This year the focus of this blog, and the videos I’ve created for the EvoFaith Tribe, has been on living on purpose, being intentional in all the various aspects of our lives. As we’ve explored each area in turn, it can seem really easy to live intentionally. But, when we put all the different aspects of our lives together, and when we bring all our different selves into the mix, suddenly things get far more complicated. And that’s when it begins to become clear why so many people struggle to live intentionally. It’s not easy.
BALANCING THE PERSONAL AND THE RELATIONAL
One of the biggest areas of challenge when it comes to living intentionally is learning to balance our personal intentions with our social and relational intentions. Most of us live in a constant juggling act between loving ourselves and loving our significant others. It would be wonderful if the needs and desires of our loved ones fitted seamlessly into our own needs and desires. But that only happens if someone in the relationship is denying important parts of themselves. When we’re honest with ourselves and the people with whom we’re in relationship, we will always have to negotiate the relationship between living on purpose and loving on purpose.
A few years ago I was given a series of coaching sessions with a business consultant who works with some of the biggest global corporations. Early in our journey, he got me to do a personality profiling test. When he saw my results, he expressed great surprise at one facet in particular. It seemed that in the areas of my life where I’m alone and independent, I am highly decisive and proactive. But when I find myself in groups, I tend to become highly compliant. These two traits—decisiveness and compliance—seldom co-exist at high levels in one individual. Rather, we tend to be strong in one and much weaker in the other. My coach explained that the presence of both qualities signalled a contradiction within me. He was concerned that, as he put it, I was submitting myself and my strength to the groups in which I participated. And he encouraged me to seek ways to embrace my decisiveness more when I’m working with others.
TRYING TO AVOID THE JUGGLE
That conversation was significantly transforming for me. And it revealed the extent to which, at that point, I was failing at my ‘Intentional Juggle’. I wasn’t really negotiating the relationship between my intentions and those of the group. I was simply prioritising the group over my own needs and desires. And, as you might have guessed, it eventually became completely unhealthy and unsustainable.
Of course, there are others who make the opposite choice to mine. Rather than juggle their personal and social intentions, they simplify things by prioritising their own needs and ignoring those of others or of the group. While this strategy is different, the outcome is much the same—health and sustainability are sacrificed. To be healthy and fully alive, we need to ensure that we choose both ourselves and our loved ones. We need strong relationships with our significant others. But we also need a strong relationship with ourselves. And when we become skilled at juggling competing intentions and needs, life becomes much more vibrant, meaningful, and fulfilled.
BECOMING A SKILLED JUGGLER
So how do we learn the skills of the ‘Intentional Juggle’? I suspect that there are probably three primary factors to consider, but it would be wonderful if you would add your thoughts to the comments and expand this list.
Get Comfortable with Complexity
If we are serious about living intentionally, and if we want to have strong relationships as we do this, then we need to become very comfortable with complexity and complications. This is a difficult thing for many of us, because we are wired by our evolution to seek simplicity over complexity. And so that means that, to at least some extent, we have to go against our natural inclinations. The essential truth is that it takes work to live intentionally. It takes work to engage intentionally in our relationships. And it takes work to navigate these competing, and often contradictory, sets of intentions.
Get Good at Communication
Every negotiation requires effective communication. And this means that, if we are to negotiate the relationship between our personal intentions and our relational ones, we will need to learn to communicate clearly, kindly, intentionally, and regularly. This involves both having good, open conversations with our loved ones and having good, open ‘conversations’ with ourselves. It requires us to be willing to listen well to others and to speak up, firmly but gently, for ourselves.
Get Used to Juggling Often
One of the fallacies to which we often fall prey is believing that we only need to negotiate the relationship between our needs and those of our loved ones once. How many of us have geared ourselves up for a tough negotiation, only to breathe a sigh of relief when it’s over. Then we go into our lives thinking that everything is resolved, and we won’t have to worry about the ‘Intentional Juggle’ again. And then we get surprised and angry when we discover that we need to negotiate again. And again. And again. The reality is that good relationships are a never-ending negotiation. And the ‘Intentional Juggle’ is a never-ending facet of nurturing strong relationships.
HOW IS YOUR JUGGLING?
What have you done to be more effective at jugging your needs and intentions with those of your significant others? How successful do you think you’ve been? What are your primary areas of struggle in your ‘Intentional Juggle’? What advice would you give to others to help them get better at the ‘Intentional Juggle’?
I’d love to hear your stories of what has worked and what hasn’t worked for you as you’ve negotiated the relationship between your personal intentions and your relational ones. The comments are open. I look forward to hearing your perspectives.
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