This blog first appeared on plaidforwomen.com
Alarm goes off, hit snooze. Notification dings, pick up phone. Walk in the door, pick up remote. Annoying colleague speaks, knee-jerk reaction. Much of our lives is spent on autopilot. None of these activities are inherently wrong. Engaging in them without awareness culminates in living our lives accidentally. No one expects to live life on accident. We all want our life to matter.
ALIGN WITH OUR VALUES
Intentionally living prompts us to make choices that align with our values; take ownership of our lives; create a meaningful life. Living on purpose, not on autopilot, builds a significant life. This doesn’t mean we hyper-produce to the point of exhaustion. In fact, it allows us to deliberately play and rest because we recognize our design requires play and rest along with productivity.
In those seasons where I was living on accident, I was simply trying to survive. Get through the terrible twos with my hot-tempered, red-headed son. Show up one more time for the demands of my high-intensity leadership position. Figure out yet another meal for the multiple-meal-a-day consumers of my family. At times, survival mode is a necessity. Yet, I’m learning even seasons lived in survival mode can have a little more intention sown into them.
A good place for all of us to start owning our lives is to create margins. I love to take notes. When I’m handwriting notes, I will leave large margins and extra white space between thoughts. As the information keeps coming, I start writing in the white space, adding thoughts in the margins, drawing lines from one comment to another idea. Eventually, there is no blank space. My notes are essentially worthless because I expected the page to hold more than it was designed to retain. When our lives start to look like my notebook, we lose the capacity to be intentional. We’ve given away ownership of our lives without any real awareness.
Most of us can restore some white spaces in our world by establishing boundaries. There is a myth about boundaries, I’d like to clear up. Boundaries are not expectation of others. “I need him to . . .” “In order for me to be at peace, she has to . . .” This requires something from someone else. I’m not responsible for someone else. I cannot control someone else’s behavior. On the other hand, I can be deliberate about my own behavior.
SPECIFIC ACTION STEP
Consequently, a clearly stated boundary gives me a specific action step to take every single time. My friend starts gossiping, I will change the subject. When I feel triggered, I will purposefully go for a nature walk. If my child forgets something for school, I will allow him to experience natural consequences. When I don’t think I have time to rest and relax, I will remind myself rest, relaxation, and play are part of my design. Each boundary outlines what step I will take. When __________ happens, I will ________.
Making a list of boundaries for your mental health, for interaction with your spouse, for exchanges with your child, for triggers in the workplace will create the white space we need to live with intention (even in survival mode). Prentis Hemphill says, “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.”
DEVELOP THE MUSCLE
Every time we choose action over ease, we develop the muscle of living intentionally. An unintentional life accepts everything and does nothing. An intentional life embraces only the things that will add to a life of purpose.
Let’s do the work this year to push ourselves out of living on accident and start living intentionally.