While relaxing on the lanai (that’s a patio in Hawaii – just got back to cooler Calgary!) on a warm evening recently, a gentle breeze wafting by, chatting with a friend, we got to talking about why I do what I do. Somehow, the conversation clarified my thinking on intentionality. Having worked in large organizations for much of my professional life and shifting into private practice in the last three years, I’ve felt a shift in my consciousness around work and how it reflects much of how I’ve made choices in life.
A big factor which has dominated my decision-making in the past has been a series of shoulds and assumptions, most around doing the “right” and logical thing according to a pattern most of us follow…………get an education, a good job, pay the bills and take care of possessions and responsibilities, until some mythical time in the future when we believe we will be able to live our dreams. Along the way, try to have whatever enjoyable experiences fit into the spaces in between. In my observation, the higher we rate our responsibilities and possessions, the smaller are the spaces between them for leisure and enjoyment. In our rather driven society, leisure is often seen as a luxury, only to be taken when earned.
Am I advocating a life of leisure? Well, it does seem to have it’s charms, in my post-vacation haze, but no, I don’t really want to live without responsibility for anyone or anything. I do however, notice that since working for myself, my choices seem more intentional, with fewer external forces directing my energy. I don’t believe that I live less responsibly, but it seems that I feel responsible for less. My friend from the lanai above, who has recently moved to the warm and aloha driven climate of Hawaii, described her own evolution to reducing the “have to”s by simplifying her expectations. As with all evolutions, both mine and hers are a work in progress. By the way, in the course of that visit, I learned that “aloha” means far more than hello and goodbye, but includes all manner of usage, such as driving with aloha (making room for others with graciousness) and as an adjective meaning relaxed, easy, gracious, etc. I think we could all do with a little aloha in our lives.
Living with intention for me means that I seek to only do what I choose. Perhaps a recipe for anarchy, although not intended that way. Rather I mean that each action I take can be conscious and intentional, not necessarily all pleasant, but always chosen for a reason. A better reason, that is, than because I have to or I always have done it that way. If that’s the first explanation I give myself or others, then I want to be able to reflect on why that is. I may elect to be responsible for my word, or responsible to another person or community or society, or I may be pursuing a particular outcome now or in the future.
I mentioned above the rating of responsibilities and possessions and want to expand on that. I’m not advocating ridding ourselves of such things. Quite the contrary. Rather, I advocate relishing the responsibilities we take on, taking pride in our participation and engagement with something bigger than the immediate moment, letting the actions we undertake reflect the intention of making the world a better place. As to possessions, enjoy and use them, value them by sharing them with others, acquiring them with intention and reflection upon what we want them to bring into our lives. Again, with both responsibilities and possessions, take them on when you know that they belong in your life, not just because it seems to be the “right” thing to do, or the continuation of a habit. Don’t let the acquisition become a burden which deprives you of other choices.
Living with intention is about living each day with full consciousness of the choices you make and the intent of those choices. It is about being willing to change a direction if it no longer reflects a positive purpose in your life. Finally, it is about living in the moment, while maintaining an awareness of how this moment connects to both your past and your future.