Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Being Intentional

We live in a last minute culture and we are slaves to our impulses. Marketing agencies take full advantage of this concept with gems like:

  • Buy now, pay later
  • Fast food - we deliver in 30 minutes or less or your pizza is free
  • The easy button
  • Instant download
  • Instant love connection

All the while, we are accumulating these instant fixes for deeply seeded needs as we allow our impulses to control, dictate and dominant our schedules, our habits and our choices.

But what if life what never intended to be lived at the rate of pure impulse? I'm discovering these three things as I strive to find a balance between impulse and being intentional.

1. If you believe in intelligent design, you believe that planning is important. Life doesn't make sense without the concept of intelligent design. Intelligent means well thought out. If you and I exist as part of a well thought out design, which points to the undeniable fact that planning is essential in order to create something that is significant. I'm not sure that you can believe in intelligent design, but yet allow your life to be controlled primarily by impulse. While it may be true that your earthly parents never planned to create you, God (the innovator of intelligent design) did. There is no accidental life on planet earth. God creates beauty out of brokenness and chaos, and He is not controlled by impulse in doing so. Intelligent design points to the fact that planning is crucial to success in life, in leadership and even in love.

2. Discipline yourself to think ahead. Don't just settle for last minute. It takes discipline to create space to make a plan. Great leaders possess the ability to respond to the moment while always keeping the future in mind. The struggle is that most of us have not created the habit of taking the time to plan what might be next, and allow ourselves to instead be controlled by the ever increasing pressures of a reactionary, impulse based lifestyle. 

It's true that you can't think of everything, but entering into a conversation, a situation or a challenge without some sort of plan leads to becoming easily overwhelmed, burdened, disconnected and eventually burned out. If planning ahead doesn't come naturally to you, find the courage to seek out others who have seemingly mastered this discipline and ask them to coach you. Great leaders understand their vision and mission. Vision is an orientation, not a destination; it exists in the future and the present. But unless you discipline yourself to take time to make a plan, you will struggle to discover what vision and mission are.

3. Being spontaneous doesn't mean you're being spiritual. Being led by the Spirit is different than choosing not to make a plan. As a leader, I've been blessed (and cursed) with the ability to see the future fairly easily (meaning that I have an idea of where we should go and how we can get there). There are many times that the plan that I have put in place needs to flex, be adjusted or even torn down due the promptings of God's Spirit. But spontaneity doesn't always equal being spiritual or Spirit-led. Sometimes spontaneity is linked to laziness in leadership. To gauge whether or not people see you as a lazy leader, ask them about to observe your planning habits and give you feedback. The community around you may be able to help you sharpen and refine your leadership habits if you are willing to hear honest feedback from them.

Being intentional in leadership is extremely important. If you are a leader, that's not by accident. Courage, bravery, honesty and integrity are required to lead. Our impulse based culture demands that we must be intentional in the way that we lead. So, how are you being shaped by impulse and/or intention?