Now What Am I Going to Do?

Now what am I going to do?
That’s a question that millions of people ask themselves every day. In struggling nations the question is about how to get enough to keep the family alive for another day. In the working classes of affluent nations the question is often about how to cope with a layoff, an uninsured or underinsured illness or loss, or costs of living that are soaring. Among those who are educated but unemployed, underemployed, or exhausted by their employment, the question is about finding meaningful work. But in every case the answer is not easy, not obvious, and immensely stressful.

A year ago I produced a list of Mid-Year Intentions, and by six months ago I had substantially completed them all. My book had found a publisher. I’d changed jobs to one that promised to let me make a living doing what I’d always wanted to do. I’d made a lot of self-changes for the better, and was healthier, happier, more loving and more productive. I was really on a roll.

By intentions I meant more than resolutions…these were things I had already begun and fully intended to finish within six months. This list was my answer to the question Now what am I going to do?

At the start of this year I created a second set of New Years’ Intentions, to be completed by the end of this month. But despite an incredibly busy and full six months, my success this time around has been much more modest. What went wrong? I intended to:

  1. Love as many as people as possible.
  2. Live simpler. 
  3. Engage in more conversations and practice to become a better conversationalist. 
  4. Create community. 
  5. Breathe, be present, be still, in those moments when I am alone. 
  6. Move more. 
  7. Be more self-sufficient. 
  8. Be bolder. 
  9. Help entrepreneurs more. 
  10. Have more fun. 

My accomplishments from completing the first six-month intentions list continue to bear fruit, and I’m very proud of them. Sustaining them takes some continuing work, but it’s worth it. I’m in the best physical shape I’ve ever been. The book gets better and better and will soon be in the bookstores. I’m doing more facilitating and less telling, and instead of telling people what to do I tell stories and let them draw their own conclusions. I’ve become 100% vegetarian and 80% of my meals are now vegan. My health is excellent.

So maybe adding another ten intentions was asking too much? This may be partly true — I constantly feel I’m not getting everything done I should, constantly feel like I’m letting people down, and letting myself down as well. And I’m allowing myself to get sleep-deprived too often.

But it’s also true that the second list was more ambitious — more of a stretch, a self-change challenge, including things that I have never been good at. In trying to love as many people as possible, for example,  I’ve learned that I don’t even like most people very much. Thanks to Mia’s efforts, not mine, our Second Life Intentional Community is up and running, but I’m impatient with the struggle to find people who share our intention and are willing to invest some energy and time to make it work. And as delightful as the people I’ve met from real-life Intentional Communities are, I just can’t see myself in any of these communities — it’s not what I’m looking for.

So I’ve decided to make my next list of intentions — my Mid Year Intentions 2008 list, which I’ll post in about two weeks — shorter, perhaps 5 items instead of 10. And beside each broad intention will be One Thing that I will do specifically in the next six months to realize that intention, to get at least measurably closer to achieving it. Each of these ‘One Things’ will be my answer to the question Now what am I going to do?

So preparing the Intention List becomes a three step exercise:

  1. What is your intention, in order to become who you really are, and be and do what you were intended to?
  2. What’s holding you back? What obstacle is blocking you from realizing that intention?
  3. What One Thing will you do remove or work around that obstacle?

So, for example:

  1. I intend to learn to be present, live in the moment, be aware, attentive, appreciative.
  2. I am blocked from doing this by my inability to quiet my mind and avoid distractions.
  3. The One Thing I will do to remove that obstacle is to study and practice meditation, regularly and diligently.

In order to realize my top 5 intentions for the next six months, I’m going to have to be selective, and put my list in order of importance. And I’m going to have to be realistic about how many of those One Things I can expect to do, on top of all that I am already doing. Or else I will have to stop doing some things in order to make room for others, moreimportant. After all, we may only have 37 days to realize our really important intentions.

What do you think? Could this simple three-step process help us to let ourselves change, and really realize our intentions?

What is your most important intention, to be achieved in the next six months, in order to become more who you really are, and be and do what you were intended to? What’s holding you back? And what One Thing will you do to remove or work around that obstacle?

Now what are you going to do?

Category: Let-Self-Change
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8 Responses to Now What Am I Going to Do?

  1. John says:

    There is only one sustainable solution…. each of us to be the “glue.” To hold good things together.

