We’ve reached the end of January. The month of Being Intentional. What did you discover about yourself? What did you learn? And equally important, what will you do with that information?
As I have been looking inward during these last 30 days I have realized there are things I am ready to let go of, things that are a drain instead of a boost, activities that fill me up and those that feel like too much work.
I have also come up to the razor’s edge difference between growth and self-improvement. For years, I would have told you these are the same endeavors. For some of you, it may actually be.
For me, I have realized that self-improvement can quickly be another form of self-loathing. Another way to criticize myself. Another way to compensate for the perception that I am not good enough as I currently am.
Growth, on the other hand, is about expansion. It’s the broadening of my abilities, increasing the level of discomfort I can tolerate when I come up against my old unhelpful habits and patterns. The same unhelpful habits and patterns that run in contradiction to my goals and dreams. These are the hurdles, the obstacles, the self-sabotage that we all encounter to some degree or other. Self-improvement can be about vilifying these parts of ourselves and shoving them in the closet. Growth is about sitting with these ways of being in our life and uncovering why they are there in the first place. And then moving beyond them in a purposeful and meaningful way.
When I get overwhelmed with work I tend to crave sugar. Instead of going on a 30-day sugar detox, I decided to get intentional about understanding why. I eat sugar when I am stressed at work to feel better, to stop feeling the way I am feeling. Seems like an obvious reason but if I never took the time to sit with those feelings I wouldn’t know that. But deeper than that, what are these interactions at work reminding me of? What are they bringing up for me that I don’t want to feel?
Before long I had a whole list of beliefs and thoughts I have about myself. When I address those things, sugar is no longer needed. This is what being intentional has been for me. It’s realizing as author Nicole Sachs says in her book “The Meaning of Truth,” life is about choosing between what hurts and what hurts worse. At first that sounds so dark and depressing but if you stay with it for a moment it makes perfect sense.
If you want to run a marathon, the training is tough. It’s going to hurt sometimes, right? If you don’t train, the feeling of not following through is going to hurt, too. Each of us has to decide what hurts worse. There is always, always, always a trade-off. Sometimes they are small. And sometimes they feel gargantuan.
We have to decide frequently, if our immediate comfort is more important than our life’s dreams. Each day we decide. Our action is a decision. Our inaction is a decision. This is what it means to be intentional.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G