The Intentional Human

Have you ever met someone with whom there’s an instant connection? That’s what happened when I met my friend Evan. We became peer coaches for one another while completing our sixteen-month training with ICA, the International Coaching Academy based in Australia. That was two years ago. And now, every Monday morning, we meet for an hour ostensibly to keep our coaching skills ‘laser focused’. But no coaching takes place until we catch up with one another’s lives and more often than not laugh ourselves silly.

Evan talks a lot about intentionality. I like that about him. He’s curious about his purpose in life and how he might better live with intention. So keen is he on the idea of living with intention his company is named Intentional Human Group.

But it’s challenging, this whole ‘intentional life’ business. Where’s the user’s guide? There is none. It’s as if we’re handed something that looks like a map but it’s nothing but an empty white void with a red ‘you are here’ in one corner and ‘your purpose’ in the other. The only way to show the path that will lead us to the life intended for us is to take one well-thought step at a time.

In short, you better pay attention to your intention. 

Forty years ago Joseph Campbell urged us to ‘follow our bliss’. Like so many others I took the idea to heart. The problem is that the full quote – the idea Joseph Campbell was trying to share – doesn’t fit on the front of a tee shirt.  Why is it a problem? Because the notion of following our bliss has no foundation on which to ground. It’s as light and airy as a flatulent unicorn’s rainbow fart. Taking the concept of following our bliss to its extreme – which is far removed from Campbell’s intent – removes accountability for our actions and disregards the affect those actions have on the people around us. It gives us permission to see self-centeredness as a virtue.

Here is the full quote:

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”

Just for fun, change the word ‘bliss’ to ‘intent’. The word ‘intent’ creates a foundation on which we can build. It has edges, boundaries. It has form. Ask yourself, ‘What is my intent? What are my intentions? How are my actions and the choices I make intentional?’ 

It’s easier to live with intention than it is to follow bliss. Living with intention is a powerful choice.  

Let’s be intentional humans.


In a World of Karoshi, Can We Find our Bliss?

IMG_0172On Friday I wasn’t feeling quite right. At the same time I wasn’t ill. I know you’ve been there, too. I wanted to call a sick day, make a pot of tea and crawl back into to bed. But I couldn’t. With the exception of the occasional, errant sneeze and despite having a sore throat and headache the day before, I wasn’t exhibiting one single symptom that would lead anyone to suspect I was at death’s door. There was no fever, no pox, no projectile vomiting nor was there a consumptive cough. And so I did not call in sick because to do so would require my telling one big fat whopper of a story. Plus, I had work to do.

In the past I’ve named the day I was craving a ‘mental health day’. It turns out Mental Health Day is a real thing. It has been marked annually every October 10th since 1992. Who knew? And each year the founders of Mental Health Day, the World Federation for Mental Health, select a theme. In 2017 the theme was mental health in the workplace.

In the decades that I’ve been in the workforce it has gradually become a point of pride to overwork. We use our level of stress to measure self-worth, and then wear that stress like a badge of honor. In our quest to define who we are we spend more time with our co-workers looking at screens than we do with the people we love.

Our culture of over-work contributes to poor health and wellness, societal isolation, the break down of relationships and the loss of self.

To be honest, though, we have it easy in the United States compared to Japan. In Japan, the word karoshi means death-by-overwork. While Japan’s government is working to reverse the trend, according to this article from 2014 each year thousands of workers die from either stress-related illnesses or they commit suicide. While the Japanese government has tried to reverse the trend, a more recent article shows their attempts showing meagre results. Sadly, Japan isn’t the only country where extreme devotion to the job and self-sacrifice risks death from heart failure in people as young as twenty-seven. South Korea, China and even the United Kingdom trend toward compulsive and obligatory overwork compared to the United States. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley, that doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. Compared to these countries, we’re slackers.

I wrote the last sentence with a tinge of guilt as the thought ran through my mind, “I have to work harder.” And I bet I’m not alone.

So how do we separate the job we do from the work we love? Where is the fuzzy line between paying the mortgage and the bliss Joseph Campbell promises if we follow our heart? When we are dragged below the surface of a world moving too fast to fathom, where do we find the strength to break through the surface and breathe?