Living With Intention

Living With Intention

As parents, especially solo parents, intentionality takes effort. Our everyday tasks and responsibility seemingly take all of our time and sap us of all of our energy. We don't feel like we actually have bandwidth to live intentionally into the future that we really want. So today we're going to cover this in three main points.

Number one, we're going to talk about starting with the end in mind. Number two, we're going to talk about the importance of making mistakes in front of our kids. And three, we're going to talk about keeping our eyes on the end goal. We all want to live with intention, but like we've talked about, we are so busy, there are so many things going on. It's hard to know where to begin with this.

The first thing we wanted to talk about is starting with the end in mind and Amber—as kind of our resident counselor, I know that you have walked through things with clients this year as you're starting a new year. And so talk to us about starting with the end in mind.

As part of my own practice, I've found this so valuable that before I can look ahead, it's helpful to look back. And in thinking about what might benefit my clients, just an end of the year review and reflection, I came up with 24 things to reflect on as we enter 2024. I'm hoping it might be helpful or a way for single parents to consider what worked, what didn’t, and what they want to look toward in the new year.

It’s eight questions, four looking back and four looking ahead. When you're looking back on your past year, take some time and get quiet, get still, or just let these questions mull around in your head. That's what I did for a few days. I let these questions roll around in my head and later on I went back and I typed my responses on my phone and just let the answers come.

Looking back:

•What three things over the past year were hard?
•What three things were good?
•What are three things you're ready to let go of/know you need to let go of?
•What are three things you're grateful for?

As you review your year, just let those answers come and write them down. It's so important to look back before you look ahead to know where you want to go next. You often need to evaluate where you've already been.

Looking ahead:

•What three things do you want this year? Fun things, joyful things?
•What three things do you need this year?
  • What are the things that went missing last year that you really needed? Maybe you really need to prioritize rest. That's not a want, that's a need. Maybe last year you were exhausted, and you stayed so busy, you didn't take care of your physical body. Needs can get waylaid for us, particularly as single parents.
•What are three relationships you want to invest in?
  • It can be your relationship to self, God, food, health, time—it doesn't have to be a person.
•What are three things you're looking forward to? We need that hope that propels us forward.

This month we're talking about intentionality and we've talked about necessary endings and various things, but what I'm increasingly aware of is, I don't do this super well, especially getting caught up in the day-to-day of life.

I let these questions roll around, I put them on paper. I did it intentionally for my clients, but I let them sit. And then one morning I was laying in bed, and I thought, “I have time. I have 10 minutes, 20 minutes.” It wasn't super lengthy, but I just got quiet and still, and I let answers come to mind. Some I wrote very simply, some I wrote a few notes with and expanded on them. Some of the answers surprised me. There were tears as I considered some of the things I'd been through, but also good memories too. Socrates says, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” That's so true, the idea that we need to examine our lives and be intentional.

The second point is inevitable for all of us: we're going to blow it and we're not going to measure up to what we think we should do. What do we do with that?

Well, exactly what you said—mistakes are inevitable. There's no way to get around it. I tend to beat myself up, especially if I make a mistake in front of my child. It’s funny because my little Socrates, my little Yoda, he'll throw things back in my face. I'll tell him it's okay to make mistakes: that's how we learn; that's how we grow. Then I make a mistake and I'm like, “Oh, goodness gracious.” He's like, “Mom, it's good to make mistakes. It's okay.” Just showing our kids in real time that we are human, that we do make mistakes. And how we navigate that, whether we beat ourselves up in front of our kids or whether we take those mistakes with grace and move forward and learn from it and talk through it with them. It’s important to make mistakes. It's part of the process and not trying to sweep it under the rug or beat yourself up.

And what's crazy to me is that our kids think we're perfect, at least up to a certain age. I haven't gotten to teenage years yet. But right now I still hang the moon. Which I think is even more important to go ahead and lay the groundwork in the early years if you still have the chance, before they've moved over into the know-it-all teenage years—to be able to show that you're human and you can make mistakes and come out of it even better. There’s a Maya Angelou quote that said, “I did then what I knew how to do, now that I know better, I do better.” And I really like that.

There were so many times I didn't know better or didn’t have the support to do better. It's tough when you know you need to do better, and you feel like you can't as a single parent. That has been a hard place of sadness and acceptance for me and some repair with my kids as a result. I'm thinking about the days I didn't measure up and I didn't own it with my kids. How it’s not only a disservice to our relationship, but also in how they view the world. Mistakes are a part of it, and we do the best we can with what we've got, and we're not always going to get it right. But if we're not owning our shortcomings in front of our kids, we're putting unsaid expectations on our kids. That they always need to get it right. So, it's really important to recognize we're all going to make mistakes. And I'm here to say, I don't hang the moon. I make all kinds of mistakes because life doesn’t come with a manual. We just do the best we can with what we've got. They need to see that.

In owning our mistakes, it’s important to have the ability to lean into change, accepting that there's something we've done that we need to change, make right, or do differently. And modeling that for our kids too. If I don't have the humility or self-compassion to let myself be human enough to say, “I'm going to screw up and I need the grace to try to do it differently,” my kids aren't going to have that ability either. I asked Jax, “What's something that you love that I do for you? What's something that you don't love?” Because I want to know if there are things that upset him and what I can do to be a better mom?

