The older I get the more I realize that not much happens by accident. Life takes a lot of intentionality. Somewhere along the line what I call the “American Idol” sensation seems to have swept the country. To us watching the show it appears as though someone like Carrie Underwood gets chosen from the crowd and quickly becomes a superstar. And to all of us in our armchairs with legitimate talent we think, “I could do that.” 10 years later we’re watching the conclusion of American Idol wondering why we never “got to do that.” Sure, some of it may be “luck” and a lot of it is who you know, but most of it is just plain hard work. The stuff of having a plan, setting goals and intentionally pursuing them.
It sounds simple, really, but I think where I (and maybe a few other Americans) struggle is the action part. Being around a selfie generation has caused me to see a few things. One of those things being: we know how to look really good on the outside. However, looking good and having the character to sustain powerful living are two different things. Being able to talk and write about your skills are one thing, being able to act on them consistently is another. Second, if something goes wrong we are quick to play the victim. I’m all too guilty of this and can still hear my grandma’s voice echoing in my head as I sullenly hugged the pillow on my bed saying, “No one likes a pity party.” So to myself and the rest like me, listen up: People don’t owe us anything. The government doesn’t owe us anything, and it’s not their fault when we don’t have money and other people do. Heck, the fact that my parents didn’t give me in depth financial advice doesn’t mean I don’t have what it takes to be wealthy. Don’t be a victim. Author Donald Miller had this to say at a recent event I attended: “The victim spiral offers you a lot of attention. It offers you an excuse not to try — this is a deadly place to live. The victim never changes. They never transform into the hero. We’re meant to play the hero roll at some point in our life so we have to transform out of the identity of ‘victim.’ ”
Allow me to break this down a bit further. What is it you want to do? Do you want to be in a relationship? Intentionally pursue someone. Don’t be sad that you’re not married yet. Take a step and make your intentions known. Let them know you like them and act (and if/when they say no, get up and try again…with someone else. Unless you like making yourself a victim of heartbreak). Do you want to lose weight (or in my case gain muscle)? Get around people who know about fitness, ask questions, come up with a game plan and then do it. 2 years ago I weighed 180. Today I weigh 210. I took the advice I just gave you and I did it. Nike got part of it right when they sloganed, “Just do it.” It’s on of the biggest pieces of this picture, action. Once you know what the “it” is you have to show up. Even if you don’t feel like riding your bike to the gym for the 50th time in a hundred degree weather (thanks Redding, CA), you have to act. Having the plan isn’t enough.
A little while back I drew some pictures. They’re great pictures because I’m a really good draw-er person. I’ve included them below for your viewing pleasure. You’re welcome (I just ask that you please don’t make illegal prints of them and sell them on ebay for lots of money). It all started when I was living in Tennessee. I was wrapping up a summer internship and I found myself in a really rough place in my life. I’d been wounded by some close friends and moved to Tennessee for this internship… which didn’t lead to a job like I hoped it would. I ended the summer isolated, scared, alone, and rejected. In the middle of that someone offered me a job lead and interview at a company in Nashville making phone calls for insurance claims. It paid well so I drove to Suite 309 and went in for the interview. After the interview concluded I drove home and promptly drew these pictures. Everything inside of me knew that if I settled for this job I’d be giving up. To do what I actually wanted to do would take some courage. I had to move. Literally. I had to go across the country. Even though I was in debt, with nothing to my name, wounded and scared — I had to go. Why? Because of the man I saw myself becoming in 5 years. Drawing the picture and seeing what I wanted gave me motivation. I had my “it”…and so I had to match it with action. I had to make some bold moves to get there. And I did.
In conclusion, I want to pose a question many have asked before: “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” I don’t ask that question in a scholastic or life planning way, to be followed with graphs and charts and such. I just want to ask you to pause and reflect. Even if it’s scary or overwhelming, think about it. Come up with some thoughts, bounce them off of friends, and maybe even draw a picture. (Just make sure it’s a really good drawing like mine). We are too easily captivated by media and information, feeding off of blogs (like this) and feeling like we need to do more or be more. That is rubbish. I’m not trying to get you to do more and have a better social media page. I’m inviting you to step away from this stuff that crams into our life and take an intentional step towards the things inside that bring you to life but that maybe you’ve forgotten about. Don’t take your social cues from the people around you (unless they’re killing it in this area). Develop a way to do these things and then intentionally get after it each day. Even when it’s hard. Even when no one on Instagram “likes” it. Even when no one except you knows. Even when you don’t feel like it (perhaps especially when you don’t feel like it). Do it. That’s a big part of what character is — doing what’s right whether it’s seen or not. Don’t let your perceived life outweigh your internal reality. Allow people to still be discovering who you are long after their computer screen shuts off. Live intentionally. And lastly, stop waiting for the easy train. Stop waiting for your American Idol moment. Carrie Underwood has worked far harder than any of us know to become who she is. Who is the person you want to be? Do you know? The only way to get there is by intentionally living each day, and choosing in each moment to do what is right. Trust me, living in this manner is way better than waiting for a golden ticket. So, together let’s live intentionally, and cliche as it take Nike’s mantra and…“just do it.”