STOP BEING SO INTENTIONAL!
Todd Dewett | December 13, 2021
I do admit that being intentional is very useful. Of course. However, it’s also overplayed a bit, and often defined in a terribly broad fashion that makes no sense. The call to be intentional seems to be ever-present now, so let’s talk about it.
First, what is it? It’s not a social science construct. It’s more of a blogosphere-defined trend. It refers to living thoughtfully, strategically, and with purpose. There is a mountain of advice online about how to live intentionally. The benefits are alleged to include better personal growth, progress towards goals, feeling more centered and positive, and more.
My honest take is that this is a fun and useful modern repackaging of several well-established ideas. Specifically, it sounds a lot like a combination of time management, goal setting, strategic thinking, career planning, and positive self-care. It’s a beautiful smorgasbord.
Without stating it as such, most of the intentionality writers are talking about the utility of planning and control. Be proactive and conscious and make good choices for yourself before others do it for you. Great advice.
What they don’t tell you is that all plans are wrong, and control is an illusion. Sure, like the intentionality movement, the prior sentence is a bit overstated. I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan and seek a little control over the chaos that is life. Not at all.
I just want you to realize that it’s not always great to be intentional. First, it’s completely possible for many people to overthink, fail to find answers, and land in that space we think of as “paralysis by analysis.” Thus, a desire for intentionality, sometimes, can actually cause anxiety.
Sometimes you just need to go engage the day, without a massive plan or goal. I find that occasionally not having a plan and exploring the day’s possibilities pushes me to think and feel in new ways. It’s a way of shaking off tired routines to make sure they don’t become ruts.
Or consider the act of helping others. Sometimes we need to be thoughtful and intentional coaches. Other times, we just need to listen and be present. Don’t think about what to say, how to help, or with whom you might connect them. Just listening might be all that is necessary.
Finally, consider the issue of downtime. Whether you’re feeling fine, stressed, or experiencing burnout, downtime is helpful when you’re successful in turning the brain off a bit (not just refocusing on non-work issues). Don’t overthink and over plan this precious space.
My advice is to be intentional part-time. Planning and positive behaviors are definitely wonderful. Just don’t overdo the intentionality of everything. Make a point to not forget the beauty of an occasional unscripted moment. Who knows what creative thing might emerge when you stop thinking and just engage.
WHAT’S UP WITH DR. D?
Booked a gig in early January in San Francisco for a cool fintech firm called Human Interest. I’m excited to share a version of Show Your Ink at their annual revenue kick-off event.
My team is wrapping up editing on a variety of courses. I’m thrilled to be sharing new course content in 2022!
My editor rocked me with new ideas for Monster. I’m considering rewriting and shifting to a more traditional allegory form – like Who Moved My Cheese. Who knows!?!
How do you effectively think about your growth as a leader? Or as a professional in general? This is a topic I enjoy, and I’ve learned that people need a hand in this area. Let’s think about a few different perspectives.
First, consider the data you actually receive: formal evaluations, 360s, assessment center data, various types of recognition, informal comments and feedback, and opportunities received (e.g., promotions or coveted roles).
Next consider these standard indicators: your skill and expertise growth, expert input (e.g., coaches or mentors), and your success in developing others. Don’t forget there are many ways today to engage behavioral tracking to help you (e.g., journaling, apps).
Finally, think about these more advanced indicators: your subjective well-being, proactive performance (i.e., are your efforts supporting the status quo or supporting change and innovation), and errors and learning (a loose indicator of how hard you are pushing your development).
That’s a lot to take in, and you’re still not done! The next step is to define growth-related goals. Using the types of data noted above, there are many possibilities you can imagine and tailor given your overall career goals. Good luck!
Until next time – stay safe, go learn something, maybe help someone, or at least do something interesting!
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