One of my favorite moments in Parks and Recreation is the moment Ron Swanson orders the “number eight” at a local diner. The waiter kindly points out that their number eight is a party platter that serves twelve people, to which Swanson nonchalantly replies, “I know what I’m about, son.“
Besides being hysterical, that line has replayed many times in my mind, by virtue of that character’s self-assurance and self-determination. You know it when you’ve met a self-possessed, confident man or woman when you meet them. They know where they find value and have taken great pains to shape their lives in a way that maximizes those values and the pleasures derived from them, even amidst the judgment of those who are threatened by their kind of confidence. They are intentional with the lives that they’ve worked hard to craft. I’ve found that a common theme that all who I admire share is that they “know what they are about” and they live in such a way that proves it. This is the way I wish to live. Let it be that my actions prove to you the kind of man I hope to be next year, in five years, in two decades.
Living like you “know what you are about” requires a chilling degree of mindfulness, humility, reflection, and honesty. What is it that you do on a daily basis right now that you would like to stop tomorrow? What habits have you allowed to take the ball and run away with it? What do you do that you know you don’t want to do? It takes mindfulness to become aware of what makes your body feel good and healthy. It takes humility to admit that you may not be living like the best version of you could be living. It takes reflection to find where that habit of mindless eating or Instagram scrolling really got away from you. It takes honesty to see that you may not be making decisions that your future self could be thanking you for.
Fresh starts are freely available commodities.
Living like you “know what you are about” also takes vision, courage, sweat, and grace. How does the best version of yourself live, five years from now? What steps could start you in that direction today? Where could you employ the power of compound interest by setting up habits that you’re proud to follow through on each day? It takes a vision of what your life could look like if things went well. It takes courage to identify what steps would help you get there and to actually walk those steps. It takes sweat, literal and metaphorical, to do the hard work that leads to your vision becoming reality. Finally, it takes grace to know when you’ve failed, to learn from what happened, and to avoid the same mistake tomorrow. Breaking your diet with a slice of pizza today doesn’t mean you must eat three whole pizzas tomorrow. Fresh starts are freely available commodities. Tomorrow, start the new streak at day 1.
Intentional living is crafted through your values. Really at the heart of all this work, your values are revealing how they could be acted out and helping to fine tune the details. I’ve learned through much trial and error where I can reclaim my time and my attention for my primary values of health, relationships, growth, and contribution. I’ve thought through seemingly mundane details of my day in order to squeeze as much meaning and energy out of everything I do. I figure, if I must do something on a daily basis, then I can at least attach meaning to it and learn to enjoy it.
I’ve made a list below of different habits and practices that I’ve intentionally set up to serve my values. I hope these can help prime your mind with ideas that may set you off in a positive direction. I am not perfect at any one of these, but these are the decisions I’ve made for myself. I have certainly not arrived. I am actually quite certain that I never will, but at least I know that I’m aiming in the right direction. I like to think that I could confidently look a waiter in the eye while ordering over ten pounds of lunch meat and let him know that “I know what I’m about.”
- Wake up at 4:40 AM to workout at the gym before work.
- Meal prep the same breakfasts and lunches for work.
- Drink tea instead of coffee.
- Eat only between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM.
- Drink at least four liters of water every day.
- Tie my left shoe first and then my right.
- Read a chapter of scripture every morning.
- Fill a journal page every day.
- Listen to podcasts and musicians that inspire me to think, to act, and to create.
- Pack gym clothes the night before I need them.
- Practice ten minutes of meditation every night.
- Practice yoga, before bed, three nights a week.
- Read at least 30 minutes every day.
- Own only 33 articles of clothing (not including pairs of undergarments and socks).
- Wear only plain black t-shirts.
- Live a minimalist lifestyle.
- Practice Sabbath every Friday.
- Go on a date with my wife every other weekend.
- Plug in and turn off my phone by 7 PM.