Setting an Intention

In yoga classes I often ask students to “set and intention” for the class as we begin. This intention, or purpose, can set the tone of the entire class. An empowering intention can make be the difference between moving through class with “the wind at your back” and struggling through in a hope that it will come to an end quickly! Intention setting is not some esoteric principle. It is something that we do every day whether you know it or not.

Today my intention was to "tip-toe through the tulips" - mission accomplished!

Think about your own day (pick a day, like today). If you went to work or school or on a trip somewhere, when you walked out your door to start your day, you had an intention with regards to where you were going. Whenever I put the keys in the ignition of my car, I have a point to why I am turning on the car. Either it is to get to work, go to the store, visit a friend or do something else with a purpose. There is always a reason, even if the reason if to just go for a joy-ride!

In the same way, when students roll-out their yoga mat they are their for a reason, be it conscious or not. In making a conscious and directed purpose for practice there is an opportunity to create a positive meaning for the time and effort spent. It is also a chance to anchor a practice to something positive. After all, it is a lot easier to push through a physically challenging asana if there is a motivating reason for it! In the same reason, it is easier to deal with a challenging situation at work or while traveling if you have a motivating force behind your actions.

Red, red and more red! These tulips are incredible!

As with yoga class, there is power in setting an intention for your day. When I get up every morning, I  set an intention for how I intend to be to be during the day. The intention is never based on an outcome (which is impossible to control) but always centered on my own way of being (which is completely within my control!). Here are a few examples of empowering intentions – in the form of “Today my intention is to….”

  • …be an outstanding example for others
  • …see the humor in every situation
  • …stay present
  • …relax and have fun
  • …see the best in everyone
  • …focus on doing what matters
  • …serve without expectation
  • …to give it my best effort, nothing more and nothing less

Try this practice out for the next few days. When you wake up in the morning (perhaps after a meditation) make it a point to set an intention. Come back to it on a regular basis (perhaps every time you have something to eat or drink), and watch your days take on a whole new meaning.

Empowering intentions can indeed add some color to your life!

Know what you don't want

As you start setting your intentions and aspirations for the new year, don’t fret if you can’t pinpoint the exact things that you want to do, places you want to visit, people you want to meet or other experiences you want to have. Try as best you can to make your intention something that is empowering and motivating for you, and back it up with a few specific actions you can take to realize that intention in the world (e.g. goals).

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Then recognize that there are a lot of things going on out there in the world, and you might not be able to pinpoint the exact experiences you want to have and goals you want to achieve in the coming year…yet.

For me, I create a list of intentions for every new year, and a few goals that substantiate each one. For example, one intention I have this year is to Embody My True Personal Power and Vitality, and one goal in line with this is to compete in a off-road trail running race this year (distance isn’t important). That said, I don’t at this point have all my specific goals nailed down, and that is ok. I know that as the days move on I’ll have a clearer idea of the specific goals I want….goals that are lined up with my intentions for the year.

However, this year I am also going to try something new….I am going to spend a little (not a ton, but some) time doing is identifying a list of things I don’t want to experience this year! I am motivated to do this after reading this little quote by Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

It got me thinking. I think many people, especially those who are motivated to grow personally and professionally, often get oversubscribed with doing things…and this makes it tough to 1) really focus on the things that matter and 2) take advantage of ad-hoc fun experiences that pop up from time to time.

For example, just a few days ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to go to go snowshoeing for a few days….staying in a “Yurt” near Mt. Rainier. Apparently, someone in the group fell sick and a spot opened up. With 24 hours notice, I was able to take advantage of this since I hadn’t booked my weekend full of random stuff to do. It ended up being one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a long time.

So after you’ve spent time setting your intentions and creating your vision board, think about a few things you are willing to cut-back on or totally cut-out. Do so and you might just end up creating the free time and space to really achieve those lofty goals, and have a ton of fun in the process.

The Power of Purpose

This weekend I got in my car, turned the key and did so with a purpose. I was taking a trip for the weekend. I didn’t just get in my car and start driving around aimlessly. I knew where I wanted to go (Portland, OR) and why I wanted to go there (to spend time with my family). I had a purpose. It might have been a straightforward one, but it was still a purpose.

Throughout our lives, we do things for reasons. Conscious or unconscious as those reasons may be. Lucky for all of us, it is simple for us to consciously direct our reasons for acting in a manner that provide us with a strong incentive, motivation and momentum for moving in an appropriate direction. This is the power of purpose.

What is a purpose? A purpose is a reason for acting that is bigger than the act itself. It is a source of energy for sticking to your guns even when things might get tough. It is an intention.

Cultivating a strong purpose for doing simple things in daily life makes it easier to also identify with a strong purpose when tackling big goals. For example, some people seem to struggle to get out of bed every morning. For decades, it becomes a battle against the alarm clock. Coffee and other stimulants come into play for a little added motivation. Invariably we get up because we feel that have to, not that we want to. This is the problem.

For others, the so called early risers, waking up is not a struggle. Or at least, it isn’t any more. Is it really the case that these people are biologically different than the rest of us? Do they really know something the rest of us do not? Or perhaps, is it really that they just have more compelling reasons for getting out of bed?

I know for me, getting up is no problem at all when I know there is a ton of snow dumping down in the mountains, and I’m bound for a full day of snowboarding. Why then, don’t I have the same zeal when it comes to getting up early to prepare for an 8am meeting at work?

At the end of the day, it is the purpose for doing things that is the ultimate motivator for us. If the purpose for getting up early is simply to avoid the shame of being the last person into the meeting room, or to do something that we have to do (as opposed to want to or get to do) – we’re bound to feel like we are swimming against the tide.

However, if our motivation for getting up early is to make a difference in the world, learn something new, make progress against our biggest goals or in some way enrich our lives – waking up becomes a whole lot easier.

In other words, the purpose behind our actions is where all of our power lies. Cultivate a strong sense of purpose for the simple activities that you do in life, and you’ll approach those activities with an entirely new perspective and far more energy and vigor than you ever thought you had. Who knows….you just might end up waking up earlier as well!

Cultivating a strong sense of purpose for simple activities will also make it easier for you to apply the same way of being to the big goals in your life. Want to get super fit? Really tap into the real purpose for why you need to exercise. Need to grow your business 20% in the next year? Connect with how doing that will really make a big difference in the world. I think you get the point.

So here is a simple exercise to help you develop a stronger sense of purpose in your daily life. Try it out for a week and let me know how it works for you.

  1. Every day in the morning, write down a list of things that you are looking to accomplish that day.
  2. Pick one, two or even three of these things. They could be activities relating to big goals that you might have, menial duties around the house (like cleaning!) or just something that you have a tendency to procrastinate on (maybe exercising?).
  3. For each of these items, write a few sentences about why the activity is important for you and those around you. Make sure you think about how the activity has a purpose beyond just your own life. How does it help your family, your community, your world? How does it align with your overall goals? Of course, if you are really struggling to find a purpose for the activity, then maybe it isn’t serving you and deserves to be dropped from your list of activities!
  4. Now, write down the few specific things that you will do to make progress against each of these outcomes.
  5. Re-read through everything that you wrote a few times.
  6. At the end of your day, go back to what you wrote, and reflect on how your new purpose impacted what you were able to accomplish during the day.

Try this out and leave a comment letting me know how it goes.