The Social + Emotional Intelligence Skill of Intentionality

Woman Excited

Life is a miracle.  It’s truly a marvel we are all here.

Throughout most of human history, life was dangerous and often downright deadly (still is in many places).

Over hundreds and thousands of years, our ancestors lived when others perished from war, famine, disease or accidents.

Amazingly, if you are reading this, none of our mothers, or their mothers, down through the centuries, died in childbirth.  None of our ancestors succumbed to the plague, wild animal attacks, raids from opposing armies, being lost at sea or myriad other tragedies that could have truncated our family tree.

Here we are.  Truly a wonder.   So the question becomes, what are your intentions for this miracle that is your life? 

As we enter a new year, this is a great time to ponder the question, and several others:

  • Are you being intentional in how you design your life?  Or are you living according to how someone else thinks you should be living?
  • Reactive or proactive?  Do you find yourself in the position where you are having to react to the events, demands and deadlines that life throws your way?  Or are you able to be proactive and strategic in pursuing what YOU think is important?
  • Are you living your life being tossed about by the winds of chance or are you setting your own intentional course?

This blog post contains a great little exercise I sometimes give my clients as a reflection and planning piece at the end of the year.

This is not about new year’s resolutions, which we all know from the research (and experience) don’t really work.

It’s about the social + emotional intelligence skill of being intentional.

I hope you have the opportunity to take a little time over these last days of 2011 to do this exercise.  It involves 12 questions, and it’s best to journal your responses and then look back over your answers weekly (or at least monthly) and ensure you are moving forward on an intentional life course.

The Questions (you may wish to journal your responses)

  1. As you reflect on this past year, what were your accomplishments, successes, breakthroughs, and/or achievements?  Please don’t skimp on these.  Make the list as long as necessary.  The little stuff counts.  NO modesty allowed.  It’s important to acknowledge and validate ALL your accomplishments.  Look through your organizer, your journal (if you keep one), memos, notes, letters, notes from our coaching calls, whatever might help to remind you.
  1. Looking back over the year, what were your disappointments or the things you had hoped to accomplish but didn’t get to?  Please make a list.  It’s important to acknowledge these issues as well, as this is an ideal time to either let them go, carry them forward to continue addressing them (perhaps in new ways or with renewed vigor), or make a new promise.  Also note what (if anything) blocked or held you back from your goals/objectives, or contributed to your disappointments.
  1. What have you learned about yourself and your life?  What insights have you gained?  Insights can shift us to a new, more alive place, helping us be more intentional and authentic in living our lives.  What insights have you gained?
  1. What are you grateful for?  This list might include some of the above and anything else you truly appreciate about yourself and your life.  A sage once said there is a basic principle in life:  whatever you appreciate and give thanks for will increase in your life.
  1. How about a celebration in honor of your accomplishments this year?  What would be a fun, special thing to do for yourself?
  1. What is your theme or vision for the New Year?  This is not about resolutions or specific goals with “do by” dates.  This is your vision or dream for the upcoming year.  What do you feel energy and excitement for?  What engages your imagination and feels compelling?  What do you really want out of life this year?  One of my clients chose as her theme, “adventure.”  Another chose, “to live life with greater ease.”  What’s the right theme for you?
  1. As you look ahead to the new year, what are your three or four most significant goals?  You can have more if you wish.  Some people like to think in terms of setting goals in the following major areas of life (use one piece of paper for each category):
    • Career and professional development (workshops, classes, books to read and expand your thinking?  Are you thinking of a promotion or new position?  Perhaps a new career?  Or even starting your own business?  Maybe even retiring?  What legacy do you want to leave?  What would you like from your career and professional development in the coming year?)
    • Finances (what are your financial goals, like a certain amount of additional savings by the end of the year, learning new ways of investing, and other short-term and long-term financial goals?)
    • Spouse, significant other or soul mate (what relationship is most important to you?  How can you keep the love and romance alive in your life?)
    • Personal and spiritual development (how do you engage in renewal?  What are your interests, activities or hobbies beyond work that keep you alive and interesting?)
    • Health and wellness (what are your plans for fitness, the right eating plan, and other healthy habits you wish to develop to keep yourself feeling strong, healthy, and “good in your skin”?)
    • Fun and recreation (what fabulous adventures would you like to go on this year?  What fun, memorable and mind-expanding trips?  What else can you do to enjoy life, re-new and “re-create”?)
    • Family and friends (they say “life is a journey” – who do you want along with you?  Interestingly, we get to choose to a greater extent than we may realize.  Who do you most want to spend time with?  How can you nurture the most important relationships?  And there are probably individuals whose paths you’ve crossed whom you’d like to get to know better or get closer to.  Identify them, and make a plan . . .  )
  1. What are the top two or three things about your job or career that you most want to be different in 2012?  What, specifically, will you do to make the change?  What will “better” look like?  What resources do you need?  Who can help you get there?
  1. What two or three changes do you most want to see in your personal life?  What will you do first to bring about these changes?  And then?  And then?  How will you know when you’ve achieved it?  How will your life be better or more fulfilled?  Envision it.  Write it down in rich and vivid detail.
  1. What are you tolerating?   Make a list – even little things like a broken windshield or a missing jacket button sap a little energy each time we notice them, and cumulatively, they add up to feelings of frustration, diminishing (to some extent) our enjoyment of life.  Make a list of what you are tolerating (some people have 40-50 things on their lists – an annoying spot on the carpet, a disorganized closet or car, a cluttered office or desk), and systematically, one-by-one, start whittling your tolerations list.  You’ll be amazed how good you feel, and how much more energy you’ll have, when your tolerations list is whittled down to zero.
  1. What do you need to tell yourself every day?  We all have a saboteur or two – those little voices in our heads that tell us we can’t do it, or we’re not good enough.  We ARE good enough.  What mantra or self-affirming statements can you instill in your daily internal dialogue to replace the negative?
  1. What actions will you take to reach your goals and objectives in 2012?  What problems do you need to resolve?  What do you need to let go of?  And what actions will you take?

