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Consider the GIST in your personal life!

Growing Intentionally via Systemic Thinking (GIST)

A Conscious Awareness Approach

Frank S. Dávila, PhD

 June 2024



Have you ever wondered where you would be at this very moment if you had chosen a different profession or career? You are not here by accident. You made a choice to pursue a career or your passion or simply to follow a new and exciting experience. And if you didn’t take any initiatives to find your best pathway, that too was a choice!


Once you landed on the selected path, you sought ways to prepare yourself with the skill sets and possibly seek certification to be accepted and recognized in your chosen field.


At this point, after years of work and experience, the realization to consciously review your current state has surfaced as a priority. The opportunity to respond to your inner thoughts and self-reflection or to ignore them, becomes a pivotal point that will serve to further clarify whom you have become. It has to be a conscious decision that gives you permission to manifest who you are and what you can freely and consciously contribute as you continue to grow.


I remember attending an arts opening and chatting with a fellow board member when her MD husband came over to say hello. I told him I had undergone a sonogram and I needed to have my gall bladder extracted. He looked at me and raised his glass of Merlot and said: “Frank, I can do that, and I am damn good!”


I share that because we are amazing leaders and professionals who do not need to take a backseat to anyone. Yet, some of us shy away from openly sharing our skills and background perhaps thinking we are not as prepared, intelligent or as polished as others around us.


We should take pride in our accomplishments, obviously in a manner that is not ostentatious. Being consciously aware of our presence and gifts can be beneficial if we develop an approach that is amiable and inviting.


To better illustrate being consciously aware, think of when you hear or see a baby cry in pain or when you are in a car accident. At that very moment, nothing else matters! You are fully conscious of the present situation. You devote your attention to finding a solution.


And then think of instances where you are chatting with a friend or colleague while simultaneously responding to a text message. Or perhaps you are having lunch with friends and you didn’t notice that they just asked you a question.


The contrast is quite vivid. Have you zoned out at your work place or with your career or in your daily life? Do you sense that at times you are walking through the day, checking off the tasks completed but not stepping back and reflecting on the impact of your work? Are you consciously and intentionally involved in you and your productivity?


Some of the traits that demonstrate your personal engagement in a conscious manner include a higher degree of confidence, advocacy, forward thinking, problem solving, and being goal oriented.


When you are conscious of your surroundings and the multiple seamless layers that are interlaced in your day, you begin to understand the complexity of what tools you need, to improve your personal skills, increase your overall productivity, and to find the satisfaction and inner pride that lifts your spirit. That knowledge base increases your confidence since you are no longer frequently surprised by unforeseen circumstances.


Advocating for oneself is paramount. You are and will always be your best advocate.


Growing Intentionally via Systemic Thinking (GIST)

This acronym, GIST, is one way in which we can check our current and personal readiness as we meet our daily challenges.  There are numerous pathways we encounter as we search for the optimum approach that best describes and resonates with who we are and desire to become. Do you get the “gist” of what I am saying?

Growth Factor

Some striking examples to best understand growth is to look at ways that prevent us from growing or moving forward.  At times we simply trudge along, laboriously, with depleted energy, exhausted and frustrated. Our goal is to survive the day or a specific event.  Other times, we are distracted or disinterested and choose to stay on the sidelines, not wanting to fully engage in a project or in an activity.  In the military, there is a command that is called “mark time,” where the troops simply move the left and then the right foot up and down, striking the ground, but not moving. They are waiting for the command to march or to halt. Can you think of instances when you are just “marking time?”

On the positive side, we are growing when we sense the passion and vigor of the fruits of our labor. We feel our mind and soul being stimulated and with renewed energy to pursue even greater heights.  When we describe what we are doing, our smile and demeanor exudes that inner pleasure and contentment as we share what we have accomplished.  

Our growth reflects our personal quest to seek new adventures and opportunities with clarity, focus and relevancy.  We set goals and look forward to new pathways. It is imperative to build a mindset to accept trials and tribulations as growth pieces that strengthen our personal armor. Although it can be challenging and unsettling, it will be an uplifting experience once we reach our goal.



Being intentional describes a manner in which we undertake a role or project with purpose and an outcome in mind. You can sense a heighten desire or “ganas” behind the inclinations, ideas, and projects you are wanting to conquer.  It is a deliberate step that aligns with your feelings and emotions. I have friends and family members who have committed to the grueling task of a Marathon, Triathlon, or Ironman.  The initial gains come relatively easy and then the next phases test one’s determination and grit. That inner drive to purposefully and intentionally stay the course becomes a consuming force.


When there is no genuine intent present in our efforts, complacency and stagnation will set in and our viewers will realize our heart is not fully committed to the task at hand.  The initial momentum we created will tend to fizzle out if we do not intentionally pursue our dreams or projects with a sustainable approach that is dynamic and energized.



Taking a systematic approach involves identifying and appraising all contributing factors that become our guiding steps supporting our vision and mission. We set benchmarks with timely and relevant adjustment steps to measure how much we have grown. It is further essential to set concrete steps to reach our projected goals. This piece of the GIST process is by design an incremental process that tests your current strengths and capacity to explore and identify new and productive avenues. 


Thinking Process

As we think how these four areas interface with each other, we become more attuned and observant of our work and approach.  We may realize we need to shed some personal habits that diminish our effectiveness. Thinking about our work and efforts will help us search for building blocks that will lead to a transformative mindset and process. Pausing to reflect and renew our personal growth will help us understand the core essence of what we want to accomplish.


Consider the GIST in your personal life!



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