Leadership In a Time of Crisis: Goals, Intentions, And Creative Work

Some people spend too much time thinking about their goals, their dreams, their visions, etc.

Other people spend too much time thinking about their obstacles, their problems, their immediate activities.

I believe we should spend enough time thinking about our goals to figure out what they are, to say, “this is what we should do today” or “this is what we should do this week” or “this is what we should do this quarter”. And then we should spend most of our time thinking about how best to act and acting.

For the day, it should take about ten or fifteen minutes.
For the week, it should take an hour or two.
For the quarter it should take a day or two.

At some point, of course, you should come to understand what you want to do with your life, but it’s important to understand, if you are young enough to think that you need to do this, that it does not matter very much.

The other decisions you make and the circumstances you encounter are going to tell you what you should do with your life unless you are one of the very few people privileged with the curse of too many resources.

What young people think is so important is so important. But it’s not as important as what is more important. And what is more important is what enables what is so important to be done well.

The more important includes being the man or woman you ought to be, not figuring out what you want or even ought to do. If you have clear eye sight, you can see cracks in the sidewalk. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter which boat you get in.

In other words, what you most need to learn how to do is not to predict and control your future, but to dance with your circumstances. One set of skills will make you anxious and angry. The other will give you and those around you joy, sometimes, and patience other times.

So I’m not a terribly big believer any more in life goals, though I don’t mind them. Just don’t think about them too much.

Better, in my view, is to set some targets for a year, review them and adjust quarterly, and apply them weekly and daily with specific intentions.

Here’s the actionable pattern:

Once you have identified some goals, it is time to spend a lot of time thinking about how you are going to fulfill them. Determine what you have to do this week, and intend it. Determine what you have to do today and say, “let us make…” and then do it.

Focus more on what you are and what you do. As much as possible, think about doing as making.

What you believe about reality is more important than how you want to overcome it. Your intentions are more important than your goals. Your immediate actions are more important when it comes to forming who you are than your dreams.

So do like God:

On the morning of the first day, take as long as you need to to bring light to your actions.

Don’t forget that when Genesis 1 was written there were no light switches. The way a reader would have understood this was more craftsmanlike than we typically imagine.

I wonder if what Moses had in mind didn’t include the whole process of gathering fuel or wax or something and spending the morning making a fire. But that is speculation, of course.

Afterward, name what you have done. Then, in the evening assess whether what you made that day was good and go to bed.

On the morning of the second day, state your highest level intention and get on with it. Separate what is wild and energetic and uncontrollable from what is firm and hard and resistant. Prepare your materials in such a way that you can make use of them on the following days.

Name what you have accomplished. Then evaluate it and go to bed.

On the morning of the third day, state your intention to refine the work you started on the second day. Be specific. When you are done, name what you have added. Then, perhaps in the afternoon, add complexity to it. When you are done, evaluate it and go to bed.

On the morning of the fourth day, go back to the light you generated on the first day and figure out how it relates to what you have added on the second and third day. State your intention to add this light and to progress in light of it.

Make sure the whole project has the appropriate amount of light shining on it. This involves understanding the meaning of your work, which probably wasn’t possible before today.

When you are done, assess how well you accomplished your purpose and go to bed.

On the morning of the fifth day, state your intention to bring life to the project from one of the more energetic and wilder portions of what you set up earlier.

Understand that what you are going to do now is radically different, though dependent on, what you did earlier in the week. You are giving up some degree of control over what you have made and you are willing to let it operate without your total control.

Evaluate how well you did and, if you are satisfied, you have one more step to take before you go to sleep.

Bless the things you make on this day and tell them to go forth and fill the world you’ve been making. Then go to bed.

On the morning of the sixth day, state your intention to go to the limit of what can be done that week. Take the harder and more resistant material you identified on the second and third days and make something more challenging out of them.

Something living, like what you made yesterday.

But something more stable and enduring. When you finish that, maybe in the afternoon, take all you have learned and focus it on the one thing you really wanted to make all along, something profoundly expressing your deepest likeness and nature. Make this thing something that can govern everything else you made that week, make sure you have made everything it needs to thrive, and send it out into the world to do what it will do.

Then look over all you did that week and evaluate its quality. Did you achieve what you set out to do? Can you live with it? Does it say what you wanted it to say? Could someone else imitate the pattern you’ve established?

If it is very good, look at it and say so. If it isn’t, worry about that later. Now it is time to rest. Take a day to cease striving and to rest in God, knowing that your task is only to imitate Him anyway, and therefore, first you must enter into His rest, and then you can carry that rest into your own work.

Now remember that Russian nesting dolls are the clue to making this deeply practical, but a calendar is a good place to start.

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