Setting Intentions: Lessons from our fallen Christmas tree

Christmas 2019 has come and gone and here we are at the start of a new year – a new decade! As often happens with transitions, I find myself reflecting. Amongst a season of wonderful times with family and friends, great food and celebration, we had a “Christmas Tree” episode. We love fresh trees and head out the first weekend of December to find and put up our tree for the holidays. This tree was beautiful- tall, full, fit the bill. The trunk had a little bend in it, but we could overlook that as there were so many other great qualities.

So up went the tree and on went the decorations. We admired our handiwork and set about to decorate the rest of the house. A few days later, I asked my husband if he thought the tree was leaning a little? “It might be,” he said, “but it’s pretty slight,” and so we continued all the important busyness that seems to fill this time of year. A few days later, again I inquired, and this time, he said “yes – it’s definitely leaning.” We better deal with it sooner than later we both thought (and said) and then we sat down to dinner. Our evening unfolded with no attention being given to the tree.

The following morning as I came downstairs, I confronted with our lack of response: the tree had fallen in the night. Not only was the tree down, but water had spilled and the stand had scratched our newly refinished floors!

As I have reflected on our stupidity and this situation (we were able to reinstate the tree), I am struck by two things:

First, as leaders, we often have ‘inklings’ – that sense or even intuition, that something is amiss. It could be with an individual, or a team we work with; it could be on a project we are getting near to completing; it could be about a conversation we think we ought to have. And time passes, and life unfolds, and sometimes that piece that we didn’t attend to, becomes something much larger we then have to manage. What if we trusted our gut, and responded more quickly? What if we freed up our schedule and did what we needed to do? What if we placed priorities on things so that the important got addressed? This fallen tree reminds me to notice, and respond in a timely way.

Second, as we begin another year, in the next decade, we will be inundated about resolutions and promises we make and then most likely break, in the next month or so. How is it so easy to think about what we want to do differently, and so difficult to actually do it? We knew we needed to address the tree – that intentionally, we had the choice to fix something and yet we didn’t do it, even after we agreed aloud that this was important. How do we set intentions in a season of new beginning? Where do we find the time, the support and the energy to really make the changes we want to see? Why does research remind us of how rare sustainable change for adults is. This tree reminds me to honour the intentions I set and to do what it takes – provide the support, time & energy – to make those intentions into real change.

As you return to your teams and your workplace, as you begin to consider the changes you want this year – let our fallen tree remind you of both noticing and responding. If you want support with your intentions, please contact me for a complimentary preliminary conversation.