Last month’s column was about leadership, where I shared that leadership begins with being self-led, and taking full responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, words and actions. At the end of that column, I asked you, the reader, to write down two or three things you could shift that would make you feel like you are living more on purpose. Hopefully you did that.
I believe, however, that we’re not done here and that this topic deserves some more attention. Specifically, the topic of living on purpose. Choosing your life events with purpose, based on what you desire and find fulfillment in. The word for that is ‘intention’. Intention is one set of rapids upstream from being self-led. And another set of rapids upstream from intention is self-reflection.
A set of rapids is an apt analogy for the space between the steps leading to ‘self-led’. It’s bumpy, unforgiving, difficult, and yet exhilarating at the same time. It’s the ‘hero’s journey’ playing on repeat. It’s summoning the courage to do what is hard and fulfilling, not what is easy and stagnant.
The only way to implement intention is to be self-reflecting: taking the time to think about and evaluate your behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, motivations, and desires. It’s stepping back from your busy self and asking yourself, at the simplest level, why. Why did I do/say/decide/act like that? Which you can apply to any thought, emotion, or behaviour.
Anyone who is willing to put in this effort and work, consistently, will see the results. I could tell you that it’s worth it, yet I don’t see how that really changes much. Again, those willing to put in the work, consistently, will reap the rewards. Only those who are willing to seek joy and internal peace on a much more frequent basis than before will benefit.
Oddly enough, it’s a case of the ‘rich get richer’ with fulfillment. Except the currency isn’t money, it’s joy and freedom from anxiety. Are you open to having a full bank account of joy and freedom from anxiety? What would that be worth? Is it worth 10 minutes a day to reflect?
If it is worth it to you, here’s a great way to start: spend 10 minutes after dinner reflecting on your day. On the events that happened, conversations, decisions, actions, key moments. Ask yourself if you’d do any of those differently if you had a do-over. Particularly in relation to what goals you really want to achieve in life (including those you still believe may not be possible). Examine the mindset and thinking behind those key moments/behaviours. Consider what would need to change or adjust to allow a different outcome.
Then write down five things that you are grateful for from the past 24 hours. And write down the name of someone you are very grateful for in your life. Send them a thank you note out of the blue. See how that feels. Allow yourself to sit with that feeling for a moment. This is reflection. And it leads to intention.
Undoubtedly, with practicing the above exercise, you’ll notice a new wisdom that builds. You’ll see patterns more clearly. You’ll make tweaks here and there. You’ll shift some of your thinking and behaviours to serve your desires more. You’ll feel lighter — with less stress and anxiety. You’ll be able to say ‘no’ to unimportant things much easier. The emotions you want will show up more. The emotions you don’t, won’t.
The other thing you’ll find is more intention. More purpose. And you’ll find more joy. More freedom from fear, uncertainty, doubt, stress, worry and anxiety. Is that worth 10 minutes a night? Your call.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” —Socrates