Most of us have a ton of choices every day. It’s easy to just go with the flow, get lost in the day and waste hours of potential for growth, for peace, for contributing to family or society, for being a friend. Social media, the news of the day, health or parenting concerns, and a host of other distractions the draw us away from what matters most. Strong intentions are necessary to follow your desired path, no matter how simple or complex.
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Your intentions, your choice
You get to choose your intentions, no matter what your circumstances. If you question that line of thinking, read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and professor of neurology and psychiatry. You can get the FastReads keynotes and analysis for Man’s Search for Meaning if you don’t want to read the entire book.
What really matters?
What is significant, what is meaningful to you? When is the last time you really thought about this, and when is the last time you planned your time intentionally to fulfill a purpose? Whether you’ve been kicking around plans in your mind for a new business or getting your closet organized you’re going to have to get some intention into what is meaningful goals to accomplish much. You really were put where you are on purpose, via God’s intention and His invention. You have an inner calling to move in one direction or another, and will find peace if not satisfaction and joy in pursuing that calling.
What’s the payoff?
A couple of books I recently read brought me to seriously consider intentions I need to follow through on for my health, finances, spiritual growth, and every day stuff that can quickly get out of hand. The book that spawned this post, The 5 A.M Miracle: Dominate Your Day Before Breakfast, speaks to the benefits of getting up early and carving out time for what matters. I’m still not a particularly early riser, but the writing offers excellent perspectives and motivation for examining your intentions and acting on them. In the first chapter, author Jeff Sanders says, “… a grand life lived with intention, pursued with ambition, and rewarded with transformation”. A grand life lived with intention. That spoke to me.
Your grand intentional life
Grand life doesn’t mean mean wealthy, well-traveled or famous. You get to define what a grand life is for you. For me, it’s having energy to support family, friends and the church when there is a need. My grand life is filled with laughter, love and time in the garden. I don’t always make those goals a priority, though – I often live without intention.
How to create intention
I hope if you’ve read this far that you’ve started thinking about your intentions and how they affect your goals, but I am writing this to get my thoughts down regarding how vital intention is to living a fulfilling life. What intention boils down to is real choice, not just what you meant to do but what you set your mind to do. To establish my goals and then determine what my intentions are, I need to do a brain dump every once in a while as I discussed in the post, Spinning Wheels and Open Loops.
Brain Dump Process
- I start by taking a look at the lists and projects I saved in my ToDoist app. It’s essential to have one tool for storing reminders, tasks and projects on the fly. I prefer an app like ToDoist because I’m never without it whether I use ToDoist on my phone, laptop or tablet.
- I write everything I want to do or need to do on paper, separating the wants and needs. Both are important, but I have to separate them so that I choose some from both columns. If I don’t do this, I ignore what I want to do and only focus on tasks I must do, which leads my energy to burn out. I need to have some of what I want to do in the mix to be happy.
- From there, I choose a few projects or activities and break them down into steps. Some items are as simple as making a phone call or an email, others require further thought, planning or materials to complete. Then, I enter the tasks, reminders and appointments that will allow me to reach my intended goals in Google Calendar or ToDoist. I use a paper planner to plan each day while referring to my electronic tools.
- I do a lot of prioritizing in ToDoist after a brain dump, so my on-paper planning is not as frequent as it once was. ToDoist keeps me organized. Still, every once in a while, nothing beats pen on paper for getting everything off my mind. By the way, Frixion erasable pens are amazing!
Where the mind goes, the man follows. ~ Joyce Meyer
Lather, rinse, repeat
At this point, you probably think I’m going to say this system makes me consistently successful at following through on intentions. Not always, but often enough to know the value of getting my goals down on paper and then creating a realistic plan. I inevitably get pulled away by some crisis, busy-ness or simply by getting too tired to care because I’ve not been intentional (there’s that word again!) with maintaining my health, or I let myself get pulled into social media for too long. When I feel a cognitive log jam coming on, I do another brain dump and it relieves a lot of tension.
Adjust, practice, choose
When you drift from your intentions, never beat yourself up over it. Just let it go, re-examine your lists and move forward.
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…
True intention involves habits that we develop and fine-tune by our choices and by anticipating circumstances we’ll need to adjust to in order to reach goals. For me, this anticipation is planning meals for the week depending on how demanding each day will be. A habit is developed through practice. Keep practicing choices that move you toward your goals. When you slip up, revisit your plans to get back on track, or do another brain dump to start over again. Don’t let the lie of discouragement pull you away from what you are called to do, whether it’s vacuuming the floor more often, writing a thesis, contributing to a nonprofit organization, building a business – whatever calls to your heart.
Do you have a system for establishing intentions and organizing actions? Share in the comments.
- The definitions for intention came from studying via Thesaurus.com, AP Stylebook and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The word intention has many nuances but ultimately means one thing: a goal. Intention is aim, hope, motive, object, point. Act or instance of becoming mentally determined to pursue a particular result. A purpose or goal that is succinctly planned. Purpose, meaning or importance. The direction or orientation of the mind.