While on a prayerful run Saturday morning, I let my thoughts ebb and flow. I’d returned from a three-night work trip where I had several epiphanies about my identity as a leader and how I choose to spend my time. Suddenly, a phrase popped into my head: “Intention without action.” Hmm, interesting. For the past couple years, I’d been thinking about living intentionally. Just that week, I’d heard myself tell my Team that I had intended to do something that I’d neglected to do. A lot of good intentions do! In order to be a strong manager and leader, I need to take action. Intentions are very similar to plans, they are a good starting point, but meaningless if not put into action.
Years ago, I had a similar realization that life happens in the here-and-now. Instead of getting all caught up in my thoughts, plans (and intentions!), the fullness of life occurs when I focus my attention and awareness on doing something, or taking action. This is especially true when it comes to building relationships. All the good thoughts within my mind about a person or how our relationship could improve never make an impact on the other person! They only know my heart by the things I do.
After my run, Sienna and I had a mother/daughter date, starting at the hairdresser. As we were getting ready to leave and outlining out day, she said, “And then, we can come home and rearrange the pictures on my walls, right?” I agreed we would. After a fun and full day, I’d started to settle into an evening of reading outside when Sienna reminded me about her bedroom project. So, I mustered up the energy to put my book down and go into her room. As she started to explain her vision, I could feel a little resentment simmering inside. I wanted to read and retreat into my own little world.
Thankfully, a small little voice (the Holy Spirit most likely!) suddenly reminded me of my morning lesson: What you really want is to spend time with Sienna. That intention doesn’t build a relationship, these actions do. Be here now. We proceeded to spend over an hour rearranging the art on her walls and matting several of her drawings onto card stock so they’d look more uniform and artistic as a group. She was delighted and the finished room is beautiful!
Just as we were finishing up in Sienna’s room, Mateo burst into tears. That morning he and Dennis had seen The Art of Racing in the Rain and several of the images were “scary” to him. It’s a really emotional film and he was having a hard time processing all the real life drama. I sat with Teo for quite awhile, just letting him cry and reminding him to breathe! Sienna started trying to cheer him up. We moved outside to the fire pit, where Sienna retold him stories from the Ramona Quimby books. Teo started giggling through his tears. Then they got blankets out and read together. I hated to have to break-up this sweet, bonding moment when it was way past their (already late!) summer bedtime.
“That was nice of Sienna to cheer you up,” I said to Teo as he was getting into bed.
“Yeah, it really helped,” he’d simply replied with the sweetest smile.
The next morning at church, I whispered into Sienna’s ear: “You were such a kind big sister to Teo last night.” She smiled.
Witnessing this interaction, I was reminded again that relationships are built on action. If Sienna had just intended to be a loving sister or thought loving words about her brother while he was sad, it would not have much impact on Mateo or his perception of their relationship. Instead, by putting her love into action through storytelling and reading for him, she conveyed love and care much more than words or intentions ever could.
Over the past six years, mantras have been very helpful for me as I practice letting go of control and being present. “Intention without action” didn’t have quite the right ring to it. As I prayed about this simple phrase, it transformed into an affirmative statement: “Intention WITH action”. Much better! I’m going to post this reminder in various spots so I’ll remember to put my intentions into action by doing the things that will build relationships, both at home and at work.
Happy Monday everyone! May today be full of meaningful actions for you.