So let me start by saying that this article was difficult to write. Probably the toughest in the last few years. I’ve taken five good attempts at it over five different days now and even with that, it’s FAR from perfect.
This is supposed to be an article about living with intention. Something that I value highly. When it came down to writing about it, however, the exact “formula” for that plan was difficult to define. I kept asking questions like, “What does it mean to live with intention?” and “How do I live with intention?” I would jot down notes with key points and then look back on them later and realize that it wasn’t making much sense. It always seemed to dive deep into psychology and lacked the practicality I was hoping for.
So if this wanders or seems confusing from time to time, I know. I apologize. Stick with it to the end because maybe there’s one key takeaway from it that will help you along your journey.
Here it goes:
For me, success has always lived in a thin space between boredom and chaos. If life is too slow, I’m bored, frustrated and unmotivated. If it’s too fast and chaotic, I get overwhelmed quickly. There’s always been this elegant space of “balance” right in the middle.
In the beginning of building my businesses, I had to be super intentional and hustle to avoid boredom. We didn’t have enough business to keep my days busy, so I had to be creative about my time. Now, I deal with the opposite. If I’m not intentional, life gets too busy. There’s actually too much hustle (Gasp!).
I understand the “religion of hustle.” I’m actually a big fan of it, but its doctrine is extreme. It’s about moving the needle based on the assumption that most people err on the side of boredom. Howver, the question that we’re not asking ourselves is: what happens when the hustle overtakes your intentions?
One of the main lessons I’ve learned along the way of business ownership is that it’s very important to me to live inspired. That means intentionally building time in my schedule to be creative. I need space to think, to write and to research. All of those things take time, but if I want to be an educator in our industry, I need to invest in inspiration.
What I’ve discovered is that success can (and will) steal your intentions. Just as I learn to balance the spectrum of boredom and chaos personally, businesses must find the balance between failure and success.
I’ve seen more companies lose their way because of success than failure. I can personally feel the gravitational pull on my own businesses. Success creates opportunities and opportunities consume time and resources. You gradually spread your resources thinner and thinner across more projects, clients, patients, etc. until you’ve drifted away from the original model. Intentions become the anchor that holds a great business in place through a storm of success.
So, when I asked myself, “How do I live with intention?” these are the three keys that always seem to rise to the top.
HOW TO LIVE WITH INTENTION
1. Assume Abundant Amounts of Success.
Step number one to living with intention is to assume abundant amounts of success and reverse engineer the ideal ______________ (insert: practice, team, business, lifestyle, etc.). I find that most people live with a zero sum mentality. Their perspective is that pie is only so big. If there’s only so much success, then take what you can get when you can get it. That “poverty mentality” creates scarcity and will take you down a path away from your intentions.
Instead focus on abundance. What if the world was an abundant place? (It is.) What if there’s actually enough resources on the planet for everyone to experience abundance? (There is.) What if there was plenty of money to do whatever you wanted to do? (There is). Then what would things look like?
What would your ideal day look like if you lived in abundance?
- How involved are you with your children? Do you want to pick them up from school in the afternoons?
- How much sleep do you want?
- How much time do you want in the mornings personally before starting work?
- What role does fitness play in your average day?
What would your ideal month look like if you lived in abundance?
- How much CE do you want to take?
- How much would you like to travel?
- How important is it to entertain friends and family on a regular basis?
What would your ideal practice look like if you lived in abundance?
- What kind of team members would you hire?
- What kind of dentistry would you practice?
- How many patients would you personally see?
2. Create Elegant Solutions
The interesting thing is that intentions actually create boundaries. They create a path with guardrails on each side. If you want to live true to those intentions, you’ll actually find yourself saying “no” to more and more along the way. Any creative professional will tell you that creativity comes from a place of constraint. What are the restrictions that we’re working with and how can we creativity solve them? Constraints force you to view something differently and ask “How could this work?” So step number two in living with intentions is to create elegant solutions within these boundaries.
Author Tim Ferriss opens his most recent book, Tools of Titans with this concept. He asks the question, “What if this were easy? What would it look like?” Believe it or not, it actually takes more creativity to find solutions that are “easy” then it does to simply take life as it comes.
This is a great mental exercise and will most likely shed light on a potential limiting factor in your psyche. I would bet that most people never go down this road because at some point we’ve been programmed to believe that we don’t deserve “easy.” If we’re going to experience success, we are going to have to work long and hard for it. Deserve it. Prove it to those watching. But what if I told you that you do deserve “easy.” You deserve elegant solutions that actually free you up to live within your intentions? That could be a game changer.
So what if running a practice were easy? What would that look like? If you want to leave everyday at 2:30 p.m. to pick your kids up from school, you’ll have to think through some creative ideas to keep your practice open during the afternoon. Answering this question will force you to create elegant solutions within the boundaries of your intentions.
3. Live with Why
Step number three to living with intentions is to live your “Why.” When you create boundaries and attempt to live with intention, it will ultimately get attention. That’s your chance to share your “Why” with the world.
When patients request an appointment with you after 3:00 p.m. you can duck and dodge the request or you can simply say, “Dr. Smith doesn’t take appointments in the afternoon. She leaves everyday at 2:30 p.m. to pick her kids up from school.” How do you think that patient will respond? Sure, an occasional patient may leave for another practice (and ultimately, my advice is to create a solution for this), but hundreds will respect you for it and connect with you as a person.
Practices and businesses that operate with intention get attention and, even though you don’t do it as a marketing tactic, it definitely works that way. Live your “Why” out loud. Lead with it. Don’t be shy about spreading it. The world needs more “Why” and it starts with businesses and individuals that choose to live with intention.
CLOSE — THE GOLDEN CIRCLES
Simon Sinek’s groundbreaking book and TED talk, “Start With Why” lays out the concept of The Golden Circle. Three concentric circles of What, How and Why. Sinek’s thesis is that starting with the innermost “Why” solves the “What” and the “How.” I think it’s also a helpful exercise to fly up to 30,000 feet and look at the big picture. Start with the end in mind (the What) and define what your future looks like through the filter of abundance. Then figure out how to get there (the How) within the boundaries you’ve created. Last, live your “Why” out loud each day.
What you’ll discover about living with intention is that it forces us to confront limiting beliefs that we’ve unconsciously built over time.
>> It pushes us to view the world as abundant and recognize our right to experience that abundance.
>>It brings success and answers the awkward question: Do I deserve “easy.”
>>It pushes us out of our comfort zone by giving us opportunities to shine our “Why” and influence those around us.
These are great mental challenges to routinely work through, personally and professionally. Hopefully this article has helped start the conversation about how to live with intention. If it’s been helpful to you in any way, please let me know. Shoot me a quick email or comment on social media. I’d love to continue the conversation.
Final Shout Out — This last year, I had the opportunity to meet the Inspired Dentist Shakila Angadi. I’m motivated by her commitment to self-care, emotional health and teaching so many to live with intention. Dr. Angadi, thanks for taking on these conversations (@theinspireddentist).