“An amazing thing happens when you get honest with yourself and start doing what you love, what makes you happy. You stop wishing for the weekend. You stop merely looking forward to special events. You begin to live in each moment and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy. You move fluidly, steadily, calm and grateful. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born.”Anonymous
I’m sure you’ve heard the statement “we are a recollection of our experiences”. I never really understood what that meant, in fact, I believed it meant, the more I do the more meaning my life will have. For years it’s exactly what I did; worked, cooked, cleaned, studied, took care of the children and family, joined programs, bought stuff to beautify my life and eagerly waited for the next social gathering. However, at the end of full days, weeks and months, paradoxically, many times I found myself feeling empty, stagnant and stuck. Don’t get me wrong, I temporarily enjoyed everything I was doing, but why was I still not happy, what was I doing wrong?
The answer does not lie in the what, but it does in the how!
Not long ago I stumbled on readings about setting intentions. Intrigued by this concept, as it’s also purported in my religion, I started to apply it to many things in life. To my surprise, as I set intentions, I was also observing the little things in life which once went unnoticed; the smiles on my children’s faces, the sunshine, the stars, the food on my table, the roof over my head. Sounds fluffy, I know! At first, I thought so too. But very slowly, I started to enjoy the feelings that resulted from simply noticing; joy, gratitude, appreciation, happiness. And of course I would, as intentions come from the heart. They are based on the things you value. When I set an intention in the day it services as a guidance of how I want to show up in my world. So while I do similar things in my day, now I do them with intention.
Learning to set intentions helped me remind myself of who I am, what is important to me, who I want to be, where I want to go, and what moments I need to cultivate in order to feel growth and change. It helped me realize that life is not always about chasing something that’s not there, it’s also about finding meaning in the things that are. Setting intentions for my day, my relationships, my work, my self helped me stay present. And every time I steered off into feeling empty, tired and or worthless, this was an indication that I have steered away from my intentions; the things that I value.
If I were to sum it up, what I feel towards intentions is that living without intentions is like navigating a ship without a compass. Yes, you’ll get somewhere, but you may not notice the beauty in the journey. And if you’re anything like me than meaning matters!
For me, Life with intentions looks like
Noticing the simple things
Finding value and meaning in things around me
Being kind to myself
Bringing in love, compassion, mercy and other concepts I value
Noticing joy, feeling joy
Being present in my day
Moving towards living according to my values
Finding my strengths and areas I want to grow in
Choosing how I want to be present in my day
So maybe there are certain things in life that are incumbent, but that does not require life to be mundane and meaningless. Let’s learn to be more mindful and set intentions for little things that can help us feel more fulfilled and purposeful.
Step 1: Clarity
Make a list of what you value. This can include things, people, places, events, that you care about. For example, family, nature, knowledge, giving, connecting, helping, loving, physical activity, friendships,
Take a moment to reflect on how much of your day or week include the items from that list. Then choose one or many that you want to cultivate into your life.
Step 2: Start simple
Start with setting simple daily intentions that include things from your value list. For example, today I will notice the sounds of birds as I walk, today I will call up a friend, today I will go out for a 15-minute walk, today I will give charity, today I will simply notice the laughter of my children, today as I work I will notice the people around me.
The aim is to make small, simple intentions, but daily. In this way, you are training your mind to be present, choosing how you want to be, as well as living according to your values. A tip is to ensure you create space for a specific time in your day to set the daily intentions. After which you can set reminders in the form of post-its, phone alarms, emails or texts to self. Once your brain has become used to this pattern, you won’t need to set reminders.
Step 3: Celebrate wins
When you notice yourself living out the intention, pat yourself for it. This is what makes intentions special, we start to notice life. We start to give ourselves credit for things that little things we do. We slowly move away from autopilot to mindful, intentional living.
This is where the change occurs, when the smallest gains start to feel like huge accomplishments, and the once unimportant things in life are now honoured and appreciated.
“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is”Anonymous
Reena is a Registered Psychotherapist who treats individuals, couples, and groups for various issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, relationship, and parenting issues. Her approach to therapy is holistic, integrative, and trauma-informed.