Intentions and Mindfulness: How Being Mindful Keeps You Focused on What Matters
The key to making any lasting change, is repeating many small steps over time. That’s true when it comes to establishing a mindfulness practice. And it’s also true when it comes to setting the intentions that are the foundation for what you do and how you become stronger, kinder and more effective in 2018.
Mindfulness and intentions go hand-in-hand. Here’s how it works:
As you start to live with more mindfulness and less on autopilot, you will become more conscious about setting intentions and living into them. The greater awareness you will achieve by practicing mindfulness will help you stay focused. When you create space in your noisy, busy mind to access awareness, you can tune in to what is important and then set an intention for whatever it is that is essential now- your client meeting, the tone of an email, giving feedback to a direct report.
Intentions are more powerful when they come from a calm, centered place rather than from a place of feeling lacking, not good enough, or generally anxious. So it is helpful to set your intentions for the day in the morning after sitting in stillness and breathing mindfully.
Mindfulness has three components: intention, attention, and attitude. Intentions guide where you place your attention, and the attitude or mindset you hold as you meet the moments in your day. When moments of choice arise in the day, stay connected to your center. Think of this as your inner GPS with intentions as your magnets, pulling you in the direction of your choosing. Don’t give into to the influence or criticism of others or your own self-doubt.
As with any practice, consistency is the key. Here are some tips that will help you set intentions, and make mindfulness a seamless part of your life:
1. Make it a daily practice. Choose a time in your morning to set intentions. Make it a habit by doing it just after something you already do, such as after you are sitting in stillness or as part of journaling.
2. Listen to your inner wisdom. First, settle your mind with a few calming breaths and ask yourself: What matters most today? What matters most this week? What does my heart long for? These answers will point to intentions you can set.
3. Mine your “flow” list for intentions. Create a short list of activities that make you feel alive —times when you feel the most aware and vibrant. Some of my joys are being present with my daughter, creating art, swimming in open water, connecting deeply with clients, and teaching mindfulness. You can set an intention to create time for one or more of the activities that gives you a boost, and be open and present when you do it.
4. Set intentions for seeing, being, and doing. What do you want to see more of? Beauty, wonder, acts of kindness, good news, humorous moments, the glass half-full? How do you want to “be” today? Calm, focused, open-minded, patient, generous, accepting, gentle, forgiving? What do you want to do more? Stop and breathe, listen deeply to others, do one thing at a time? Keep it short and simple.
5. Use ink. Write down your intentions on a small card or sticky note for your desk or refrigerator to bring your focus back and inspire yourself throughout the day.
6. Share intentions with loved ones. At breakfast, discuss what your intentions are for the day. This ritual not only supports the habit of setting intentions, but also lets you connect with your roommates, partner, or kids in a deeper way, and find ways to support them as they live out their own intentions.
Ultimately, as setting and using intentions becomes natural and easy for you, you will find your mind taking a pause before any important part of your day to get clear on what matters most. Your intentions guide you — and a clear sense of direction is a source of happiness in itself.