The intention for an act is often overlooked when the act is habitual. Something that is done often, is almost second nature. Like driving a car, washing the dishes, or opening your emails as first thing in the morning.
When an act is done without intention, it is often found to be mundane. Something that is normal and something that just has to be done. For example, replying to emails is something that has to be done. Cleaning the kitchen. Mowing the lawn. But why do we do it?
Breaking down WHY
Understanding why is easier for some than it is for others. Some have a natural inclination towards immediately searching for the root cause. Others may be satisfied with accepting things as they are. And both are completely normal and both come with positive outcomes.
What makes being intentional so great? Being intentional isn’t always great. Starting the journey to being intentional is can be tedious. It means constantly thinking about what you’re doing. And sometimes – when you’ve been using your brain all day, thinking about why you do habitual actions isn’t ideal.
So why should we think about our intentions then? Though taking on the journey of being intentional can start out being difficult, it is at the same time, equally rewarding. Being intentional about every act can bring about a sense of clarity. It pushes you to think about the reason you choose to do something.
According to Nicola MacPhail, searching for your intention begins with looking at “what does done look like?”.
Intention and choice
Lets take a working day for example. Everyone has a routine that is followed. But why? Why do you open your emails when you just get to work? It brings structure, provides feedback and gives clarity on how your day will go.
It is your choice to follow a structured day. Because that is how you feel most productive. With structure and information, we can plan your day. (which gives you a sort of comfort). It is your choice of action. This allows you to understand that reading your emails is not only to reply to those who want it, but for your own sake. For your own sanity. To know in your mind that we have completed one thing that you needed to. And understanding this, makes a habitual task, something you are glad to do. Something that is in your favour. Because it enables you to structure our day the way you want to.
Thinking about an intention helps you understand who you are. It may be that we find ourselves working after hours. And then question why the company places so much responsibility on one person. But while working after hours, you realize that you put in extra effort. You choose to put in extra effort. You do what need to be done to get to the desired outcome. But why? Why are you sitting alone in the office while everyone is at home with their family?
This shows us our values. You may value commitment and following through (sticking to your word). While another person may have a different value. Neither person is wrong. But our actions and values have a direct relationship. So for example, you value people sticking to their word. So in your job, you gave your word that you would take on this responsibility. And now you feel the need to follow through. You value your contribution and providing sufficient effort to your team, attention to detail, providing work that is to an excellent standard. Therefore, it is a need for you to stay in after hours, to provide work you are proud of, since that is what you value. Everything that you value, comes through in your actions.
The relation between values and intention
According to Christie Inge, a well-crafted intention starts with your values and becomes a statement about how you want to show up in the world. They are guideposts for who you want to “be” and how you want to show up.
Once we appreciate our decisions, values and who we choose to be, it automatically pushes us to want to be better. Through appreciating who we are and what our intention is, we want to provide more and contribute more. The Care & Growth Model, further elaborates on this topic. Care & Growth is a universal leadership thematic, that is based on the premise that we exist to serve the other and, in doing so, we actually serve the highest of our own self-interest. It further elaborates on the giver and taker behaviour. Take a look at how Care & Growth can assist in personal development.
Clarify your intention before starting, during the task, and after
Clarifying our intention before a task helps to re-position our stance on the task. For example; “I am attending this meeting to receive information, provide information, and to learn something I didn’t know before”
Clarifying an intention before an action may be quite easy. But during whatever we are doing, it could turn out the exact opposite of what was imagined. That’s why we can then again, we can think of our intention. Now during the task, the intention may not be completely the same. But thinking of our intention during the task, may shift our mindset from a negative one to a positive one. Once the task is over and it went NOTHING like you thought it would, we can again think of our intention, and what we may have gained.
Thinking of the intention will always shift the reaction to a positive thought process. Because our intention would never be something bad. “I want to waste time”. We wouldn’t outwardly have that intention. Therefore, when we renew our intention through any action, it forces us to look at the action in a positive light. From a positive lens. And from a positive perspective.
Focusing on your intention helps you to focus on yourself. Once you are fixated about correcting your intention, and how your actions will benefit you and make you better, you wouldn’t have time to think about the next person’s actions.