Albert Einstein said ‘Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.’
When I first read that quote many years ago now, I accepted it completely. It just made sense. And yet, today as researcher in applied positive psychology, I’m not so sure.
My hunch is, and it’s only a hunch, that Einstein was referring to things that count in our lives like love, relationships, trust, meaning, and so on. However, in more recent times the ‘counting’ (scientific measurement) that is now able to be done on these and many other elements of our subjective wellbeing, I think sheds a different light on the validity of Einstein’s quote.
For example, most people would readily agree that relationships count in our professional and personal lives. In fact, science tells us they do. They count because we have an innate drive to belong. In Harvard Business School professors Paul Lawrence’s and Nitin Nohria’s book ‘Driven – How human nature shapes our choices’ they draw on over seventy years of research in hundreds of organizations and across multiple scientific and philosophical disciplines. One of four innate drives of human beings their research suggests is the drive to Bond – “an innate drive to form social relationships and develop mutual caring commitments with other humans that, in fact, is fulfilled only when the attachment is mutual.”
The key in this definition of our drive to bond or belong with others, is that it is only when our relationships have a shared and mutual importance and meaning, that this innate drive will be satisfied and fulfilled.
Going against what Einstein said, my current research dissertation is exploring (counting) the association that our shared intentions have on our relationships and how those intentions impact the sense of meaning and purpose in life we experience from those shared intentions.
Our intentions are the conscious awareness we have on what we intend to do, the motivation behind what we intend to do and the impact that our intended action(s) will have on others. Being consciously aware of these three elements of our intentions allow us to live an intentional life.
Why should you be concerned with living an intentional life? Again, going against Einstein’s comment, because living an intentional life does count, and it can be counted.
Living an intentional life counts because it helps us to satisfy and fulfil one of our four innate drives – the drive to bond, and most importantly, living an intentional life provides the essential ingredient of shared and mutual importance of our relationships.
Here are six action steps to help you start living an intentional life (If you're a leader, get your team to complete these steps for their internal or external customers):
Action Step 1: Start by being more aware of the relationships you have in your professional and personal life.
Action Step 2: For each of the relationships you have, ask yourself what you want for the person in the relationship (not just what you want from that person in the relationship).
Action Step 3: Once you’re very clear about what you want for the person in your relationship, share your intention with them and check that this is a mutual ‘want’.
Action Step 4: Make intentional promises to the other person about what you will do, within your capability and resources, to try and make that intention a reality.
Action Step 5: Take intentional action on your promises
Action Step 6: Check on the results that you’re achieving through your intentional actions and to what extent you are living up to your intentional promises to deliver on your intention for that person.
These relatively simple six steps are not always easy in the fast moving, always on, disruptive world we live in. However, what adopting an intentional life will do for you, is give you clear direction on what to focus on during these times of disruption distraction and change.
The results will be increased trust in the professional and personal relationships you have in your life, which in turn, will satisfy your innate drive to belong, increase your sense of meaning and purpose in life, and all of which results in an increase in your overall life satisfaction and wellbeing.
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