Leading an intentional life

"Any road will get you there as long as you don't know where you are going." – Anonymous

Having been in the professional and personal development business for over 30 years, it still amazes me that the areas of vision and goal-setting have not really changed very much. When people are asked if they have a clear sense of where they want to be next year, three to five years from now, or even further out, about 10% say they do. When asked if they have written their vision and goals out, the number drops to 3%.

It seems that "go with the flow" is all too often the way that people live. I was at a seminar recently where the presenter touched on this idea. He asked the audience for a show of hands in response to the following question: "How many here wake up each morning with a crystal clear sense of purpose and goals to be accomplished for the day?" Quite a few hands went up. He then asked, "At the end of the day, how many look back at those goals as 100% accomplished?" The number of hands up was significantly less. When asked how many felt a bit of stress leading this kind of life, almost every hand was up. He then noted that the majority in the audience all had the same habit – the habit of repeating yesterday.

Think about it. If you’re asked how your day went and you answer with a less than positive response, that's one thing. When you have pretty much the same response every day, there is something wrong with that picture. The habit of repeating yesterday is one that comes from leading a reactive and non-accountable life. There are both external and self-generated causes for this habit:

External factors

Many people live their work life by responding to interruptions. These could include social visiting, telephone calls, email, customer complaints, fellow employee problems, other people's deadlines, mistakes of others, and the list goes on and on. The other biggie is the time spent in meetings. This area is a whole subject unto itself. The excuse we hear is that "I have no control of my own time."

Self-generated factors

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy in repeating yesterday. There are areas like procrastination, lack of planning, trying to do too much, lack of motivation, failure to listen, and total lack of self-accountability.

By the way, many of the folks who live this life of repeating yesterday have a big smile on their face on Friday afternoon as they look forward to the weekend. These are also the same people who find themselves back in their rut first thing Monday morning. You can probably understand that if this is the way you lead your life, the remote idea of having a vision and goals to reach that vision are not even on the screen.

What to do – a starting point

Rather than starting with your 20-year vision into the future, why not go one year out? Write out, in as much detail as you can, what kind of picture you would like to see yourself in one year from now. Include all areas of your life: family, career, financial, physical, spiritual, etc. This picture, if done right, should get you excited. Once that is accomplished, step back and begin writing out the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific) goals that will get you into that picture. It’s not a bad idea to have these goals detailed in at least quarterly segments.

The next step is to take it down to monthly, weekly, and daily goals – always with a crystal clear view of that one-year vision/picture. It is that vision, along with the goals to accomplish it, that will get you on the road to leading an intentional – not reactionary – life.

Without the vision, without the goals, without a plan, the good old habit of repeating yesterday kicks in. Kick that habit and start leading an intentional, purposeful life! Once you have done this for a year or two, you might want to start planning further out. It can get even more exciting.

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