Intention. I feel like that word is thrown around like confetti. It’s not the only word taking center stage as the new year rushes in: I’m hearing mindset, goaldigger and balance every other sentence, too.
This excites me. These words are the gateway to leading a life that has more meaning than when we are just skating by and doing what’s expected of us. But…and, of course, there is a but…I’m worried that people aren’t understanding the true meaning of these words. I have been asked by clients, “How can I live intentionally when I live so much of my life in the online world where things are out of my control?” Intentional living does not mean that you have to live off-grid, free of technological distractions. So today, I want to make an important distinction. It is possible to live an intentional life without being in complete control of everything (because control is an illusion).
The Root of Intentional is Intent
We could get into the nitty-gritty of if the intent is good or bad but I’m a firm believer that when living intentionally or being intentional your intent is good. Very few people do things truly maliciously. So let’s just accept that intentional living usually means that you are striving to live with good intentions.
There are several layers of intentional living. Most of us live at the very basic level, just a step above accidentally living (we’ll talk about that a little later). At the basic level of intentionally living, we make big decisions with good intentions. We try to weigh the pros and cons and live according to a moral code. We often falter and make impulsive decisions but overall we are trying our best.
The next stage of intentional living is where most empaths naturally live. When making a decision or acting, empaths naturally take others feelings and perceptions into account. Their sensitivity to others makes them examine a little more closely, or engage a little differently. For example, someone living in this stage will most likely have no problem leaving their phone out of sight while engaging with another person.
The Opposite of Intentional is Accidental
When you live intentionally you evaluate the WHY in most situations. Why do I feel like this? Why do I think this way? Why do I want that? Evaluating the why is the big mindset shift from accidental living to intentional living.
None of us are in control of the events in our lives, but we are in control of our reactions. Living intentionally means examining events and reactions. Living accidentally means living in the blame mindset and thinking that things happen to you. Things happen to everyone. It’s a fact. Not one person can go through life in complete control with nothing unexpected happening.
In 2015, I chose the word intention for my word of the year. I went back and forth between intentional and intention for a long time. Two letters don’t seem like much of a difference, but it was important to me that I evaluate my intentions. My husband and I were in our first year of marriage and we were expecting our first child. I knew I was hormonal and that my intention would always be good but my reaction may not be. By focusing on intention instead of intentional, I was able to evaluate both my reasonings and the reasonings of others. Why did this person say ______ to me? Was it an intentional attack or was it more a reaction?
Intentional Living Despite Distractions
Our number one distraction is technology. It’s a blessing and a curse and we are constantly going back and forth on what is too much technology for our children when we should expose them and how. But we never evaluate how much is too much for ourselves unless we are actively unplugging.
Living intentionally means actively unplugging often. Maybe not for giant blocks of time, but at least while engaging with other people who are present in front of you. Does that mean no phones at all when you’re with your friends? No TV? No movies? (Heck no, I totally couldn’t survive that. We have 4 TVs and multiple game systems in our living room). It means BEING PRESENT in the moment.
It means BEING PRESENT in the moment. So if you’re watching a TV show, get into it. Discuss the characters or the plot. Discuss the commercials (if you aren’t fast-forwarding through them). If you’re scrolling on Instagram or Facebook, talk about what you’re seeing.
Not only that but when you are living in your online space, be intentional in what you say and do. Don’t say something you don’t mean. Don’t make empty promises. Think of the other person’s intentions in posting something (maybe they are just trying to razz you up or get a reaction!).
The root of all of this intentional living in the digital age comes back to the word intent. Do things with intent; with good intentions. With others’ intentions in mind.
How to be Aware and React More Positively
Earlier this week, I left the co-working space after a very frantic feeling day, only to realize I had a flat tire. It was the day after New Years and I called AAA to come and get me. Since I had a spare, they dispatched a mechanic to change my tire and he came within 15 minutes. My car is…complicated to say the least, and he ended up unable to get my wheel off because I have fancy rims. I was then told it would be 2 hours until a tow truck could get to me. I live in Orange County, CA where we have mechanics on almost every corner, yet I was at the one gas station that didn’t have anyone to help.
So I called my mom and we went to the Wienerschnitzel next door and we waited and we hung out with Delainey and we laughed. I made a comment about my black cloud, Tut-Tut, and my mom mentioned karma. I stopped her, though, because I don’t believe that karma is black and white.
We don’t go through life with every action or opportunity being the result of something else. Chaos is the real state of life but it is our reactions and awareness that shape our lives. I chose to act calm, call my mom and patiently wait. Was it someone’s fault that I had a flat tire? Not intentionally. I had a nail in it. But, because I was reacting positively and laughing because, really, best case scenario for a flat tire – at a gas station, next to a restaurant with your mom nearby to help with your kid – things turned around. I did not have to wait 2 hours for a tow truck. When the tow guy got there, he thoroughly searched my car for the tool and was able to actually change my tire instead of towing me. The company I bought the tire from has lifetime flat repairs, so I was able to make an appointment that night and go in the next day to get my tire fixed for free.
Instinctually, when something like this happens we think “Oh no! Why me? This is going to ruin everything!! Dinner won’t be ready; I have so much to do, etc.”
But intentionally and with awareness, we are able to react positively and enjoy it more.
So yes, it might be difficult to get lost in nature or live off-grid intentionally. But it isn’t difficult to live intentionally in this digital age. You simply need to be aware, evaluate your intentions, offer grace to others and react positively.
Speaking of living intentionally, we have started a fun Instagram project called 52 Intentional Weeks. Each week we will have a word of the week and ask you questions to live with more intention. Follow along with #52intentionalweeks