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August 21, 2017
I recently had a valuable reminder of the power of setting intentions. I opened an email that was sitting in my drafts folder from 2014. I had written this email to myself with no plan of sending it anywhere; my coach at the time suggested writing out what I wanted for my career. She didn’t use the word intention, but that’s exactly what I was doing, setting an intention(s). And unbeknownst to me I had actually followed many of the guidelines for intention setting: Be specific, let it go, take subtle action.
Fast forward 3 years later and Guess what happened? I finally went back and re-read the very email I wrote to myself and that’s when I realized I had achieved everything I had set out to do in that email. So what did I knowingly or unknowingly do in this little exercise. Well, there are a couple of things that stand out…
I got clear and specific with what my intentions were in that email. I stated 4 specific outcomes I was looking for. This is a little different from goal setting; my intentions were more about being than doing. The difference really lies in your “why,” the reason (intent) behind the outcome you are looking to achieve (goal). If you are not clear on your why for a goal then it lacks meaning and becomes much harder to achieve.
I then closed that email leaving it as a draft. I’ve known it was in my drafts folder for all these years but I never went back in to re-read it. I would always see the headline and think oh right, that’s that email I wrote myself, I’ll re-read it someday, I know the gist of what it’s about. So I essentially let it go. I had put it out to the universe and surrendered my need to control the outcome.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t do anything. I still took action by focusing on living in the present moment, taking life day by day and doing small, values based things that would take me in the general direction I wanted to go. I didn’t push it or try to make something happen on my own timeline, there was no deadline. I think this is the key. We can’t force an outcome.
In the act of setting an intention we release the outcome. We just put it out there for what is. It may help to liken an intention to setting a goal without knowing all the steps to get there. Usually we set a goal and then we create a map or task list that will get us to our goal. The goal moves us forward but in that moving forward we focus on the future (doing), taking us out of the present moment (being). Being is where the juicy stuff lies, it is where we start to see our values come to life – do you want to BE – honest, kind, joyful, creative, connected – these are all values that we may or may not hold, they guide how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis, they also underpin how we want to feel when we are doing something. For example, when I am parenting my girls my long term goal is to raise healthy, thoughtful and confident children. In order to achieve this I need to BE healthy, thoughtful and confident in all the parenting that I DO. As any parent knows, this is not an easy task, but the more I can stay aligned with my intention of being these things the more likely I am to raise healthy, thoughtful, confident children.
Intentions are powerful tools that keep you focused on present day, independent of reaching a goal or destination.