Has this podcast taken a decided turn to fantasy? Instead of leading in business will we now begin discussing leading a group of treasure seeking dwarves into the dark hollows of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth? Will we investigate the types of drakes and worms guarding their hoards of gold? It’s entertaining for sure, but the maybe not-so-obvious answer to that question is “No.” Awwww. I know, sorry to disappoint; however, stop toying with dragons and get intentional is a great name for this episode. Once we spend a bit of time setting context, I think you will agree.
To answer this question, I have to tell you that what led to this was a concern over trifling. More specifically, the definition of the word might help: trivial, unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential, petty, minor, of little or no account. What I was pondering was the frequency with which I had been derailed in my objectives. Often, this was because I was trifling. The word is ironic to me because it implies that I was dealing with something trivial, unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential, etc…But the irony is that the impact was anything but insignificant.
If you know anything about dragons, you know that they are cunning, deceptive, hypnotizing and according to Mr. Tolkien, love a good riddle…but don’t laugh at a dragon, or it will be your last laugh. Maybe you’re a huge fan of The Hobbit. If you recall, Smaug was the dragon from whom the dwarves intended to steal treasure. Another good bit of knowledge about dragons: they know their treasure, reportedly down to the ounce. So lifting a goblet is undoubtedly going to be obvious to a treasure so jealously protected.
And he’s been around for a while. According to Tolkien’s timelines, Smaug is a spry 171 when Bilbo encounters him. That’s a long time to be accumulating and guarding treasure. He’s fearsome by all accounts. A destroyer. Funny thing is I’ll bet Smaug was a cute little bugger when just a wee one. Note, I don’t know lad or lass, male or female. Tolkien doesn’t say and I’m not going to venture a guess. All of us can think of the story where someone finds a cute animal infant and thinks they are going to take it home and raise it as a pet. Whoops, small lapse in judgment there.
Remember, the dragon is cunning and deceitful. Gaze into its eyes and you risk becoming hypnotized and controlled by the dragon. Do you know anyone who gets hypnotized by the dragon in their hand? Yes, its name isn’t Smaug, but probably Galaxy or Pixel or iPhone. I know, I know. C’mon Mark, stop trying to be so dramatic. My point is this: for some, a mobile phone, or social media, or Netflix isn’t a dragon. You aren’t enticed by it, you control it. But just because you do, that doesn’t make it innocent for everyone else.
I’ve known a lot of people over the years who take WAY different positions on alcohol. This is not a podcast in favor of prohibition. There’s a good portion of our society who can have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine and be done. There are others, like my cousin Doug, who couldn’t control the dragon and drank himself to death. Regardless of your personal ability when it comes to alcohol, you have to acknowledge it’s destructive power. There. So now we’ve dealt with the glaringly obvious. If you are still listening, you can say, “Okay Mark, time to tell me something I don’t know.”
You might be waiting a long time because I believe most of you listening already “know” much of what I’m sharing. However, today, you need to be reminded. You don’t play with dragons. They aren’t friends. Only you can quickly recognize the dragons in your life.
So maybe you aren’t a raging alcoholic or strung out drug addict and your dragon(s) are a bit more hidden. Is your dragon named procrastination, fear, inferiority, low self-esteem or imposter? The things that take you in a direction that you don’t want to go. The deceptive, manipulative things that leave you hurting or regretting the choice you made and kicking yourself for letting it happen again.
What distracts you or takes you away from your goal? This might be a dragon you’ve been toying with. For some, a hard stop is required. You can’t afford to give it any time or attention. Stephen Pressfield in The War of Art describes this as resistance. It’s everything that wells up in you, and around you, designed to prevent you from doing something valuable. To prevent you from contributing meaningfully. At best, resistance keeps you from making progress on the things that matter, and at worst, it moves you further away from realizing a goal.
You might get weary of hearing me talk about it. In my estimation, one of your most effective tools for slaying dragons is intention. Who do you want to be? What do you want to become? What’s the goal you are trying to achieve? Why is it important to you? These questions, once answered, give you structure to build intention. There’s a purpose to living. It’s not just eating, working, relaxing, and sleeping. A life of intention is how people go debt free in 10 years paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card, mortgage, and student loan debt.
You Have To Plan To Slay A Dragon
They didn’t wake up this morning and say “You know what, I’m going to eliminate my debt today.” The Jones’ dragon – the one that says you have to have as nice a car, as nice of a home, as great a job, as beautiful a body, as those around you – is going to have to be slain if you want to conquer debt. A new way of thinking has to be established in your life if you are going to go debt-free. Maybe it starts with a zero budget. This is the process of earmarking every dollar of income and deciding in advance how you will appropriate each dollar to household needs, savings, and debt reduction. As you can imagine, much focus is required if you will win this challenge!
More than 20% of my past episodes on the Leader to Leader podcast specifically contain references to the value of intention. Being unaware of, or nonchalant with, the dragons in your life is a plan for disaster. For example, if you don’t plan your day, the day will mercilessly control you. The art of reviewing your day (at the end of a day) and preparing for your day (the evening before) is a great example of how you prevent your day from “happening” to you.
Michael Hyatt says that you must identify the three big things that you are going to achieve this year and build them into three goals for a quarter that leads to three actions taken each day to propel you toward those goals. Since we aren’t talking about goal-setting, what I want to identify is the very intentional and strategic plan of knowing the big items you are going to address on any given day. It takes discipline and practice to make this routine in your life. Don’t try to do it all at once.
Implementing An Effective Plan
There’s a reason why micro-commitments work with your customers: it psychologically creates momentum and it will work for you in taking down your dragons. Here are a few tips:
Pick one thing at a time
Sounds logical, but pick one thing that you want to be intentional about. Maybe you want to target getting eight hours of sleep each night. So start with that and work on going to bed at a time that allows you to get eight hours of sleep.
You are going to want to create patterns of intention. So don’t stop once you’ve successfully created a pattern of getting eight hours of sleep. Pick the next thing.
Expect to struggle a bit
You might find that you only got eight hours on three nights this week. That’s okay. Today’s your chance to get a fourth. Be gracious with yourself and try again. If it didn’t work today, try again tomorrow. The point is keeping up the effort. If you didn’t get eight hours any night this week, try again tonight. When you find the cause, don’t hesitate to slay the dragon. If you know that the biggest trip up to getting sleep is watching more Netflix then you should, I recommend incorporating an intentional shut-down for the evening where you remove yourself from electronics 60 mins before bedtime. At least then Netflix won’t be the cause of lost sleep.
Review your progress
This is brilliant. It’s not something we talk about enough. I heard Jeff Walker say recently on his YouTube channel how important it is to focus on intention and then he threw in this little nugget: do a review after a month. What’s working and what isn’t? Are you frustrated and uptight because of the pressure of the goal? Are you happy with the results? Can you tell a difference? Are you targeting the wrong behavior (i.e. this change isn’t producing the result you were targeting)?
You aren’t married to this, so change it up and try again. But remain intentional. If you live a life of intentional effort, then you will master the dragons and not become hypnotized by their beguiling desires to render you useless.
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