On Being Intentional

This week is the first of four self-imposed three-day work weeks; I have accumulated PTO hours that are allowing me to do this, or else I lose the time.

From a workload perspective this might not be the best timing, but there is always more we could be doing, isn’t there?  I could easily let the accrued time slide, focus on pressing projects that need attention, and save myself a bit of stress during the three days I am in the office (or, when I’m not and the number in the red circle above my email icon continues to relentlessly grow).  However, in looking at my calendar last week, and trying to figure out just where I could take one day off, let alone eight, I promised myself that I would take the time because, after all, one of the biggest goals I had in 2017 was to find time for me.

Over the course of the last ten months, I have had to become intentional about a number of things, knowing that I wanted to change the trajectory of my day-to-day.  I had to become aware of content, consumption, activities, and time, and become intentional about the choices I made in those areas.  Life starts to change in a real way when you show up for yourself, when you start being deliberate with the decisions you make for yourself, your thoughts and your focus.

I had to consciously focus on consumption; picking up books that served as mental nourishment, narrowing the focus of the mindless scrolling on social media, vetting my blog subscriptions, making sure that what I was consuming was propelling myself forward.  There is an endless amount of garbage, mindless, soul-sucking black holes of nothing, readily available for us to consume – or rather, ready to consume us.  You have to be purposeful about what you are choosing to pay attention to, and equally if not more importantly, about what you are not.  I spent quite a bit of time scrutinizing my intake on various levels, and once I had culled out a few of the sources, I began to work on filling the gaps left with more worthwhile content.

When you have decided that you no longer want to stay stuck where you are developmentally, yet don’t know what direction you are trying to grow, you discover that there are numerous directions that one can take.  If you are in a similar mindset to where I was ten months ago, you may not necessarily know what might get you out of the rut you are in.  I had to consciously choose activities and events outside of my comfort zone, and be intentional about setting aside the time to participate in them.  I found that one of the most successful ways of doing this was to sign up or register well in advance, which forced me to schedule around those things I had committed to like I would a meeting or a school pick-up time.  For instance, I signed up for a beginner’s watercolor class slated to start mid-October in August.  I enjoy painting, but had only tried my hand at watercolor once and hadn’t taken an art class since high school more than 15 years ago.  Had I hesitated or procrastinated on signing up, I’m quite sure I would have talked myself out of it, convinced that I didn’t have the time.  That class has been one of the things I anticipate most every week, and I intend to continue growing and learning in this area.  Spark, lit.

Being intentional has been an ongoing practice in habit and mindset that can be challenging.  Once in awhile there will be times when old habits and mindsets sneak back in; life gets busy, I lose focus and I settle back into the well-worn tracks of the paths I have taken so many times that led me to feeling the way I described in Catalysts, but I now have the ability to accept it for what it is, acknowledge it, decide to not stay in that space for too long, and start making mindful decisions again when I can.

You have to be intentional when wanting to grow; growth is not easy, and more often than not it is uncomfortable.  It’s easy to stay where you are at; complacency and staying with what we know can be comforting.  But it’s not where the goosebumps are.

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