Imagine you are at a party where you don’t know anyone. You are tired. You are smiling, shaking hands, engaging in idle chit-chat – and wishing you were home watching TV. The small talk is about to make you want to jump from the balcony and then you spot someone you know and like. You make a bee-line to that person and soon you are joined by a couple of other guys you also know and like. You spend the rest of the evening talking to them. The night is saved.
You get in the car to go home and your spouse says, “ It wasn’t lost on me.” You look at her and say “What?” knowing full well what she means. She replies, “It wasn’t lost on me that you intentionally avoided all my friends and only talked to your buddies.”
Then you reply, “It was intentional but not contrived.”
You intentionally sought out the people you know and you engaged them. You didn’t have to fake it; you did what was natural for you.
OK, so this has never happened to some of you. Some of you are extroverts and you love meeting new people. Your idea of a great evening is going to a party where you don’t know anyone and seeing how many new people you can meet. In this case perhaps the illustration takes on a different twist.
You get in the car to go home and your spouse says, “It wasn’t lost on me.” You look at her and say, “What?” knowing full well what she means.” She replies, “It wasn’t lost on me that you intentionally avoided me and talked to everyone else there.”
Then you reply, “It was intentional but not contrived.” OK, you’re in bigger trouble but the principle is the same. You didn’t fake meeting new people, it was natural to you and you intentionalized it.
The point is that there is a quadrant of possibilities for us regarding that which is intentional, not intentional, contrived and not contrived.
Not Contrived Contrived
(Natural) (Not Natural)
Intentional Q1: most optimized Q2:most difficult
Non-Intentional Q3: most opportunity Q4: most draining
We are at our best – most optimized – when we are intentionalizing what is most natural for us – Q1.
Too often we focus on getting better at our weaknesses – Q2 – and this is the most difficult quadrant to live in. We go to the party trying to meet everyone because we know we “should.” Or we go to the party trying to have a significant conversation with just one person because we think it is the right thing to do. But that exercise is futile and it carries little or no leverage for us. We’re not that good at doing what is not natural to us, and we miss out on our greatest point of leverage when we concentrate on our weakness instead of our strength.
We all know who’s faking it. We know who is trying to make small talk when they are obviously bad at it, and we all know who is trying to have a deep conversation when all they want to do is meet ten new people. Most of us are bad actors. We can’t fake it and we shouldn’t try.
This is not to say that there aren’t some activities that we must do simply because we must do them. Sometimes I go to an event where it is very important for me to meet and greet everyone. I do it. I’ve learned to do it. It is not natural for me, but I do it because I need to do it. Sometimes you are required to have a significant conversation with someone and you can’t avoid it. You have to do it, but by being intentional about the activity you can recognize the degree of difficulty and navigate it as best you can.
We are most drained – Q4 – when we are unintentionally doing that which is most contrived. These are the activities that are not natural to us, which we do without intentionality. This is the illustration at the top of this article. We are having chit-chat with strangers unintentionally, or fall into a deep conversation unintentionally when it is not our long suit.
The area of greatest opportunity is in quadrant three. There are activities in our life which are natural to us, but we have not intentionalized them. These are the areas that we are not leveraging to get the most out of being who we are.
The key is to be aware of what is contrived and not contrived and be intentional about every opportunity in your life Q1 & Q2. By intentionalizing those things you do naturally, as well as those things you must do, you become more effective and productive, and a better maximizer of your time. This is navigating out of your strengths.
In baseball, great hitters know how to hit balls that are in their strike zone and they also know how to let the bad pitches pass for balls.
Look at your schedule for the week and become intentional about the opportunities you face. Look at your priorities. Which of these are the most natural for you – the most in your strike zone – that you need to hit out of the park. Which are outside of your strike zone but still need to be hit – if only fouled off to keep you in the at-bat? Which things need to be avoided, so you are not swinging at bad pitches and striking out?
How will you intentionalize a meeting with someone– whether or not that is a natural thing for you. How will you intentionalize a strategy time – whether or not that is a natural thing for you. How will you intentionalize time for study and reflection – in the midst of busyness and chaos? How will you intentionalize time for your spouse and family? How will you intentionalize your week, your month, your year, your life?
The point is to live out of intentionality, whether you are intentionally swinging for the fences or intentionally laying off the curve ball that will land in front of the plate.
The most important thing however is to become intentional about your life. This is Know Who You Are and Be It!