A question that I like to ask myself when I feel buried in micromanaging the tasks of everyday life is “What’s important here?” It’s a question that can be asked about a task, a meeting, an event, a day, a month, or even a year. What I’m asking myself, at a higher level, is what really matters for a particular point in time. Initially, my mind will consider all of the details of what I’m engaged in, and then I have to take a step back, take in the big picture, and then the one or two intentions that really are important will emerge.

Here’s what this question looks like in practice. Say you’re meeting up with a new _____ (insert client, friend, colleague, boss, or another person). It’s easy to get caught up in the details of the meeting - the where, the when, what you need to bring, what you want to talk about, how you want to look, etc. But the real intention of the meeting for you may be something bigger like, that the other person leaves with a real sense of who I am and what I offer, or there is a feeling of mutual connection by the end of our time together, or even I show up as my authentic self. What I’ve found is that if you really focus on one or two intentions and remain open about the rest, the details will fall into place fairly easily (or will fall away as irrelevant).

The same goes for having an intention for a period of time. At Holstee, there are themes for each month, which really are forms of intention to be held and thought about during that time. As we start the new year, rather than having a list of New Year’s Resolutions, another option is to set a broad intention for your year instead.  

Intentions aren’t long-term goals. They come from the clarity deep within us and can be embodied in the present moment.

One way to decide your intention is to ask yourself, “How do I want to feel in 2017?” You may want to feel connected, or creative, or loving, or to feel well. Using wellbeing as the example, it is impacted by lots of positive and negative habits and practices, so you can decide on the ones that need to be addressed under your intention of being well. As you come across practices that impact wellbeing, say for instance drinking wine, you could ask yourself a question like: “Will having this glass of wine honor and support my well-being?” You may find that the same question may have different answers at different times. Maybe having a glass of wine with a nice dinner does honor and support your wellbeing as it increases your enjoyment of good food, while having a glass by yourself sitting in front of the TV does not. So you make your choices in accordance with your intentions.    

To support larger intentions, you can have an goal to develop a specific positive practice or habit. Research has shown that by making conscious habits, and practicing them regularly, they become unconscious habits that require much less effort. As John Dryden stated, “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” My own experience of this came through establishing a gratitude practice. I’d read the research on how taking time regularly to list a few things that you’re grateful for increases happiness and I wanted to see for myself. I decided that each night when I turned out my light to go to sleep, I would take a few moments to silently name some specific things for which I was thankful. I put a sticky note on my nightstand to remind me, and even though I forgot to do it some nights, I found that after a few weeks of consciously doing it, the act of turning out my reading light would prompt my brain to start automatically listing off things I was grateful for, even when I hadn’t reminded myself to do it.     

"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible." - Tony Robbins

In the digital age, it’s more important than ever to set intentions about how we live our lives; there are just too many distractions that will fill up our time and our lives if we don’t have the mindset to direct our attention elsewhere. We can use our intention to create conscious habits that support the things that are important to us in life, to show up for others in the way that we want, and to decide what unimportant things we can let go.

Intentions aren’t long-term goals. They come from the clarity deep within us and can be embodied in the present moment. For it is in the combination of living in alignment with our intentions and being fully present, that true contentment can be found.     

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Heather Buck is the founder and Chief Inspiration Officer at InStill Coaching. While on her own journey to live an authentic life, she partners with others seeking to live and lead authentically. She is constantly asking herself and others what it is to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Writing is how she makes sense of the world and her place in it, and she basks in the connection of shared experience between writer and reader. You can find out more about her work and her journey here and here.

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Every month we select a few writers to help us explore what it means to live more fully and mindfully. Reach out to Jennifer, our Editor, at write@holstee.com to learn more about contributing.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Intention.

EXPLORE Intention

Our Themes

Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.

VIEW OUR THEMES

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