TRANSCRIPT: Living with Intention
Hey, everyone. If you’re a licensed therapist and you listen to this podcast, this announcement is for you. I’m excited to announce that I will be starting August 1 a coaching group for therapists who are interested in further development of their clinical skills, their business skills, and balancing their personal life. This group will start August 1, 2020 and go through November 30, 2020. We’ll be having lots of discussion about different topics that we may face in the work that we do, how to handle things as a therapist, how to work with challenging clients, and how to help our clients make progress. Over the 26 years in my professional career, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to counsel new therapists or therapists who are finding their niche or changing direction or wanting to expand themselves in multiple ways professionally and personally. It’s one of the things I love to do, working with other professionals. I often get asked from therapists outside of my clinic and outside of my state how they can work with me, and here’s your chance. For more information, go to my Facebook page, Jackie Pack Coaching, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to work with you and have you be part of our professionals group.
Hi everyone, welcome to Thanks for Sharing. I’m your host, Jackie Pack. Today’s episode is about living with intent. In the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”, Bill W. described the core traits of alcoholics as self-centeredness, something he referred to as “self-will run riot”. He further described the alcoholic as “an actor who wants to run the whole show, is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery, and the rest of the players in his own way.” The reality that the vast majority of all people are self-centered can be a helpful realization in recovery. This reality does not justify the self-centeredness of addicts or taking this self-centeredness to an extreme as in the case of self-will run riot. It does, though, help to explain why so often individuals find themselves in collision with others, whether it’s an extreme case of letting yourself go unchecked, as happens in addiction, or a less extreme case, such as getting impatient with the person in front of us at the checkout, driving aggressively in traffic, avoiding personal responsibility, watching too much TV or becoming obsessive about our work or our workouts. Self-centeredness creates chaos in our lives. It’s a way of trying to live life on our own terms, rather than living life on life’s terms. Living life on our terms gets in the way of developing a sense of self that is helpful because we are continually trying to control.
The serenity prayer speaks wisdom to addicts and to non-addicts alike. The prayer begins with learning to accept external circumstances that we cannot change. It says “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” We could spend a lot of unnecessary time and energy in attempting to change things we cannot control. Once we recognize that it is that we cannot control, the next part of the prayer moves us on to another quality that we need to develop, and that’s courage. The serenity prayer says, “Courage to change the things I can.” It’s during this part of recovery that we begin to witness the integrity of an individual. About 6 years ago, I was working with a sponsor that was helping me work the 12 steps of business recovery, and my sponsor said to me, sometimes it’s helpful to add this line to the serenity prayer or to also think of having courage to bring about change on a foundational level, and that line is “Grant me the strength to change the things I cannot accept.” M. Scott Peck said, “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled, for it is only in such moments propelled by our discomfort that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” We are living in that time right now, where for many of us, we are beginning to connect with people who may not have the privilege that we do and have lived in some deep uncomfortableness about how the world has worked for them.
I was talking to somebody last week who was asking me just for my thoughts about what’s currently going on in our world here in America, and this person was asking if I saw these events as separate events or if I saw these events intertwined. Now for me, I see the virus, the global pandemic that we are living with, as being intertwined with the protests that started here in America and have also extended worldwide. I think a couple of things contribute to that. I think the fact that maybe people have more time or more flexibility with their work schedules have allowed to people to protest and to protest for more days than normal or for just a weekend. I think also a lot of people who may in their former life prior to the pandemic experienced some privilege, they have found as the pandemic has spread across the globe that their lives are getting more unsettled or a little bit unraveled, and I think they are feeling impacted by what’s happening in the world, and when we’re in that place of vulnerability, we’re more likely to connect with or see other people’s vulnerability
I also was asked by a client, who am I reading? Who am I listening to during this time period? One of the people that I’m listening to is Heather Cox Richardson. Heather Cox Richardson is an American historian and professor of history at Boston College. She previously taught at MIT and the University of Massachusetts, and she’s the author of six books. Now on social media, on Facebook and Twitter, she posts several times a week just kind of a summary of what’s currently happening and sometimes puts that in parallel with what’s happened historically. She also has a newsletter that she’s continually updating, and in a recent interview I listened where she was a guest speaker, she was asked how come she’s kind of become so big and so well-known during this time period, and her answer was “I’m just the one answering questions. People have a lot of questions, and I just happened to start answering them.”
So this is taken from a post that she made on June 7, 2020, which was a Sunday. She says:
“In the past two weeks, everything has changed… and nothing has changed.
Two weeks ago tonight, 46-year-old Minneapolis man George Floyd was alive, going through his Sunday night as any one of us do, unaware—as we all are—of what the next day would bring.
Floyd’s casual murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Monday, May 25, caught on video by a bystander, ignited protests across the world.
First, protesters of police brutality turned out onto the streets, then looters, who are as yet largely unidentified, started trashing city storefronts.”
Now we have been able to identify some of those people, but at this point, we didn’t know who the looters were. She continues:
“Then, in a number of cities, police rioted against the protesters… Notably, the police tended to attack people of color and journalists, the latter being such a sign of authoritarianism, it earned condemnation from Germany, Australia, and Turkey.