  2. John Graham says:

    I am often very interested in the Now, and healing via awareness, so here’s my reaction to your 3-step on being present, from a Gestalt-therapy-ish perspective:1) Actually you are in the present. You cannot be otherwise. And you’re always attending to something – just not always what part of you thinks you *should* be. 2) I’d rephrase this “I am blocking myself from attending to what part of me thinks I should be, and choosing to pay attention to something else – and I take responsibility for that”.3) Well, if my (2) is right, then the “obstacle” is a part of yourself, and I hope you won’t try to remove that – you’d be lesser. I don’t think it’s wise to approach meditation as a way to remove a problem or obstacle, or as mind training. Mindfulness as I understand it is just noticing, “Ah, this too…this, too”, without punishment. And the paradox is (and my experience confirms this for myself), just the noticing now and then gets things unstuck, and I get to be more me.As you can see, I’d find your three-step approach problematic. What ever works for you though!I wonder how I would rework your three-steps generally? I’m more into getting in touch with my moment-to-moment, fluid intentions, than I am in constructing Big Intentions right now.Perhaps,1) I already am who I am. Ah, I notice I’m doing this again…I wonder what’s my intention in doing that? 2) Sit, breathe, notice my feet3) Then I’d go for Iyanla Vanzant’s four steps: Stop for 30seconds (and pray or connect or whatever you do). Now, what do I feel? What do I want? What do I feel about what I want?I’d let the answers come and, and go from there…

  3. patti digh says:

    dave – i wonder if your success rate was lower with the second set in part because they appear more abstract, and less embodied than the first? I’d urge you to read David Mamet’s brilliant little book *On Directing Film* to explore his articulation of every action in a film or play feeding into the spine of the play, where the primary intention is the spine. I fear we don’t know what our primary intention is most of the time – that is, we don’t really know what the “play” is, and so our actions to get there are very disembodied. Thanks for the great food for thought, as always.

  4. John Graham says:

    Oh, and by the way, Now I’m going to go see if my friend has my hat. ;D

  5. patti digh says:

    another thought – writer Robert Olen Butler talks about fiction as a yearning meeting an obstacle. it’s the obstacle, in fact, that propels the story forward. For the story to feel real and be compelling, the yearning must be clear, and the obstacle real. Those two conditions are, I think, many times missing in our intentions…

  6. Paul says:

    Patti, it sounds that you’re thinking of life as a story–am I reading too much into your comments? (Dave’s “do what you were intended to” also sounds like a story, written by the fates or by God or by Me.) I don’t think it’s useful to create one’s life as a story; in fact, thinking of our lives as stories can get us into lots of trouble. Who’s telling the story? to whom? Is the point of the story to reinforce some notion of who I am because I’m afraid that I can’t be good enough? If I don’t change somehow then there isn’t a point to my life?I see paying attention to the present as almost the opposite approach: notice without judgment what’s happening now, instead of intepreting within a framework of roles, narrative, character, etc. Practicing such present-awareness we may more readily see hidden intentions, self-imposed obstacles, and the origins of delusional or frustrating thought patterns. Without even trying in a goal-directed sense, I believe we may find our way around and through these problems while clarifying what we really need and desire and accepting our real potentials and limits.That’s just a bunch of words, of course. I’m still experimenting, and time will tell if the focus on present-awareness rather than on goals-planning-directing-success will help me develop my “self” better. (And I still appreciate the latter approach for my “practical” pursuits!)

  7. John Graham says:

    I appreciate your choice of words, Patti, ‘spine’,’yearning’, ‘disembodied’…Paul, I don’t see a contradication between what Patti’s saying and the Now approach. Stories (which are like water to the fish of the human mind) are just one way of expressing truth – last week I saw A Star is Born, Barbra Streisand mentions in the commentary that people know the truth when they see it, and the Truth sets you free – I can’t explain, but experiencing some scenes in that film I know she’s right. Not sure if I explained the link, but anyway.When I followed my hat intention yesterday, it somehow took me to a place that was connected to the spine… and the former ‘obstacle’ of my shyness somehow wasn’t as real as that intention. And getting a taste for that, when I went into the video store tonight..the gut realisation that, no, what I’m looking for’s not here.I think it works because the intention right now is connected to the spine of reality in a way that the disembodied intention isn’t.And now here I am on a Friday night with my yearning..and when I turn the computer off, I guess I’ll be confronted with reality…Maybe if the obstacle is real, I’ve made Freud’s(was it?)shift from neurotic misery to ordinary sadness.And hoo, boy could the world do with some real sadness right now.

  8. Vinu says:

    Dave if you really want to live in the present is having goals and intentions on where you will be in 6 months from now a good way of going about doing it?I believe if you really want to be aware and be in the ‘now’ you should feel and not think much. Be good at heart and things will work out the way they want to. Just appreciate whatever happens and try to do what you like … am I being too naive?

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