How often do you find yourself doing something you’d really rather not be doing?
Now there are all kinds of things most of us don’t love doing. Going to the dentist; changing batteries in a clamoring smoke alarm; assembling a piece of “DIY” furniture that claims it will take 10 minutes yet requires an hour and a half with several odd pieces leftover — just a few top-of-mind activities! Thankfully those tasks, while a wee nerve-wracking or tedious, aren’t a part of our regular schedule.
I’m talking about how often do you find yourself:
Attending meetings you find tense or unproductive?
Scrolling through social media out of habit?
Focusing your energies at work on a product or service you lack passion for?
Engaging in tasks that involve one of your biggest skills, but it’s a skill you really don’t enjoy using (hello, spreadsheets)?
Spending time with people who are pleasant but with whom you don’t feel super connected?
Naturally, we don’t want to be ungrateful for what we have nor fall into the abyss of superficial complaints. Instead, I’m listing those activities as possible examples of things we do in life that may be the result of a lack of intention.
Because we experience life at a fast pace, it can seem we need to make quick decisions to stay moving with the current. We tend to look to others for inspiration and rely on the status quo for guidance. We want to fit in. But what can happen is we find ourselves drifting aimlessly down the wrong river.
We major in film studies because our adorable guy friend is passionate about movies.
We move to Chicago after college because all of our friends are.
We get a job in consulting because that’s where our contacts have contacts.
We hurry a relationship because being alone and dating forever sound miserable.
While the decisions made in each of these scenarios were deliberate, we can end up places as the result of input that’s the low hanging fruit versus input we more fully consider.
Living with intention means:
We develop specific and MEANINGFUL goals and priorities.
We are AWARE of our actions, choices and decisions.
We are clear as to precisely how these decisions CONTRIBUTE to our short-term and long-term goals and priorities.
Part 1 of that equation seems pretty straightforward. We establish goals, and we prioritize which ones mean the most and receive more of our time, energy and attention.
Part 2 is just as understandable. When we live with intention we’re approaching life with a keen sense of awareness. We’re not on autopilot when we shouldn’t be.
It’s Part 3 that tends to be the trickiest. Life speeds by and is filled with a continuous flow of push and pull energies — energies that drive us to make decisions that either satisfy short-term goals and pleasures or those that help us achieve longer-term goals and deeper desires. And to enjoy life, we need both.
But how aware are we about every decision we make and which of these energies it is feeding?
For example, if I:
Eat this delicious bag of potato chips, am I aware I’m making the decision to satisfy a short-term craving vs choosing a handful of blueberries, which would help me achieve my bigger goal of eating healthy?
Buy this stunning red dress (satisfying my short-term desire for something new), am I aware it’s at odds with my longer term goal of spending wisely?
Take job X, which will pay really well (satisfying a short-term goal of earning good money), am I aware it also will mean I’ll be spending less time with my family (which I’ve identified as my top priority?
Again, addressing both short-term pleasures and long-term goals are important, and it’s our awareness of which category a decision falls into that determines just how much intentionality we’re approaching life with.
If you realize you’re connecting with a few or many of the less than intentional scenarios I’ve shared here, give some thought to upping your intentionality quotient. In fact, merely having the awareness you’d benefit from being more intentional is a huge first step!
As I mention frequently, it was my own discovery of mindfulness that led me to boosting my awareness and intention. Some of the best outcomes of that include that I love where I live, I cherish each and every day, I am acutely aware of which areas of my life I need to kick up a notch, I love what I do, and I’m far better at balancing my short- and long-term goals.
Believe me, if a such a huge fan of brownies, potato chips, red wine, sitcoms, sleep, vacationing and lazing around can add a dose of intention to bring greater joy and balance to her life, so can you!
Trie Angeleva is a mindful career and life strategist, teacher and coach, who writes about mindful living and career transformation. She is founder of The Love Monday Method and developed and taught Career Success Preparation for The Media School at Indiana University. Follow her on instagram at @reimaginemonday for tips and strategies on how to 1) love what you do and 2) lead a mindful life.