Monday, June 1, a week after Floyd’s murder, was the turning point. President Trump announced that he was ready to deploy the military to restore order to American cities, then walked across Lafayette Square for a photo op by historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. Before his walk, troops had cleared the square of peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. Trump got his photo op, and then he and Barr increased the presence of unidentified troops on the D.C. streets—it later turned out many of them were riot squads from the Bureau of Prisons.
But Monday’s stunts were too much for military leaders, who felt obliged to speak out against the use of the military against American civilians and in defense of the Constitution. By Wednesday, one military leader after another had reinforced the military’s commitment to racial equality, called for the upholding of the Constitution, and implicitly or explicitly, condemned the president. And by Friday, June 5, the Pentagon had disarmed the National Guard troops stationed in Washington, D.C. and had sent the regular troops that had been moved to the city back to their home bases.
By yesterday [June 6]… people turned out to defend the Black lives constantly susceptible to the systems that privilege white Americans…
So everything has changed… but nothing has changed.
The protests that were sparked by Mr. Floyd’s murder are about more than Mr. Floyd, or Breonna Taylor, killed in a botched police raid as she slept in her own bed, or the many other African Americans murdered by police. They are an outpouring of outrage against a government that privileges a few at the expense of the many. But while that outrage is clearly deep and powerful, it has yet to change the government itself. The November elections are five months away. What happens between now and then will determine whether the past two weeks are remembered as the breaking point that turned the course of American history.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as people had to kind of step out of the normal routines of their life because our normal routines of life were impacted by the global pandemic, we started to spend more time at home, we started to pay attention to what happens around our house and in our neighborhood where we usually are not spending time during the day. As relationships grow closer, whether this is in marriage, families, neighborhoods, or communities, conflict often becomes more difficult to avoid. We’ve seen this with an increase in domestic violence situations, but we’ve also seen this in citizens taking to the streets to protest what they cannot put up with any longer. This is often a good thing because the closer we get to each other’s hearts, the more triggers rise into view. We can’t fully know someone until we ignite each other in emotional ways, in ways that differences will manifest and fear, anger, guilt, shame arise. We can’t know if a connection has legs until it’s tested by conflict, and when it is, there is a choice to be made—walk away in disgust or walk towards in an effort to deepen the connection. Conflict isn’t the adversary of connection. The fear of confrontation is.
In addiction recovery or any type of healing and growth, once the usual patterns of coping have been removed, something new is required to surface when going through difficult circumstances or when faced with challenging times. The old way of coping isn’t working anymore, or the old way of coping we don’t want it to work anymore. In addiction recovery, we say this is when integrity has to stand up. Integrity hasn’t had to stand up because acting out soothed the pain or numbed the discomfort. This is also true with any type of behavior we are trying to change. With those destructive pathways removed, the self is required to show up, to stand up, and to make a decision about how to live life in this new way of being. Do we go back to the old patterns we’re trying to change, or do we sit in the discomfort of figuring out something new, something better, something healthier? Clients will continue to move forward in recovery when their discomfort with their present circumstances outweighs their discomfort with growth. This requires us to be intentional in our actions. Living with intent is the essence of the last part of the serenity prayer: “and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Kara Loewentheil, who’s a Juris Doctorate and a master’s certified coach runs the blog “Living with Intention.” She says this:
“Tell me something: When is the last time you really did something with intention? Can you even remember? Or are you just operating on auto-pilot most of the time?
So many of us just go through life without really making decisions for ourselves or understanding why we make the decisions we make.
And no wonder. Living with intention is scary—it means taking responsibility for yourself and your life. It means letting go of the rulebook that society and your family gave you.
When you let go of the rules, you’re in charge. You get to decide. It’s super liberating, but for people-pleasing perfectionists, it’s also terrifying. When you decide to live with intention, suddenly you have a lot of decisions to make.
But what if you could decide on purpose, ahead of time, how you spend your time, what your romantic relationship is like, the kind of parent you want to be, what you want to create in the world? What if you could plan your days, your weeks, and your life so you were conscious, present, and living on purpose? What would that be like?
I’m not going to lie: Living with intention is challenging. It’s much easier to numb out, which is why most people choose that option. A slow death of wasted time feels easier in any given moment than living with intention and purpose . But at the end of your life, will you look back and be glad you watched all that Netflix? That you did what other people expected of you? That you sat at all the soccer games and did all the chores and forgot to ever create space and time for yourself?”
History gives us several good examples where individuals put in uncomfortable circumstances acted with intent and had a hug impact in their world and in our world. When Nelson Mandela was thrown in jail in 1962, he had almost everything taken from him, his home, his reputation, his pride, and of course his freedom. He chose to use those 27 years in jail to focus on what was really essential and to eliminate everything else, including his own resentment. In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl concluded that everything can be taken from us except the last of human’s freedoms to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Frankl noted that the prisoners most likely to survive were those who had a vivid sense of purpose in life. Even in the humiliation of the camps, something that was certainly beyond the prisoners’ control, they still found choices that they could make and that they did have.
