When we have a strong intention, the probability of that intention coming to fruition is greatly increased. If things don't turn out the way we intended, a likely cause is a lack of strength in forming the intention. Of course, sometimes shit happens, but ...
Whether or not we have articulated it, each of us carries a world view --- what we think is real, how things work. From that expressed, or merely implied, view of reality, we develop a motivation for our life ("What is important about my life?"). From that overall motivation come our more immediate intentions, day-by-day, moment-to-moment. In the best case, our thoughts, words and actions are informed by our intentions, and are in accord with our view and motivation.
For some folks I know, it has been useful to develop a practice of "checking-in" with oneself each morning to ask, "What is my intention for this day?" or "How do I intend to be today?"
I might be break that down into thought, speech and action:
"Who do I intend to think about, or what do I intend to figure out?"
"How do I intend to speak to myself or to others?"
"What "work" do I intend to accomplish today?"
I might reflect further, inquiring into what I think the results might be, for myself and for others, if I am able to accomplish my intentions, or if I am not. I might contemplate whether my intentions for today are in accord with my overall motivation for my life.
During the day I might reflect on my intentions, and make any adjustments I think appropriate.
In the evening, just before going to sleep, I "check-out" with myself, asking the question, "How did it go today? Did I fulfill my intentions?" If so, I can take pride in that --- let it encourage me.
If not, then I can reflect on the reasons for that. I don't beat myself up; I'm just learning from my experience and taking that learning into the check-in the next morning.
This is a practice that doesn't take much time, but it takes a lot of discipline --- simple but not easy. To begin this practice, and form it into a positive habit through repetition, requires me to disrupt some habitual patterns --- what I am used to thinking and doing just after I wake up and just before I go to sleep. It is likely to have dramatic effects on my life, so it makes me a bit edgy. On the other hand, the cost of trying it is minimal, so there is very little downside risk --- other than the total disruption of my life as I now know it.
Other than productivity and innovation gains, what is the purpose of this practice? The purpose is two-fold. First, it is to increase the effectiveness and productivity of my work and my contribution to my enterprise. Second, and perhaps more important in the long run, it is to bring my attention to synchronizing my life. Am I really doing what I believe is most important? Am I living a life in accord with my highest values? Are my actions in accord with my intentions, my intentions in accord with my motivation, my motivation in accord with my world-view? Am I leading a life that I enjoy and that I am proud to live?
Here are some specific suggestions for how to get started (warning: this practice could take 15 minutes out of each day, leaving only 23 hours and 45 minutes for other things):
1. Get a nice journal, one that feels good in your hand and looks good beside your bed. You might name it "Intentions Journal" or something like that. It will be for your exclusive use for writing your daily intentions, reflections, and what really happened.
2. At a particular time near the beginning of your day (e.g. before you get out of bed, or after you brush your teeth or take a shower), and definitely before you engage in conversation or email, check-in with yourself, first just resting in stillness in a quiet place, then contemplating some of these, or other, relevant questions. Write down in your journal whatever you feel is useful, at least enough to remember your intentions for the day at your evening check-out and in future reviews of your practice:
“How do I feel this morning?”
“How do I intend to be today?”
“How do I intend to care for myself?”
“How do I intend to relate to my spouse, my family, my colleagues, my employees?”
“How do I intend to listen and speak today?”
“Who and what do I intend to think about?”
“What do I intend to accomplish?”
“Are these intentions in accord with what I think is important in my life?”
You might imagine, “If things go as I intend, what results would I expect to see?”
3. At times during the day, when you experience a “gap”, you might let go and relax, and within that moment of resting, reflect on your intentions for the day, refreshing them. This might happen once or several times, or not at all. Whatever happens is interesting in itself, neither better nor worse.
4. Just before turning in for the night, either just before or after you slip into bed, “check-out” with yourself, reviewing your notes from the morning check-in. Reflect on your day.
“How did it go”?
“Did I maintain mindfulness of my intentions through the day?”
“Which of my intentions did I adhere to and what results did I experience?”
“Which things didn’t go so well, and what resulted from that?”
“What surprises popped up for me today?”
“What did I learn today might influence this intention-setting practice tomorrow?”
5. Now just let go and relax, reminding yourself that there is no right or wrong way to do this practice. It’s just about awareness. Changes will appear gradually, scarcely noticeable day-to-day. There is no “finish line”; this is a practice. There will be results.
Example schedule (make up one that works for you):
Morning (10 – 15 minutes)
- Wake up
- Personal hygiene, whatever that is for you.
- In a quiet place, sit in silence and rest for 3 - 5 minutes, doing and thinking as little as possible.
- Contemplate your intentions for the day, using some of the questions above or others that have meaning for you.
- Write down in your Intentions Journal as much as you like, at least enough to remember the important points. The contemplation and recording might take 4-5 minutes.
- Now just sit and rest again for 3 - 5 minutes.
Whenever you remember, reflect on your intentions, refresh them, and check in on how it’s going
Bedtime (5 or 10 minutes)