Sunday, April 14, 2013

Do You Know Where You're Going? How to Live an Intentional Life

Cover of "If You Don't Know Where You're ...
Cover via Amazo
Does this quote sound like you?  Do you know where you are going?  Do you feel like you are always busy but never get anything done?  I've been there.  Living an intentional goal oriented life is a relatively new experience for me.  Being a super achiever who accomplishes a lot is not.  Did you know there is a difference?  I've always been organized.   I've always had a lot of to-do-lists.  I've always worked hard. Since I was quite productive and was checking things off my to-do-list, I felt confident I was moving forward.  Accomplishments however, in and of themselves are not always the desired end result.  Although I seemed to be making progress, I was drowning in the small details of my list.  It is possible to be highly organized, energetic and productive but all in the wrong direction, much like someone who lives in New York and travels to California by way of Florida.  You can check off a lot landmarks along the way but you may never arrive at your destination.

The Key to Living Intentionally

What makes the difference? Priorities and Focus.  In the past, I created a long never-ending list of stuff to accomplish.  About three years ago, I realized the importance of setting goals first and then tackling the list.  It's not that I get any more done.  It's that the things I get done are the things that move me along the path of accomplishing the goal.  Just having a goal creates focus and helps in setting priorites.  I've also found that in each major area of my life, it helps if  I determine a theme for the year.  My career theme two years ago was developing my speaking ability and creating opportunities to lead seminars and workshops. I spoke at the Georgia School Counselor Conference.  I taught lots of parenting workshops at schools. Along with collegues Kathy Brunner and Kim Wiggins, I started the Called Woman Conference.

This year my theme is writing so I've become more intentional about developing good writing skills.  I participated in the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project last summer and joined a critique group.  Several of the conferences that I'm planning to attend this year are on developing writing skills.  I'm not only blogging but submitting my work to other publications. 

Write It Down, Make It Happen

I just finished reading a terrific book that has helped me focus on living an intentional life. I first heard about the book Write It Down Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser on a Michael Hyatt blog and podcast. In the book, Klauser identifies several really creative ways to focus on goals. As the title suggests, she maintains that just writing a goal down can create such focus that it is almost magical! Here are a few of the unique suggestions that you may not have thought of:
  • Write a letter to someone.  In the book, Klauser identifies a friend whose goal was to find her soul mate.  She began by writing a letter to him everyday.  Sometimes she imagined the things they would do together, the common interests they would have. Sometimes she wrote about her feelings of disappointment and frustration that they had yet to meet.  The end result?  She met and married her soul mate!  It doesn't have to be a love letter of course.  You could write letters to a prodigal child,  the future boss of your ideal job or even God.

  • Challenge the fears that keep you from accomplishing your goals. Find a picture in a magazine of an angry, finger-pointing individual. Glue it to your journal page.  Beside the picture list all the negative things that you say to yourself that keep you stuck.  Now find another picture of someone who is joyful, jubilant, thrilled to be alive.  Glue it to your next journal page.  Now counter  each of the prior negative statements with something positive.  Instead of "I'm a loser!"  write "I'm a WINNER!" Writing your fears releases you from the bonds of them.  Writing the opposites creates positive focus in your mind.

  • Create a Ritual.  Ritual is a powerful process that often propels us forward past fears and resistance.  It can open us to possibilities.  It can nourish a seed that will grow and flourish. Klauser recounts a Native American ritual where participants identify the things they want to bring in to their lives and things they want to take out. Arrows are created to represent both and the desired change is written on the arrow.  Arrows that represent the things to eliminate are buried or burned.  Arrows that represent the things to be brought into lives are taken to the top of a mountain and left standing in a prominent place.  The ritual doesn't have to be followed to the letter of course.  Different objects could be used instead of arrows (pencils instead of arrows were suggested in the book), and the ritual can be adjusted as fits the individual and the environment.  The important aspect is identifying what to send out of one's life and what to bring in.  
These three suggestions are just a sample of the many that Klauser relates in her book. It isn't just full of activities though.  It also has story after story of people who transformed their lives from ordinary to extraordinary through intentional goal setting living.  I was inspired and know you will be too if you read it!

What about you?  Are you living life on purpose?  Do you need some help?  Sign up for the Called Woman email list and get regular updates on resources to transform your life from unfocused to intentional.  When you sign up, you'll receive the free Called Woman Manifesto to get you started!  

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  1. Loved this post, Lynne, and it was exactly what I needed to hear . . . When you stopped me today and asked what I was doing next regarding writing, you really made me face my "demons". I've been putting off going on to the fourth book, and I'm not entirely sure why. I'm going to do some serious reflection and prayer and set some goals in completing the second series. This article of yours has been amazingly helpful and clarifying. Thank you, dear friend!

  2. Thanks Martha! You really are so talented---keep moving! (In the right direction of course).

  3. Loved the ideas and reflections in this post.I'm going to keep many of your points in mind. I have a hard time getting organized and motivated sometimes, though I have the desire it seems to get lost between it's conception and practical execution. Going to bookmark this post! Thanks!

    1. Jessica, I totally understand1 I've been there. It takes all the tools and tricks I can find to stay focused and on track. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Wonderful ideas as always, Lynne. That writing a letter idea is spot on. It's easy to get distracted by everyone's opinions of what we should be doing. I think you are right about developing a focus that helps define your plan. Then creating a ritual to work the plan. Chunking the "to-do" list into small but specific steps is critical to beginning to see a more intentional purposeful life.