Rosa Parks’ quiet by resolute refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama coalesced into forces that propelled the civil rights movement and changed the course of history. As Parks recalled, “When the bus driver saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said no I am not.” Contrary to popular belief, her courageous “no” did not grow out of a particularly assertive personality. Instead, her decision on the bus grew out of a deep conviction about what deliberate decision she wanted to make in that moment. When the bus driver ordered her out of her seat, she said, “I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.” She did not know how her decision would spark a movement that would reverberate around the world, but she did know her own mind. She knew even as she was being arrested that it would be the very last time she would ever ride in humiliation of this kind. The discomfort of the present circumstances became more uncomfortable than the arrest and incarceration that followed.
Now it may be unlikely that we will find ourselves in circumstances like Nelson Mandela, Viktor Frankl, or Rosa Parks, but we can use their stories as inspiration for our own moments of courage, which we will have. We can think of the strength of conviction Rosa Parks exhibited, her courage to say no and to stand her ground. We can recognize that if Viktor Frankl could make choices in the desolation of a concentration camp, then we can start making choices in our daily lives as well. And as Nelson Mandela taught us, when we focus on what is really essential in our lives, we often may find things we are clinging to, like our resentment, that also need to be eliminated.
To being living with intention, we must begin by laying a proper foundation and then add some practical steps on top of it. So first steps in laying the foundation, #1: Realize that your life is made up of choices. Now it may not have been in the past. There may have been a lot of choices that impacted your life in negative ways that you had no say in. At some point, however, we have to start taking accountability for the choices we do make, and there are many choices that we encounter every day. As we tune in and we begin living with intention, we can start to intentionally make choices. We don’t have to let the circumstances of our part negatively determine the pattern of our lives going forward. We can start to have a choice in the matter. We can move out of being stuck in the same pattern of living that we have been for years.
Step #2 laying the foundation is to evaluate the culture that we’re swimming in. Life is not lived in a vacuum. It is lived surrounded by a culture that impacts each of us individually in a profound way. We might not even be aware of the water that we’ve been swimming in. Our family of origin has a unique ability to define for us what is normal or how we should think about things or what our beliefs are. David Foster Wallace, who’s the author of the book “This is Water,” which is actually an essay about living a compassionate life, tells the story. He says two young fish are swimming in the water. An older fish swims by and says, “Hey boys, how’s the water?” The two young fish look at each other and say, “What the hell is water?” Water is what we’ve been swimming in in our life. It’s the rules of our family, it’s the norms of our family, it’s the norms of our religious culture if we were brought up in that, it’s the norms of our community, of our neighborhood. Living with intention will require us to take a step back and evaluate the culture that we’ve been swimming in. We need to ask ourselves, how is it affecting me? Is this accurate? Is it helpful? Is it taking me in a direction that I desire?
And the last step is to examine yourself. Know who you are. This is a lifelong endeavor, and it’s an endeavor worth undertaking. Get to know your passions, talents, capabilities, and weaknesses. Intimately become familiar with your story, not whitewashing it, all of the story. Understand how your story impacted you then and how it impacts you now. Know what your fears sound like and challenge them. Know what makes you comfortable and thereby blocks you from being uncomfortable and growing. Know what your anger is about and how to channel it through productive paths. Know what makes you come alive, and do that often. Understand what your soul longs for, and give yourself that gift. Surprise yourself. Living an examined life is one of the most valuable things we can do for ourselves.
Once we have that foundation in place, we can add some practical steps. So one of the first steps is take accountability for your life. As I talked about in a couple of episodes ago the drama triangle, accountability is always the way out of whatever mess or drama we find ourselves in. Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop making excuses for yourself. Let you be you and take accountability for the impact that that has.
Second practical step, define a purpose. Write down what you want your life to communicate and what you want to contribute with your life. Find a purpose to live for that that is bigger than you. Have a personal mantra. Save it as your screen protector. This will prevent you from sourcing your life from fear, resentment, or shame. It will wake you from the slow death of only living for yourself or trying to live life on your terms.
Third practical step is set goals. Goals move us, and goals shape us. Now I know a lot of us have issues with goals, and I get it. It goes right back to our needs and wants as a child, which often we were powerless over and it usually ended with disappointment. However, goals are an important part of living as a functional adult. Set goals that are in line with your defined purpose. This will help introduce intentionality into your life. Good luck is another name for tenacity. We have to keep moving forward, and we have to be tenacious in accomplishing the goals that we set for ourselves.
The last practical step is stay focused. We live in a world of constant connectivity and distraction that is begging for our attention nearly every moment of the day, but all of this connection is not helpful, and distractions will weigh us down and take up our time. Learn to turn off the distraction and live your life instead. Henry David Thoreau said, “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” Living with intent is hard. It takes courage and wisdom. It takes forethought and discipline. It requires us to ask difficult questions and to examine our lives. Living with intent helps guide us to a greater sense of purpose and helps to chart our life’s path. We may not be able to run the whole show, but by living with intent, we make deliberate choices about what we contribute to the whole production.