This exercise is designed to help you design and create your own life experience, take charge, gain clarity about what’s important and what you want, and get into action.  In social +emotional intelligence terms, it’s about the self-management competency of being intentional.

Remember, life rewards action.  Do some careful reflection and thinking, make sound decisions and then go for it.  Someone once said, “an ounce of action is worth more than a ton of thinking.”  Name it, then claim it and do it with every fiber of your being.

Life is a miracle.   What are your intentions for this miracle that is your life? 

I hope you can use this information to be more intentional in designing your life in 2012.

Talk to us:  We’d love to hear your thoughts.   Do you have techniques you use for being more intentional about designing your ideal life?   How do you go about it and what difference has it made for you in your life?   What might you take away from this post ?

Please feel free to forward this blog on to anyone in your network whom you know might be interested in this topic.  We hope you find it useful and we love to engage in dialogue about how you’ve used the information to make things better and more “right” in the world.

2 Responses to “The Social + Emotional Intelligence Skill of Intentionality”

  • Phillipa Wilson:

    Thanks Laura for this powerful end of year message. Setting intentions have proven to be very effective for me. Knowing what I want to see happen or accomplish and making sensible decisons to achieve my goals have worked. The key here is staying focused on what I intend to do, commit to it,do it and the results can be satisfying.Some examples of integrating the Social and Emotional Intelligence Competency, “Intentionality”in my work is creating a healthy and safe environment where team members can work harmoniously together, while bonding and enjoying each others friendship and achieving better results at work.
    Intentionally taking steps to improve my spiritual, personal and family life. Attended workshops, seminars and classes to enhance my learning.Taking care of my health and helping others do the same. What I am taking away from this post is to be more vigorous with my intentions for 2012 and comit to taking action. Journaling will be helpful.

  • Thank you for this blog! I’m just seeing it for the first time today and I will become a regular subscriber. Really helpful and full of inspiration. Thanks Laura!