document: It's really easy to lose site of the progress you've made when taking small steps each day. So, keep a journal of your daily intentions. It's a great way to remind yourself of who you want to be and to see just how far you've come
Living intentionally or not, you'll get somewhere. Why not make it the somewhere you desire?

Happy Sunday,

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