With the exception of sports, I’m not a big tv-watcher. I like drama and comedies just fine but I can honestly take it or leave it when it comes to most of the shows on tv these days. But there is one show that I am committed to with all my heart and soul: This is Us.
It took all of about 5 seconds of Episode 1 for me to be all in. Maybe a well-placed Terrible Towel is all it takes to speak straight to the heart of a die hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Maybe it’s because I will forever be Team Jess (see also, The Gilmore Girls 😉 ). I don’t know exactly what drew me in but I would venture to say that the show has the most brilliantly assembled cast of actors and actresses, complex storytelling, and masterful writing I have ever seen on television.
The show centers around the Pearson family and the lives and trials of “The Big Three” siblings–Kate, Kevin, and Randall. Despite having all grown up in the same house with Jack and Rebecca as their parents, these three siblings have vastly different personalities. The shared experiences of their childhood and adolescence were internalized and processed in completely different ways by each of them; leading to each sibling having his or her own set of struggles, vices, and baggage that they have carried into adulthood. However, one need only watch a 15-minute snippet of the show to see that “The Big Three” and their parents share one specific core value that binds them all together and leaves their complex lives inextricably connected: Family.
Intentional living demands that we know our core values. So many of us go thorough our daily lives existing, but not really living. We survive with this ever-present tension and can’t seem to figure out how to make it go away. This is what most of us mean when we say we feel “stuck.” In order to truly thrive and live our lives on purpose we must have a why, a what, and a how. Careful investigation into these three areas can lead us to what I have termed ‘The Big Three’ of intentional living.
Intentional living begins with our ‘why.’ In order to live our lives on purpose we must take the time to discover the purpose behind why we do what we do. Just like The Pearsons, each of us possess core values. These principles are deeply ingrained in our being and (theoretically) guide our lives, behavior, and decision-making. I use the word “theoretically” here because, until I took my first coaching class at the age of 40, I had literally given zero thoughts to my core values. I would be willing bet the majority of us have never given much thought as to what our core values actually are, much less whether or not we live our lives in a way that honors them. This why I offer each of my clients a free Core Values Assessment and explain that we can use our core values as a mirror. We can hold every decision we make, every word we speak, every action and reaction up to that mirror and clearly see if it is in alignment with our core values. If so, we are likely to experience greater fulfillment, peace, and satisfaction. However, if we make decisions and behave and live our everyday lives outside of these values, we often exist in a perpetual state of tension, dissatisfaction, or discontentment. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to live our lives on purpose if we do not take the time to consider our individual core values and determine why we act, think, decide, or behave as we do in light of them.
Once we know our ‘why,‘ we can move on to our ‘what‘. Intentional living doesn’t happen by accident therefore we must incorporate specific disciplines and practices into our daily lives that support what we value and what we desire to accomplish. For example, my #1 core value and the most important thing in my life is my personal faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore I incorporate practices into my daily routine that support my faith and the kind of woman I want to be in light of it. Most mornings I wake up well before the rest of my family so that I can spend time in my Bible and prayer. I take long walks or go for long runs while I listen to worship music or my favorite podcasts, pastors, or other Christian leaders. If generosity or kindness are your core values, you might carve out space each day to practice acts of service. If one of your dreams is to publish a book you might devote a specific amount of time each day to jotting down thoughts or ideas. Cultivating gratitude, organizing our schedules, prioritizing activities, personal affirmations, daily exercise or spending time outdoors, weekly meal planning, prayer or meditation…all of these are specific practices that we can incorporate into our lives. In doing so, we maximize the potential we have to live each day with purpose and intention.
I don’t know how to delicately say this so I’m just going to say it: Choosing to be fully present is how we show up every day for ourselves and the people we love. We need only be awake for 5 minutes every morning before being bombarded with distractions. The tv, the internet, social media, cell phones, smart watches, even this blog….all of it is vying for our attention. Practicing presence requires boundaries. We miss out on so many of the best moments life has to offer when we allow our days to pass without making a deliberate choice to eliminate the distractions and set aside uninterrupted time to be fully present for ourselves and others. Time is precious. None of us seem to have enough of it and once it is gone, we can never get it back. That is why it is imperative that if we want to live intentional lives, we set aside time to be fully present with ourselves and those we love.
Intentional living requires us to make choices about how we will spend each day we are given on this planet. We must cultivate ‘The Big Three’–-Purpose, Practice, and Presence in order for us to live our best lives. I hope and pray that as you face the dawn of a new year, you will do so wholly resolved to live your best life, on purpose.