Living and Leading Intentionally

Published in Greater Mankato Today, February 2008

by Diana Gabriel

So many of us tend to live on auto-pilot, acting out of habit and remaining mentally asleep. We just keep doing the same routine over and over because we are too busy, too tired, out of courage or just plain stuck and don’t know how to start living a life that is more alive. What would our lives – and the community around us – look like if each of us were awake, aware and intentional about our influence and our impact on everyone we meet?

Living intentionally comes from the heart and is an expression of who we want to be in the world, from the inside out. In other words, when we are intentional, we allow our true selves to show in our actions and our choices. If we want to learn to be intentional, we need to quiet ourselves and really discern what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Identifying these things is to identify the values by which we wish to live.

Being intentional is about being proactive and giving thought to how you want to “show up” every day and how you want to be with others. It is about acting rather than reacting. And it is also a form of leadership. People who live in alignment with their values, who honor and use their gifts and talents, demonstrate an ability to live fully, to do the right thing and to follow their own prescription for living an integrity-based life. It is critical to understand ourselves in relation to others, and to be able to see that the way we show up in our daily lives influences and impacts those around us.

Do you see yourself as a leader? I believe that each one of you is a leader, and that there is great opportunity for us to lead by example every day. Leaders are individuals who are able to win the hearts and minds of those they want to influence by engendering trust and operating from a base of honesty, consistency, integrity, authenticity and vision. Leadership, then, isn’t determined by the position you hold, but by the way you influence those around you. It can be as simple as acknowledging your waitress by calling her by name and thanking her for her service, or having compassion when driving and allowing someone to come in front of you. Seeing the best in others and lifting it up, is another example of daily leadership.

Sharon Daloz Parks says, “There is a possibility created in all of us that can only come through you – it is lost if you do not answer the call.” Parks is Director of Leadership for the New Commons, an initiative of the Whidbey Institute, an organization that provides training in adaptive, artful leadership. This is an important thing to consider – you are the only one who can deliver what it is that you have to offer. What is your purpose? What are you being called to do?

Soon after I became a coach I was introduced to the book Leadership and Self Deception. Reading the book was one of those big embarrassing “Aha!” wake up calls. I had carried an image of myself that showed me as kind and loving. Through this reading, however, I discovered that was not how I was showing up with everyone I came in contact with. I came to see how I judged some people and how I just ignored others. These were automatic behaviors that came out of my self-focus and attention to business, but which were hurtful. This way of being was not aligned with my values, my calling or my strengths.

My realization about my behavior brought about a change. I made a commitment to myself to be intentional about ensuring that who and what I wanted to be was reflected in how I was in relationship with others. I studied with the Arbinger Institute for over two years deepening my knowledge about self-deception and being aligned with my self image, values, calling and strengths. The journey has been one of the hardest I have ever taken on. The more I studied the more self-deception I discovered, but my resolve – my intention – was to live a life aligned with treating people “right”. This meant going beyond the surface of my behavior and examining what I carried in my heart about people. I found it takes courage to live intentionally. You need to have a willingness to be known – to be transparent about who you are and what you stand for.

I start every day out with the intention of treating people in a way that is aligned with who and what I am about. I am human and so I fail in some way every day. But I attempt to learn from my failures and in doing so, I fail less often the next day. As this experience shows, leadership can be both formal and informal. What is most important is who you are and how you show up each and every day, with everyone.

Living intentionally can be a very powerful, fulfilling choice. What will it take to bring your intentions alive? What will inspire you to claim your role as a leader? One simple step toward this type of intentional living, is to write your values and intentions down, and look at them every day. This will help you be mindful of the way you wish to live, and how you wish to be with others.

Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.


Pause Button!
Take time to reflect.
Claim your strengths, values and visions
Explore your life purpose or calling
Ask yourself: Are the choices you are making sustainable and aligned with what gives your life purpose and meaning?
Celebrate your successes
Consider hiring a coach – Coaches partner with individuals or groups in a thought-provoking and creative process that examines with them the who and what they want to stand for. They also inspire them to take action, move forward and maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives through living aligned.
Celebrate your successes


Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute
Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton
Strengthsfinder.2.0 by Tom Rath
Taming your Gremlin by Richard D Carson
The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
One by Lance Secretan
Inspire: What Great Leaders Do by Lance Secretan
A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles (Harper Collins, 1992.)


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