In a world of distraction, constant change and uncertainty, it feels almost impossible to make a plan and stick to it. These days, we may do better to create a vision and set intentions alongside a system in which we can regroup and refocus regularly to live, lead and work with meaning.
Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our vision and intentions. Things just happen to us and we react. Here are some questions to get you thinking about your vision and intentions: What does success mean to me? What will matter in the end? Who do I want to be? How do I want to feel? How do I want to make others feel?
Our intentions and our vision help us develop a guide for our everyday actions. They create meaning and drive our priorities. In a world filled with more ideas, experiences, options and outside influences than we have ever known or could ever take advantage of, it’s more important than ever that we take time to get clear on our vision and intentions. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I realized I was living, leading and working out of alignment.
I had an unsettled feeling deep down and often wondered, “Is this all there is?” in spite of all the blessings I had in my life. I was stressed out trying to keep up and a bit resentful of everything I had on my plate. When I read the book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware, things started to unravel for me in a good way. She wrote that the top regret was, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” I was on the path to living out that regret.
This became even more clear when my coach asked me what my priorities were, and then reality checked me by challenging how much time I spent on my top priorities. I said my top two were God and my husband. I was embarrassed to admit that each usually got whatever was left over after everything else on the calendar and my to do list. I was way out of alignment and that audit of my priorities helped me understand why I felt the way I did.
I started to explore what was meaningful and valuable to me, and put that list up against what I was spending my time, money and energy on. I had work to do. I began to populate first on my calendar those things that were meaningful and valuable to me. Time with family and friends, my morning and evening routines, learning, creating, play, and self-care. I realized I was taking on way too much to have the time and energy left to spend it on what and who mattered to me. I was also wasting a lot of time, money and energy on menial tasks, busy work and things that didn’t mean much to me like TV, shopping and social media out of habit and conditioning.
As a business owner, my team and I had to do the same audit. What impact were we trying to make? Who did we want to be? How did we want to feel? Knowing those things, where would we spend our time, money and energy? We want to empower individuals and organizations to live, lead and work with meaning. This means that we need to be the ultimate role models of living, leading and working meaning. We have to live it out first…we have to put in the time and energy to do our own work. Hours and hours spent reflecting, sharing, creating our vision, mission and values and then actively living them out and calling each other out when we don’t.
We want to be people who make others feel loved and hopeful, to help them know they are safe and they belong. This means we have to do our own work to feel loved, hopeful, safe and accepted. We have to make time and space so we aren’t rushed, and can create positive environments and energies in every interaction. This takes effort.
We want to feel healthy and whole. In a new business it can be easy to take on too much, grow too fast, or get caught up in growth for the sake of money or attention. This is not our intention and we have to keep each other accountable for staying healthy and whole on a regular basis. We are constantly asking each other what is reasonable and realistic. When I’m sacrificing what’s meaningful and valuable to me, my team calls me out and vice versa. When our interactions and pace don’t feel healthy and whole, we discuss how to get back on track.
Even with a clear vision and priorities and the best intentions, we get off track. We get swept up in what others are doing. We feel the pressure to say yes to the requests of others. This is why we all need systems and routines, practices and habits to help us come back to our intentions and priorities. Small bad habits and small good habits matter. You are what you do – the small things no one sees bring about the big results everyone wants. As we embark on changing things in our life, leadership and work, there are two pieces to change that we need to think about. The outer shifts that need to be made (what we need to do) and the inner shifts we need to make (who we want to be and what we believe).
We can get more of the right things done when we plan, prepare and create systems. Systems can feel confining, but we as humans are not very disciplined and putting in the work to create systems gives us the freedom and energy to enjoy the “doing.” Questions that help us get the right systems in place include: What does done look like? How will I know I’ve been successful? What are the small, incremental steps I need to take to get there? What might get in the way? What is the plan to get back on track if things get off course?
Additional questions to consider as we are building systems and routines for successful change: What are the timelines and milestones? Who owns each piece? Who am I accountable to? How will I track progress? How will I know it’s working? When will I reflect and learn? What mindsets, habits, routines do I need to adapt to be successful?
James Clear said, “Habits and systems make the difference and create the outcomes – we don’t rise to the level of our goals but fall to the level of our systems.” How are our systems, environments and routines supporting or impeding our new intentions and priorities?
Once we have our vision, intentions, priorities, systems and routines in place, we have to evaluate our inner self. Without an inner transformation and commitment, nothing externally will work. We have to believe we can make these changes. We have to believe we deserve the positive outcomes that will result. The most important part of living, leading and working with more intention is to check your heart. Are you willing to allow the abundance, love and success you deserve? Are you willing to do what it takes to make these things a reality?
We focus too often on the doing and not enough on the being. What life do we want to live while pursuing our goals? Who do we want to be as we follow through? Who we are is made up of our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. Many of them are rooted in our thought patterns, practices and habits. They make rhythms in our lives that most of us are unaware of.
I wanted to be a person who gave love and hope to everyone I met. Yet the truth was, I didn’t feel full of love and hope myself. I didn’t have that to give to others. I had to find it for myself first. I needed to remove noise from my life and remove myself from the noise. I started making time for more life-giving activities that restored and sustained me like writing, reading, resting, taking walks and swinging at the park. I surrounded myself with people who filled me up with love and hope, and I let them in to really love me. I stopped the negative voices and limiting beliefs in my own head and worked to love myself. I studied people who made me feel loved and hopeful and started to adapt their habits that I knew aligned with me.
I also slowed down. When I envisioned the life of a person who was loving and hopeful, I realized they were people who were not rushed and who connected deeply. They weren’t striving for more, but content in the moment no matter what they had. I adopted their practices: silence, stillness, slowing down, study, self-reflection, and more. I have continued to break my habits of busyness and set up practices that enable space, restoration, and love. As my heart has changed, so has my external world.
So what about you? What does success look like for you? Who do you want to be? How do you want to feel? How can you live, lead and work with more meaning on your own journey to reach your full potential? Only you can answer these questions. Stop looking outside yourself and make time to explore the answers stored deep inside you. Take time. Make a plan. Start well. Reflect and realign. Let go and stop doing what no longer serves you. Fill up and start doing things that are aligned and bring you joy. Leave room for mystery and messes. Create space to breathe and transition. Reach out if you need support! The work is worth it!