Intention. We hear the sentiment often. We may hear about it from our yoga instructor at the start of class. We may hear it as a descriptor when our client is explaining their brand needs for an upcoming marketing campaign. We may even hear it when a friend has experienced an emotional encounter with another individual. Doing something with or without intent can change the depth of an experience, the clarity of a message or the context of an exchange.
According to Merriam-Webster, intent is ‘the state of mind with which an act is done’. Our intentions matter. So, why do we apply intentions to examples like the above but we so often forget to create intention when it comes to the living of our one big and precious life?
Setting intention for our everyday living provides a grounding effect, a tether back to our most important values. If I am creating an intentional life, I am committing to a purposeful state of mind while I participate in the act of living. But, how do we get there?
One of the biggest blocks to living intentionally is clarity. We aren’t always clear on what we want out of life or who we want to be while doing it. We may not know our purpose or passion. We may not even know what feels good or true anymore. The unknown can provide a lot of fear so our goal is to unearth and discover.
This discovery can begin in a simple process I like to call Intention Mapping. Intention Mapping helps generate intentional clarity in order to create intentional living
Step 1: More is not always better. Simplicity is your friend here. Having a handful of core intentions to go back to as you maneuver through your everyday is far more approachable and the execution far more probable. When we think we can, we do. If we feel overwhelmed, forget about it.
Step 2: Begin to contemplate 3-5 purpose filled intentions that feel most aligned with you. What values sit closest to your heart? What actions feel catalyzing to what you want in life? What do you want your relationships, work and free time to feel like? What are your goals? Don’t forget to set down ego, cultural and societal pressures. We are talking heart-centered exploration. Intentions are personal. They are yours alone, no one else’s. Nope, not even your kids’, your partner’s or your mom’s.
Step 3: Still feeling stuck? Lean on what I like to call ‘peak life experiences’. Peak life experiences are the times in your life when you felt most happy, most whole and most alive. They are the experiences that resonate deeply. It may feel like you haven’t felt that way in years. Or, maybe it was just last week. Either way, stick with me. Your age, your circumstance, your environment at the time of your peak life experience does not matter. Each experience holds vital information. Make a list of your top peak life experiences. Enjoy this process, feel and relive those moments.
Step 4: Now that you have your thoughtful list of peak life experiences, break down why each experience felt so good to you. What components made it a peak in your life? Fulfillment? Nature? Connection? Freedom? Family? Humor? Joy? Creativity? Sometimes, if we put ourselves back in that moment, we are able to tap into our bodies during this exploration to gain further information and insight into what we were feeling during that time.
Step 5: Find the commonalities. You may not see any on the surface. That’s alright. Go deeper. For example, let’s say my peak life experiences are backpacking Italy in my 20s, swimming in the ocean as a child, taking that adult hip hop class last year and meeting my now partner. What’s the feeling I possibly felt in each instance? Backpacking allows autonomy, flexibility and simplicity. All very freeing. Swimming in the ocean as a kid created a feeling of vastness, curiosity and relaxation. Freeing. That hip-hop class where I possibly made a total fool out of myself but loved every middle-aged minute of dancing. So freeing. Meeting my now partner and finally allowing myself to be fully seen? Ultimate freedom. Find the commonalities. If you only find one or two commonalities amongst your peak life experiences, don’t worry. Our work is not quite done.
Step 6: Depending on the number of commonalities you were able to find in your peak life experiences, you may have enough to fill your 3-5 intentions, or you may need more. If you need to, look back at the other components from each peak experience, not just the commonalities, and see what speaks most to you out of them. What elements resonate at this stage in your life? Don’t get hung up on what is or isn’t realistic. Intentions are driving forces of value that can help lead you closer to the path you want. And, don’t forget, you can create intentions without having to use the peak life experience method as an aid. Just be sure to ask yourself the right questions.
Step 7: At this point, you should have your narrowed list of 3-5 intentions. If my intentions are fulfillment, freedom, family and creativity, I want to use these intentions to filter through my present life. If you are making choices or spending time on things in life that do not serve one or more of your intentions, it is important to recognize this and ask yourself why. Analyze what in your life needs to be kept and built in order to support your intentions, and what in your life needs to be let go of. If it does not serve your intentions, it does not serve you.
Step 8: This is a regular practice. The goal is to use these intentions as a grounding source, a guide map, throughout your daily living. Don’t know when to say no? Or, how to best spend your time? Or, which direction you should go in? Your identified intentions help inform where and how to spend your most valuable assets: your time and energy. Living intentionally requires slowing down long enough to gain clarity, check-in regularly and ground ourselves in choices that serve us best.
Let’s get intentional.