Today I turn 50 and begin my 51st journey around the sun.
While the temptation is there to spend the day celebrating or perhaps even bemoaning how old I feel, I've decided to spend some time today reflecting on how I want the year ahead to be.
As you may have seen - lately, I've been feeling stuck, and I have resolved that this year of being 50 will be one in which I begin moving again.
This year is a year I intend to get unstuck.
As part of that, I'm sharing a weekly 'prompt' via an email to those who want to join me on the journey that I hope will give us all a little push to contemplate ways where we might find that missing spark in our lives.
This is the first prompt.
If you'd like to receive an email with future prompts, hit the button below.
Prompt 1: INTENT
I've thought long and hard about how to kick off this year of prompts, and every time I do, I keep coming back to the work INTENT.
As I've pondered the start of this year-long challenge this past week, I've set aside time to reflect upon the last 50 years.
In particular, I have asked myself the question:
When did I feel sparks flying the most?
Have there been times in your life when sparks were flying?
This is a great question to ask yourself if you have a little time this week.
When I pondered the question, I came up with a list of such times, including:
- When I was a teenager and discovered two passions - photography and public speaking.
- When I first met Vanessa, we decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
- When I started a blog called ProBlogger and saw that full-time blogging was not only a way to make a living for me but that I could help others do the same.
- A few years ago, when I first started writing about the topic of helping people find their spark.
There were, of course, many other examples, but as I listed them, I began to look for patterns in these times, and one of the big things that stood out to me was that these times when sparks flew and I felt most alive were times when I was being very intentional.
These were not times when life-giving things just happened to me - they were times when I decided I wanted to do something and then took action that took me in the direction I wanted to go.
When did I lose my spark?
Conversely, there have also been numerous times when I've felt life was devoid of sparks. Times when I've felt stuck.
I also allowed myself some time this week to ponder these times.
Again I noticed a pattern.
Often during these periods, I was drifting.
These were times when I was more passive - almost allowing life to happen to and around me rather than controlling the trajectory I was taking.
It is so easy to start drifting.
Sometimes I think it happens because everyone else at our age or life stage seems to be doing something, and so we drift along with them and live a life that we feel we're expected to live.
Other times we find ourselves living in a rhythm or routine that was great for us in a previous stage of life but which perhaps isn't great in our current season. We're stuck in the machine created by our younger selves.
On other occasions, we start drifting because we're scared. We might know what we really should do but making that decision and living that life means stepping out into the unknown, and it all seems too hard - so we step back into our comfort zones.
Or maybe it's apathy, boredom, lack of self-belief or something else that leads us to drift.
A terrifying and inspiring quote
One of my favourite quotes is from John Schaar, who said:
“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination.”
I find this quote simultaneously inspiring and terrifying.
My future - is something that is in my hands.
I'm creating my future every day by how I think (or don't think), by the decisions I make (or don't make), and by the actions, I take (or don't take).
On a good day, this is inspiring. I have the chance to create my own future!
On a bad day, this terrifies me. I'm creating my future by the bad choices I'm making!
Disclaimer: I want to be really clear here that there are times in all of our lives when things outside of our control play a part in the places we end up.
I, for example, am very aware that I am a white, middle-class man who was born into a loving and supportive family in a country that provided stability, education, and medical care.
I'm also someone who has been born with a personality and traits that I didn't have a lot of choice in (I'm an INFP on Myers Brigs and a type 4 (I think) on the Enneagram.
I come from a family with a history of depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, and a recessive gene for red hair, all of which I live with.
All of us have circumstances that play a part in shaping the future we will have and the places we find ourselves in.
I do not want to make light of any you or I may face. But despite all having things we can't control - we also must come to terms with the fact that we play a part in shaping our future lives through our current choices and actions.
One more quote from my friend Richie Norton:
“Too many of my friends have turned to apathy. While events change our lives, intention changes the trajectory.”
Intention is a Superpower!
Our intent acts as a compass that sets our trajectory.
Do you want to be somewhere other than where you are? Examine your intent first.
Energy follows intention
Feeling a bit 'bleah' - it could be time to look at your intent.
Intention isn't Enough
As I've been writing this reflection, there's a nagging voice in my head that is trying to make me second guess myself to stop me from publishing this.
It is saying:
"Darren, intent by itself isn't enough. Haven't you heard the saying 'the path to hell is lined with good intentions."
The voice goes on to nag:
"Darren, haven't you heard what Pablo Picasso said - “What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”'
To that voice, I say three things.
Firstly, you've spent way too long on GoodReads.com looking up quotes today - get back to work.
And secondly, of course, intention by itself is not enough.
Action is so important, but before we rush into taking action, a little thought about our intent will significantly increase the chances of that action being the right action.
And lastly, here's a quote by Ernest Agyemang Yeboah (which I rather ironically found on GoodReads.com):
“Sometimes, you may take a step backwards only to realize that a step forward could have been the best choice. Sometimes, you may take a step forward only to notice that a step backwards could have been better; and sometimes, you may only come to a later understanding that stepping aside could have been a great choice, but in all, before you take a step, ponder!
Ok, as you can tell, I may or may not be losing the plot here, so let me wrap this up with some suggestions for us all as we ponder our intentions this week.
What do you want to be more intentional about this year?
This is the question I've decided to ponder over the coming week.
You can take the question in any number of directions and ponder it in any number of ways.
I intend to journal it, but you might wish to discuss the question with a friend (or perhaps even in our Find Your Spark Facbook Group).
You don't need to come up with a hard and fast, detailed blueprint of your
intentions for the year ahead (although if that's your style, go for it).
The way I intend to go about it (see what I did there?) is to come up with some areas of my life that I want to be more intentional about and, in each of them, to come up with a few things that I intend to take action on.
One way to do this might be to have areas like:
Or maybe you might like to use the 5 C's that I've talked about in the past:
Or maybe you've got some other way to do it.
I've already just started making a list that almost combines the two options above.
All I would suggest is that you keep a record of it somewhere and be kind to yourself through the process and be open to the intentions you come up with evolving over the year ahead.
If there's one thing that I've learned about getting unstuck, surprises and new, unexpected opportunities tend to present themselves when things start to get moving.
It would be crazy to expect that the list of intentions we come up with this week will be the exact things we do over the next 12 months.
Set out with intention but be open to the unexpected sparks that may fly as you begin to move.
PS: if you'd like to continue to receive these weekly prompts, don't forget to subscribe by hitting the button below.
I don't envisage that they'll all be like this one. This week is more of a mindset-type post, while other weeks I expect to be shorter and more action-oriented.
I also have a little Find Your Spark Facebook group that you're welcome to join. It's a place where those of us on the journey connect and support one another best we can.
It's a private group where you're welcome to share as much or as little as you wish. I hope to see you in the group!