Now let's discuss keeping the big picture insight. What do we mean by that?

Keeping our eyes on the end goal. When we are in the trenches, overwhelmed, exhausted, maybe emotionally in a turmoil, it is so easy to feel defeated, discouraged, and not be able to scale out and look at it from an overview to think, “Maybe things aren't quite as bad as today was.” We have a terrible day and then the next thing you know it's like, “Oh, today was terrible. I'm terrible. Life is terrible.” And instead, think, “Wait. Hold on a minute. Today was bad.” I used to say this to my kids: “There are some days we just tear off the calendar, wad it up in a ball, and we throw it away and think, oh, that was a terrible day. And then it’s gone. It's over. It doesn't have to be a terrible week. It doesn't have to be a terrible tomorrow. It doesn't have to be a terrible season, and it doesn't mean it's a terrible life.”

It’s important to be able to zoom out and not have these absolute black or white ways of thinking relative to the goals that we set for ourselves or our intentions. And to me, this idea of keeping the end in mind really resonated. I just finished a book by Donald Miller called Hero on a Mission, and I would highly recommend getting this book to any single parent. It really helps define that we're not all good, we're not all bad, but we have a choice to step up and try to do better with our lives. But the only way to do that is to understand the end goal. And so he has this exercise that he introduces that he's been living for the last 10 or 15 years. And he has actually written his eulogy and starts every single day by reading his eulogy.

He compares where he wants to end every day. He doesn't measure everything that he's doing, but it sets a baseline for that day: Does this fit into my overall plan of where I want to go, what the end is? And not just what you want to achieve. What kind of relationship do I want in a mate? What kind of relationship do I want with my kids? What do I want my life to represent? There are some very specific things that he talks about in the book. This idea of starting with the end in mind— it's not just a goal, it’s your life. What would it look like if you wrote a eulogy and started each day by reading it.  It's super helpful. And really kind of simple. He shares his eulogy and talks about the importance of being transparent with that and telling others, “This is my eulogy.” It keeps you accountable in living with intentionality because you know where you want to end in all these areas.

I listened to a podcast episode he did with Carlos Whitaker when he was promoting the book, and he told Carlos that if he's looking at something—a request for a meeting or something, he'll put it through the lens and measure it through his eulogy. If it doesn't align with where he wants to go, then he says no to it. If I were to do this exercise, I think it could really help me out with those small discomforts of saying no to someone or saying no to a purchase for instance.

What I like about it is, it’s not a tool to measure what you've done; it’s a reminder of where you're going. It's not a judgment thing. It's more like, “Does that enrich my life?” It gives you something to measure your day to day with. And it’s so values driven, living life on a mission.

Takeaways

We've covered three points. The first one is starting the year right, and requires us to look at the end in the beginning. Amber, you gave us some really good tools to reflect back and then reflect forward to set the tone for our living with intentionality. Second, it's important to make mistakes in front of our kids so that they know how to recover and learn from them, and it keeps a transparent and authentic relationship with them. Super important to own your mistakes. Third, keep your eyes on the end goal rather than getting stuck in the nitty gritty details of every day. Remind yourself of where you want your life to go. And that simple exercise of being intentional can really change your trajectory.

Resources

Hero On a Mission: A Path to a Meaningful Life, Donald Miller

Listener Question

After you became single, if you went to a party and your name tag said how you thought other people were thinking about you, what would it have said and what would it say today?

Especially in the early days, I would think that people were looking at me thinking, “Was he a bad husband? What's the story there? Did he fail her?” Even though I didn't ultimately make the decision to leave, nobody really knows all the insides and I just assumed people assumed the worst about me. And I carried this low-grade shame all the time. That's what it would say on my name tag at that party. It was embarrassment, shame, failure. That's what I would say:
“Robert Beeson, Failure.”

Here's what I would say about you today: Wise, kind, generous, and a great friend. You're being the person I think you want all the people around you to remember. When I'm with you here, recording, or in meetings, or having just a gathering at your house, you're the same Robert.

When I first became single, I always presented well, you know what I mean? Controlling the perspective. Keeping it all together.

At the time, I was feeling so afraid. So that's what I knew was true inside. But I was really portraying as functional. I’d get stuff done, check the boxes, maybe not let somebody at a party know what was happening with me. But what occurred to me earlier is, “Poor Amber. Pity.” And the shame factor, the insecurities. Or even when my ex-mother-in-law said to me, “Are you still putting on lipstick every day?” And it was in relation to our marriage failing, the idea that I had let myself go. I was really aware that people might be judging if I was measuring up or not, and was I the contributor, and did I do wrong? We're hard on ourselves.

I think that's why this is a great question and one that's really pointed. I would love to know how they would answer this question. Obviously, it's loaded, they have something. Well, thank you whoever you are for sending in that question. And like I said, we need more questions, and we don't care if they're anonymous. Make up a name we don't know. Ask us anything. If you want to send in a question, go to our website. You'll find directions on how to email, call, or leave a voice message.

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