Action is the force that moves us from one place to another. Action without intention will get you somewhere. Action paired with intention will get you where you want to be. Would you rather get somewhere or get where you want to be? Kind of a silly question when you put it that way isn’t it?
Think of action like fire. It is great family fun to sit around a fire pit, sing songs, drink beer and eat s’mores. For your bon fire to have a happy ending, the fire has to be contained in the fire pit. If not, and the fire gets out of control, it can damage your home or worse your loved ones. Fire can add joy to your life or create chaos. It is fire either way. The difference is in the containment.
When you are in action, you are burning your personal energy. Clear intention is the container for your personal energy and actions. Intention focuses your activity so that you are purposeful with your actions. Those actions that don’t fit your container fall away and thankfully never get done. When your actions are contained by your intention, you use your life energy in ways that are uplifting and energizing. You create joy in your life.
If your energy isn’t contained, or focused, it can create chaos, wear you out and make you sick and tired. Contrary to everything you’ve been taught, the fastest, and most joy filled path to getting where you want to be starts with stopping! Stop taking action and be still for just a moment.
Clarify, what is my intent? Until your intention is clear, take no action. Once you are clear, align your actions with your intent. What you will discover is this simple process changes the course and improves the quality of your decisions.
Here is an example from my own life, one where I lost focus on my intention. I started my business in 1982 with the personal intention to stay engaged in my career while being at home as much as possible with my daughter. My business intent was to help small business people use their financial data to improve their results. I saw my role as turning data into wisdom. I admire business people because they put everything at risk everyday for their dreams. My experience is that most business owners lack a background in accounting and finance and as a result, do not use financial tools effectively. This was the void I intended to fill with my business.
I hung out my shingle and started telling people about my vision and my business grew organically. Three years in I had a nice home-based business that allowed me the freedom to be a semi stay at home Mom and make an income similar to my peers who worked full time. I was living my intention. The small businesses I was helping were thriving and prospering. Life was good.
Then one evening my husband came home and told me he had resigned his job. Fear set in immediately. We lived on our JOINT income. We had a 3 year old. What are you going to do I asked? Take some time off and reflect he said. This was not a comforting thought for me.
So… I sprang into ACTION! I bought a small bookkeeping and tax practice and went from being a business financial coach and problem solver to a CPA firm. My firm grew, prospered and I flourished financially. My company became one of the largest CPA firms in Greater Cincinnati. We were winning awards and making headlines.
I had gotten somewhere. In fact, by any measure, I had created an amazing firm and was very successful. In the process, I had completely lost track of my intention. My life was complex. I was frantically working long hours and missing out on time I had originally intended to spend being a Mom. I was miserable.
Finally, exhausted and burnt out, I stopped doing. I found a life coach, studied the enneagram, took classes on becoming more self-aware and in the process rediscovered my intention and my passion.
Remember the movie, City Slickers? In one scene, Brunno Kirby’s character, who is nearing 40, and who feels he is at a dead-end laments, “I’ve wasted my life.” Billy Crystal’s character tells him “Your life is a do-over.” “You’ve got a clean slate.”
This was my time for my do-over. Focusing on my intention, to contribute, connect and create prosperity, I began making new choices and taking new actions. Actions aligned with my intent. It wasn’t always easy and I am sure I confused more than a few people in my life, but it was the best decision I ever made. Slowly and surely my life became what I intended. I was helping individuals and businesses create prosperity and I felt great about my day, every day. I worked fewer hours, had time for myself and my family, and took better care of our clients. Everyone won, but especially me.
Misalignment of intention and action creates havoc in financial lives every day. I have seen clients who have no one depending on them, buy large life insurance contracts. We all know of friends who love their kids and say they want to provide for their education, but save nothing, and don’t prepare their children for the irrevocable decision of student loan debt. I have seen clients take a single life annuity pension leaving their spouse in poverty at their death. Every day people everywhere make financial decisions and take action without the container of clear intent. Just like the backyard bon fire, the result may be great or it can just as easily be damaging. Fire and action both need a container.
Let’s explore a real life financial story (names changed as well as a few facts to protect the innocent) that illustrates this point of how impactful alignment of intention and action can be.
Sam was 63 and burnt out. He was ready for something, anything, but staying in his current job. Over the years he had used a variety of brokers to guide him on investing and by the time he came to see Mackey Advisors he had 40% of his nest egg in an emerging market fund that had done exceptionally well.
The fund was very volatile and while it had made amazing advances very quickly, it often went through significant downward corrections as well. Sam was very proud of this investment and expressed his desire to retain this holding in his retirement.
In The Prosperity Experience, Sam discovered his intention, To rediscover his passion for living and contribute to his community. His goals included time volunteering, being a part of the leadership of his faith community and having more time for his growing number of grandchildren. His most important goal was to retire as soon as possible. The goal of retirement in the next six months moved from a nice idea to a burning desire as Sam worked his plan. As Sam reflected on his intention, he because clear, continuing to work wasn’t prosperity for him.
Sam’s investments, which over the last few years were not relevant to his current cash flow, were suddenly the key to his retirement. Sam was very lucky. The emerging market fund he had purchased five years prior had delivered for him. The other side of the coin was, had this one fund not panned out as he had hoped, his dream of retirement would have been toast.
Based on his intention and aligning his investment with that intention, Sam sold all but a small portion of his emerging market fund. Three months later, the fund went into a downward spiral, eventually losing 40% of its value. Sam was lucky. He aligned his investments with his intention, retired, and has successfully stayed retired through the great recession.
By clarifying his prosperity intention and then aligning his actions with it, Sam shifted in these ways:
- At the beginning of his planning process, Sam was emotionally invested in his beloved emerging market fund.
- Sam’s intention, To rediscover his passion for living and contribute to his community, became his new emotional investment.
- His changed his focus and attention to aligning this goals and actions with his intention.
- Actions that had previously seemed hard to take, such as selling his emerging market fund and diversifying it, because simple, easy and welcome as he clearly saw the path forward.
- Stopping, stepping back, and reflecting on his intention, created an option for Sam to retire, stay retired and live the life of his dreams. Without worry!
Sam was very lucky. I have seen this story play out for the positive and the negative and it is heartbreaking when someone loses their dreams because their actions were not aligned with their intention.
Life is finite. Time is a precious commodity. Step back, take a deep breath. Clarify your intent and align your actions with your intent. Every moment is a do-over. Every moment is a choice. Every day can be our best day. The path is simple. Align your actions with your intention.