Intentional living is more than a buzzword

Intentional living is such a buzzword, yet I use it all the time. I use it as a reminder to stop and appreciate what I have, the people in my life, and the fact that I should live intentionally.  It's my internal and external reminder that when my children ask me a question, it's okay to pull myself away from whatever I am doing to pay attention to them. It's the reminder when I'm on a Zoom call with an employee, partner, or potential client to ensure they know they have my full attention and stop multi-tasking.

My definition of intentional living is not perfection —but alignment. Alignment allows me to focus my attention on what is happening at that moment and then proceed to the next thing. Intentional living acknowledges that I can't do it all at once, but I am choosing to focus on the present moment. As business leaders, it's easy to live in a state of 'doing' instead of being.  After all, we are human beings, not human doings. Read on to learn key steps toward intentional living and creating intentional organizations.

Lead intentionally

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2019 there were 3,142 fatal car accidents due to distracted driving. This means that something grabbed the driver's attention and pulled them away from what they should have been paying attention to — in this case, the road. And while these statistics are heartbreaking, I often wonder how many hours, days, weeks, months, and years we've spent behind the wheel of our own lives, driving distracted — or even on autopilot.

Have you heard the saying, "if it's not broken, don't fix it?" We may not realize we live our lives on autopilot because it doesn't seem like anything is broken. Our lives often seem to be running on all cylinders, but just because it's running doesn't mean we are at our peak performance. My car is at its peak performance when I am driving; when I put my foot on the gas and go. I can hear the engine's purr. I am aware of the cars around me, allowing me to make better decisions and quickly respond. Intentional living is having your foot on the gas and steering the car in the direction you want it to go.

How often have we put our businesses and organizations on autopilot? When our organizational culture aligns with our values, key results and people, this is the beginning of an intentional organization. The idea is that we don't have to choose between reaching our fiduciary goals. We can have them both, but it takes being intentional on every level. Check the pulse of your organization, look at the numbers, ask the hard questions, and listen to your employees, partners and clients. As leaders, we can galvanize our organizations to be more intentional at every level when we communicate the “why”.

Determine your life philosophy

I realized I was living distracted on my daughter's first day of fifth grade.  My daughter's teacher had each student write an essay about themselves, their family and their summer vacation. My daughter did the assignment as asked, and she was so proud because her teacher enjoyed her writing. After school, my daughter burst at the seams to share what she wrote, especially the part about her loving and endearing mother. Okay, I added the loving and endearing part! I read the essay and I loved it. She talked about how I was a working mother and she admired the fact that I get to travel for my job, which means I work a lot. Yes! I dreamed of the day when my children would be proud of me.

I read a little further and one small sentence tore my heart in pieces. Right after the raving review of my career, she wrote, "If there was anything that I would change, it's the fact that she does work a lot." This was her truth. I looked up and told her how proud of her I was for the essay. I didn't mention the part about working too much, but in my mind, I knew that it wasn't necessarily about how much I worked, but that work was taking time and energy away from her.

I was constantly distracted by my phone or laptop, and this included weekends and holidays. Honestly, it seemed like I was thriving. I was moving up in my career, my kids were doing great at school, my marriage was great and I was thinking about starting a business. Because everything was running as it should, I couldn't see that I was missing the moments.

I showed up to the school plays, but I was waiting for them to end so I could jump back into work. I remember the family vacations but not the moments that mattered. I wanted better for me, my family and my team. I wish this were a one-and-done decision, but it is a continual work in progress. It is intentionally and consistently making decisions that are true to my life philosophy.  

Four steps toward a more intentional organization

Let’s look at the four steps I personally took to transition to more intentional living and a more intentional organization.

1. Identify your life philosophy

Think about the three words that currently govern your life and how you lead your organizations, communities and family. I've heard Brendon Burchard say he asked himself these three questions that have become the foundation of his teaching:

  1. Did I live?
  2. Did I love?
  3. Did I matter?

Your three words should help govern your decisions, determine what's true for you and establish your boundaries.

2. Establish your boundaries

There is always work to be done, something that needs your attention or someone that needs an answer. Schedule time on your calendar to take a break or a walk. Create an actual work schedule. When we are burned out or tired, we cannot show up as our best selves and serve our organizations, teams or communities. Boundaries are the gatekeepers to our peace, self-care and mental health.

3. Determine where to put your energy

As business leaders and owners, we are frequently tasked with wearing so many hats. Take a deep breath because I am going to say something difficult for many of us. Focus on one thing at a time. Many of us are working and living all in the same space, so the lines get crossed.

In this season of your business and life, what is most important to you? Put your energy and focus there. If it is nurturing your current staff, put the focus there and delegate the other things where you can. Move away from the negative mindsets that keep you stuck and create a community of people that will restore and bring positive energy into your life.     

4. Make the shift

When I made the shift from existing to living, everyone in my ecosystem felt it. Now, I am clearer mentally and creatively, so I can be more impactful to my teams. I have more energy, so I’m not drained at the end of a workday because I put boundaries in place to ensure I had time to work out and eat better. I welcome the school plays because I would be present and enjoy them. Alignment allows me to say yes to the things that matter and no to the things that don't serve me, my family, my work or my team.

Intentional living empowers you to lead with purpose

As leaders, intentional living allows us to release the pressure of perfection and gives us the margin to prioritize what is important at the moment. The people we serve often take their cues from us. Imagine how transformative our lives, our teams and our organizations would be if we all were able to shift from living and working on autopilot to living intentionally.

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Portia Scott and Portia Scott Media LLC., are not affiliated with the Voya family of companies. Portia Scott Media LLC., has received compensation from Voya for participation in educational programming, supporting Voya's Just Right Advantage program.

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