It’s weird how sometimes circumstance sometimes works in patterns. Lately, several unrelated events have brought up a theme that I think bears conversation. To me, “Living an intentional life” means establishing a theme to govern your life, and supporting that theme in your actions. In my line of work, I meet (or at least am exposed to) thousands of people every year. There is a clear distinction between people who have a theme in their life, vs. people who are reactive to circumstance. I think there’s an aspect of this that we can interview for when evaluating prospective employees, but really, the point of this blog is a challenge to introspection.
Everyone’s theme will be different, there’s no right answer. Some people will establish a theme for their life that revolves around their family, some will choose career, some will choose money, etc. All good. But the key distinction is in awareness. Do you have a consistent filter against which you evaluate decisions? There are a million clichés: “You can’t get to where you want to be if you don’t know where you’re going”, blah blah. My point isn’t as much about having goals, I think everyone sets those (at some subconscious level, anyway). But are the goals in any context? When you evaluate a school to attend, a job offer, where to buy a house, are you clear on how it will figure into the bigger picture of your personal theme?
Why does this matter? I know a lot of people who (appear, anyway) to be very happy and well adjusted, who don’t seem to have any theme at all. But there’s a difference between intentionally, ‘going with the flow’ AS a theme, vs. making a series of haphazard incremental tactical decisions throughout your life. When I meet unhappy, bitter, or unsatisfied people, many times it seems that they have never taken the time to consciously decide what their personal theme is, and therefore cannot make intentional decisions in support. These are the same people who tend to bemoan the unfairness of life, and tend to deflect any personal accountability for their circumstance. I guess it makes sense: if you aren’t purposeful with your direction, you really ARE leaving it to external forces to determine your fate.
There’s a great TED talk recently by Simon Sinek about leadership that really got me thinking. Not about the specific context of his theory, but rather how it applies to individuals and the choices we make. The readers’ digest synopsis is that great companies define WHY they do what they do and lead all communication conveying that message, and the WHAT and HOW they do it are secondary in importance. To me, that’s the corporate version of the same idea. Why do you do what you do? Why do you get out of bed every morning? Yeah, I’m just regurgitating the clichéd theory of the personal Mission Statement. But just like the corporate version of the same thing, most (organizations AND people) perhaps print it out, put it on the wall, and never really give it a second thought. My point is that if you put some thought into it, and use it as a filter and framework for decisions and direction, you start to become a true leader, as your actions have conviction.
I get it, life throws you curveballs. “Want to make God laugh? Make a plan….” and all that. But I think that’s an excuse. The essence of who you are, and what you do – can and most certainly WILL change over the course of your life. I believe how you react to events, how you adjust your personal theme, and the intentionality of your actions in support of that theme, are a key component of self confidence. That sense of comfort in your own skin, and the confidence in knowing your actions are in context of a known bigger picture, leads to the confidence of conviction to act assertively and lead others.