While driving, if we make a turn that takes us in the wrong direction, our GPS reminds us with the words, “You are now off track.”
After one of these events, we were musing how nice it would be if we had a GPS for our lives — maybe a software program that you input your life destination, and it lets you know when a decision you are about to make may take you off track.
Of course, for many of us this could be a pretty constant annoyance. However, the idea of creating a GPS system for your life may not be a bad idea. And it doesn’t require that you have computer programming capability.
Let’s see what we would need. First, we need to agree on one important concept: Life has no known destination, unless of course we view death as a destination.
However, for the purpose of this discussion, we are not interested in guiding ourselves toward an end point to our life travels. Instead, we are looking for intentional pathways that lead to unknown destinations.
An intentional pathway is one that we find ourselves on when we make conscious decisions based on our values and needs. Think about your own process. How many conscious decisions do you make in your life? For most of us the number is small. Most of us make decisions unconsciously, reactively rather than responsibly, and the impact on our lives is tremendous.
Ask yourself: If you made conscious decisions, would you eat how you eat? Be with whom you are with? Work where you work? Would you make decisions based on fear? Would you have regrets? Would you harbor resentments?
Living unconsciously forces us to live in the past and the future; two places we cannot control and yet we let control us. We make decisions based on what happened to us yesterday and on what might happen to us tomorrow. We are slaves to our past and our future.
On the other hand, when we live consciously, we are not concerned about yesterday or tomorrow. Ironically, when we are responsible to our present moment we are actually acting responsibly toward our future.
Imagine for a moment how freeing it would be to make decisions about the moment based on this moment rather than moments from past or the future. Living consciously, or what Michael Brown in his book “The Presence Process” calls “present moment awareness,” is a capacity that resides in each and every one of us; however, it is so unnurtured and suppressed in modern life that it has become a virtually lost piece of our humanness.
In terms of our life’s path, we have lost our direction and no longer operate with intent.
What road signs would help you stay on an intentional path? Here are some steps to take to program your life GPS:
- Make a list of your intentions and what is required to meet those intentions. You will create lists under four sections: spiritual; social/relational; physical; emotional/psychological.
- Under each section make a list of those things that you intend to occur. For example, in the spiritual section you might have “develop a deeper spiritual connection.” Try to limit each section to no more than four intentions. Prioritize each intention in each section.
- Now make a list under each intention of those things that you need to attend to (needs) in order to realize your intentions. For example: For the intention of “develop a deeper spiritual connection” you might need to “attend to spiritual practice at least 30 minutes per day.”
- If necessary, break down your needs into smaller action statements. For example: Under the need “attend to spiritual practice at least 30 minutes per day” you might list “read spiritual books” and/or “meditate.” For some it is helpful to have a variety of action options. These action items help build the pathways that lead you to an intentional, conscious life.
- Look at your action items. Which ones will you need to schedule into your day to make sure you attend to them? Although scheduling has a future orientation, staying intentional and being conscious requires practice and indeed some integration with our modern ways.
- Now the hardest part: recognizing and acknowledging consciously when “you are now off track.” Throughout the day (until you get good at this, it may be just an end-of-day activity), you will need to review your activities to ensure that you are placing your attention in the places that serve your intentions. Where you find activities that are “off track,” you will need to evaluate their usefulness in your life, eliminate or reduce their presence in your life.
The consistent conscious evaluation of your actions in relation to your intentions will help you in constructing a life that is driven by conscious intent rather than unconscious reaction.