I attended a retreat this past weekend, sponsored by the Institute for Conscious Being, a group that promotes the used of the Enneagram to understand one’s self and to relate to one another. This particular group, led by clinical psychologist, Joseph Howell, has a particular interest in the role of the Enneagram to assist in one’s spiritual growth. My friend, John Adams, recommended Joe’s book, Becoming Conscious, which intrigued me with its powerful spiritual insights.
I had some exposure to the Enneagram earlier in my career as a heuristic tool of self-understanding. My daughter had explored it, with her fiance, now husband, as a way to understand their dynamic, which prompted my dusting off some old texts.
I have to admit my tendency to look skeptically at popular “spiritual” programs but this group has impressed me with the seriousness of their study of the psychology of faith, and their basic reliance of care for human beings. So while I entered the weekend with reservations, I left with good feelings about the program which prompted deepening self-awareness. If you are interested in discovering the Enneagram, and this particular training program, you can go to this link: http://www.instituteforconsciousbeing.org.
There is so much worthy stuff to share in terms of the Enneagram but I wanted to share a simple insight that was a good reminder.
On the second day of the retreat, the session leader invited us to “set intentions for the day”. By this, she referred to a practice that I teach many priests that I have trained through the years. It’s a process of planning that is intended to make one more organized with one’s time, and therefore, more productive.
I normally coach my folks to plan by the year, by the quarter, by the month, by the week, by the day. While I have found planning in a consistent manner beneficial, planning by the week, which I grabbed from Covey many moons ago, is revolutionary.
I plan the year in day dedicated to review, goal-setting, and project planning. Quarterly, I review the plan and adjust for changing contexts. Imagine the change in “context” of second quarter last year….that’s right…,.you know. I have gotten in the habit now of doing the same, but to a lesser extent, monthly. But the key for me has been weekly planning.
In my work, unforeseen interruptions happen all the time. It’s a part of the gig. So, to get long-term-projects done, I have to schedule my coming week in blocks of time. By dedicating a “CHUNK” of time, with an assigned topic of focus, there is a better chance that I will finish on time. As this is done in the broader context of life, there are NO guarantees, but as stated, “chances are better”. I plan the coming week at the end of the current week. Living and dying by blocks of time is my transposed Buffett song.
By using a daily journal/planner, I also employ this method with days. I begin my day journaling, planning, and prepping. I end the day with a journal entry, and reviewing the day. My technique usually consists of noting my “biggies” for the day, things I simply MUST get done today.
So that’s the process I teach, and use myself. There are many methods out there. Key is finding the one that works for you. My pragmatic side loves to “check off” a list, but the philosopher in me longs for meaning and significance to my day, hence my journal. It’s a good balancing act that I have grown to do fairly well for a Southside boy.
As mentioned, this past weekend introduced an “add”. It is a suggestion to add an intention at the start of the day. I liked the feel of it and am trying it on this week. I share it with you here, which asks you three questions with which to begin your day:
- At the beginning of the day, set your intention for the coming day. What do you intend to do with this amazing day that is set before you? I use a practice of writing down “My Three Biggies” which serves as a focus mechanism for my rabbit-chasing mind. You could start with the Main One, or the Fab Five, whatever it takes to focus.
- What would you like to let go of in this coming day? What have you been allowing to disrupt your concentration and focus, that nagging thought that is getting in the way of your progress? Sometimes, writing it down can give it a concrete moment that allows you to name it, and get rid of it, like a piece of trash. Try it.
- Who do you want to be in this next day in your life? What values do you long to live out in your life? Do you have a deep identity that powers your personality in terms of who shows up for a particular task? A friend of mine imagines a super-hero of his own design that gives him energy to face the day ahead. Mine is a little simpler, that is, getting in touch with my prophetic voice, that funds my courage in the moment.
This is a simple moment but it can have profound effects on the process of your day.
When I am adopting a new behavior, I have found it helpful to try it on for a week rigorously, using whatever prompts get you to do the NEW thing, and then review the effect, looking for and naming the positives. Make an initial assessment at the end of the week, deciding to continue for another week, make an adjustment in how you do it, or abort the practice, noting the rationale. This “limited time” framework has seemed to work for me in changing up how I do my work. Give it a try.
The Enneagram offers a fresh road into this thing I call my Self. I am thinking it is a fresh pathway to add to my self-awareness, something I consider critical in the exercise of leadership and life. Blessings.