January 5, 2017 – Clarify Your Intentions


Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad.” – Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind, 12.5

I had many intentions today. Unpack from my vacation. Get in a workout, with my daughter, at 9Round. Both were successfully accomplished, though not much thought or effort was required to accomplish these goals. In fact, the latter of the two happened more at the pressing of my daughter than of my own will. The habit of sitting on the couch playing the Walking Dead game while watching the news was an easy slip. While I delayed the inevitable, it’s attention did become fact. I would like to think signing the six-month contract would be motivation enough…beyond wanting to actually reach my fitness goal.

My final intention was to end the evening at Bold Bean coffee. Here I would read my selection from The Daily Stoic, write about it, write about the past four days which were read while on vacation, review my work email for tomorrow and hopefully meet with my friend Chris Blackburn to discuss our 2017 plans for the “Cheer Up, We’re All Gonna’ Die” podcast. Out the door at 3:24, I was able to stop by the Apple Store to purchase a wired headphone, having lost the one that came with my iPhone, and still beat the traffic into San Marco. I walked to the counter, ordered my coffee, found a seat at the table in the back of the cafe and opened my Mac Book. 7% battery remaining. I had forgotten to check available power before leaving. My seat at the table was on the opposite side of where the power outlets existed, and no other tables near power outlets were available. Yet while I had failed to account for this problem, I was prepared to read and I had a notepad and pencils. As I waited for the aforementioned seat to clear I read my “Stoic” selection, and began writing down my thoughts.

Planning is not my forte. If memory serves me well, and hopefully it still does, there has never been a time, for example, in which I created a monthly budget. Not being much of a spender, if there was money in the bank at month’s end then the month was a success. Most of my life has been predicated on my ability to react to circumstances. Sometimes it is done with gratefulness, sometimes with anger, or frustration. Age has impressed upon me what is lost when goals are not set. The joy of accomplishment. True, joy can be found in many places, but consider the athlete, artists or a person pursuing a college degree. The intrinsic, and physical reward (trophy, diploma), is something beyond the joy obtained in immediacy.

A counterexample to my assertion that planning is not my forte can be found in my love for hiking. Safety is critical when on trail, and preparation is key to the goal of a successful hike. While it is impossible to plan for all possible scenarios that one can encounter, it is possible to be prepared for that which one can control. I learned a valuable lesson in this area years ago when I first attempted to hike the Foothills Trail. My trail documentation showed a good number of water resources, however, a recent lack of rain had dried up most of them. Because of this, I had to remove myself from trail after one day. Had I spoken to the park ranger, or someone at a local outfitter, I would have planned better. Now I take considerable efforts to get the most recent detailed trail information, understand how past weather might impact water availability and start my hike with additional water.

It’s easy to expect things to go our way. What happens when they don’t? Do we get angry? Do we blame others? Planning with a goal in sight allows us a peace of mind to see the end, and to deal with the challenges. In doing so we are better positioned to see how much we can control, while respecting what we cannot.

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