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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?” 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.” Those who navigate the chaos often 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, they might be bitter towards their employer, or they may shut themselves off from the rest of the world.


For those who leverage their mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos, they remind themselves of the following observation by best-selling author Beverly D. Flaxington “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 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. One of the common threads throughout this entire Navigate the Chaos series is the realization that many people who have translated one dream after another had to deal with any number of issues, unforeseen events, and even tragedies along the way. How they responded with intention made all the difference in the accomplishment of their dreams.


Rabbi Harold Kushner experienced first-hand the concept that ‘being a good person does not necessarily mean only good things will happen to you.’ In his 1981 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?’”


As Flaxington noted “You have to learn to start separating who you are and how you think about yourself 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.”


In his follow-up book published in 1986 entitled When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters, Kushner reflected upon his first book released five years earlier and discussed his need to respond with intention. “The book’s success brought me some measure of fame and fortune, kept me impossibly busy for several years, put a strain on my health, my family, and my non-book related activities. But what it did more than anything else was force me to sort out the desirable from the less desirable in all of that glitter. Time and again I had to ask myself, ‘Is this what I really want out of life?’ I had to decide how I wanted to spend the limited time and energy I had, and what I really wanted to be remembered for.” His own search for meaning, his reflections, and his desire to be intentional in his response to life situations all formed the foundation of When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough.

  • How often do you respond with intention?

  • How often do you remind yourself that some, perhaps most, circumstances are beyond your control?

  • How often do you remind yourself ‘your conduct is in your own power?’

  • How often do you remind yourself that you ‘can control how you respond?’

  • How often do you feel inferior to someone? Is that the intentionally response you really wanted to have?

  • How often do you ‘separate yourself from who you are and how you think about yourself from what happens to you?

  • Do you accept the premise that ‘being a good person does not necessarily mean that only good things will happen to you?’

  • How often do you spend enough time thinking about how you want to respond to any given life situation?