How often do you respond with intention?

Today is July 14 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you respond with intention?” Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well involves hundreds of stimuli and reactions each day. Each stimulus and reaction involve some combination of thoughts, emotions, and time required to process the situation. For those translating their dreams into reality, they understand the observations by British politician and writer Benjamin Disraeli who noted “Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power.”

So many people get paralyzed along the path of navigating the chaos because they become obsessed with controlling everyone, everything, and every event they encounter. Their fear of losing control blinds them to have any vision of their self. Most people reaction without purpose, design, or direction. Today’s reflection challenges you to think about how often you respond with intention, especially when the life situation in front of you is difficult.

Without any vision, intention, or focus, your response lacks the thoughtfulness required for one to practice the art of living well. Life is so unpredictable. Grasping such an understanding of that is a critical strategy to use while navigating the chaos. Being intentional about your response during unpredictable life situations is a strategy often used by those who navigate the chaos. Take for example what happened with an attempted world record. On November 14, 2005, a sparrow knocked over 23,000 dominoes in the Netherlands, nearly ruining a world record. The bird flew through an open window at an exposition center in the northern city of Leeuwarden where employees of television company Endemol NV worked for weeks setting up more than 4 million dominoes to break a world record. Fortunately, the stop gap measures put into place allowed 4 million (92%) out of a possible 4.4 million to fall and set the world record at that time.

Despite the organizer’s best efforts to prevent accidents or mistakes, an external force had a direct impact on the event. Recognizing life’s unpredictability, however, allowed the company to design the dominoes with intention and, therefore, still break the work record. When you have everything lined up, like those 4.4 million dominoes, and you believe you have complete control of the situation, how do you react when an external event happens?

Those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well recognize the randomness of life often creates circumstances beyond their control; yet they work hard at being intentional with their response. This is especially true when it comes to the relationship between one’s career and one’s life purpose. For example, when someone loses their job they might consider themselves a loser.

As best-selling author Beverly D. Flaxington wrote: “The problem with defining yourself by what happens to you is that life is more random than we’d like to think. Yes, sometimes the person who studies hard or networks well or works all hours succeeds in a way that someone who isn’t putting in the effort does not. However, as much as you may not like to admit it, there are also people who don’t put in a lot of effort and are naturally talented in a certain way, connected to the right people, or simply in the right place at the right time. Controlling what happens to you is not as easy as it may sound. But you can control how you respond.”

Those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well build a level of personal confidence over time that allows them to move through life in an unshakeable manner, regardless of the outward circumstances. Responding with intention takes years of experience, reflection, and direction. Part of that process involves recalling the words of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” During each day moving forward understand that being a ‘good’ person does not necessarily mean only good things will happen to you.

Rabbi Harold Kushner experienced this firsthand. In his international best-selling work of non-fiction When Bad Things Happen to Good People Kushner poses the question ‘if the universe was created and is governed by a God who is of a good and loving nature, why is there so much suffering and pain in it?’ The book is dedicated to the memory of Kushner's young son, Aaron, who died at the age of 14 in 1977 of the incurable genetic disease progeria. Kushner provides the following observation to guide the reader through part of the process involved with responding with intention when bad things happen “’What did I do to deserve this?’ is an understandable outcry from a sick and suffering person, but it is really the wrong question. Being sick or being healthy is not a matter of what God decides that we deserve. The better question is ‘If this has happened to me, what do I do now, and who is there to help me do it?’”

“You have to learn to start separating who you are and how you think about yourself,” Flaxington noted, “from what happens to you, good or bad. People who are super smart and talented, and even well networked and liked, get laid off. Someone who is devoted to health and wellness and takes good care of their physical body gets sick. Being a ‘good’ person doesn’t mean that only good things will happen to you.”

  • When you catch yourself reacting in a manner counter to the way you wish to act, stop, and ask yourself why are you allowing the event, situation, or person to create such a reaction?

  • If you find yourself feeling inferior at such a moment in time have the self-awareness to stop and ask why that is? Why are you allowing others to make you feel inferior since they are unable to do so without your consent?

  • How often do you accept that your response is the only thing in your control?