Philanthropist Melinda Gates said,
“I choose a word of the year – a word that encapsulates my aspirations for the twelve months ahead.”
I could unleash a sesquipedalian buildup to what word I would choose, but assuming the graphic I uploaded with this post is resolving properly on whatever device you are currently reading using, you already know what my word is:
I have been giving much thought to that word lately, both actively and passively. Much of what I have read over the last few months – Traction by Gino Wickman, The Trolley Problem by Thomas Cathcart, and even The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson – all deal with the idea of intentional action, either directly or indirectly.
Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, in their brilliant and entertaining podcast “The Minimalists,” deal with this topic frequently. They propose a number of strategies – the 30/30 Rule, the 1-out-of-10 Rule, etc. – that are designed to help one clarify the utility of a given item or activity.
One of their central tenets, which I am in the process of adopting and applying to my own life (both personally and professionally), is this: if something is not useful and/or does not bring you joy, do not acquire it (or, get rid of it).
Part of the process of adopting and implementing the EOS system at my office has been to utilize the Delegate and Elevate Tool, which allows each individual to rate each of their job duties in a 2-by-2 grid. They do this based upon whether they like a task and are good at it, like a task but are not good at it, dislike a task but are good at it, and dislike a task and are not good at it. Ideally, those tasks that end up in the lower right quadrant – dislike/not good at – are delegated to someone else who’s rating is different for that task.
The process requires that one assigns certain self-developed values to each of their tasks, causing them to make the joy/value analysis I mentioned above.
All of these roads lead back to the same Rome: if you can take the time and invest the effort into valid, constructive introspection concerning those things that directly affect your life on a daily basis, you are already light years ahead of most everyone else. This internal reflection forces you to assign value, thereby assuring that your future actions will be made with…intention.
And really, the process could not be simpler: just by asking yourself two simple questions – “Is this useful to me?” and “Will this bring me joy?” – you are able to ascertain if something is truly right for you, whether it be a physical item, a situation, even a person or relationship. If the thing in question meets one (or both) of these criteria, then you are on the right track towards living with intention.
As a side note, the good news for me is that I can now jettison my entire list of New Year’s resolutions, for this reason: each item on my list is geared towards finding and retaining some sort of increased joy or value in each of my activities, both at work and at home. By committing to live a more intentional life, and by taking the necessary (and sometimes painful) steps to get there, many of my goals will be met as a natural offshoot of this internal reflection (followed by external actions, of course).
Do I need that extra handful of cookies? Will they bring me joy, or will that only be transitory, followed almost immediately by physical and emotional sensations that warn me that I should not have done that in the first place? I do not really have any use for those feelings, so I will pass on the extra sweets, thanks.
Do I need to take on that extra task at work right now? Does the team need me to step up and fill that void, or are there things on my plate that I do not want to do, and this new task will be a good distraction? Nope, I already have too much on my plate, and someone else is more qualified to do that job than I am.
What I’ve Learned
Constructive internal introspection is the key to living a more intentional life, followed by the resolve to put into action those decisions that you know to be right for yourself and everyone involved.