In addressing the subject of intentions, I have found it to be rather nebulous and imprecise, but there are several important aspects of it that I feel need to be addressed in regards to communication.
What is an intention?
An intention is an idea that you plan (or intend) to carry out. It is something you “want to do” or something you “don’t want to do.” An intention is your purpose, aim, something you want to align with. It is different than a goal, which is something you want to achieve. It’s something you mean to do, whether you pull it off or not. Intentions are emotion driven and evoke feeling and purpose.
Since intentions are nonphysical and emotion-driven they can be stuffed so far back in your mind that you may not know they are there. Yet, when the right set of circumstances arise, they surface. Similar to an old memory that you haven’t thought about for years, maybe even, decades, but the right trigger pulls it to the forefront of your mind.
Jenny’s Hidden Intention
Jenny works in a law office on the fifth floor of a downtown office building close to the courthouse. As a young girl, her mother was always on her case about how she dressed to go out the front door. Her mother was an attorney and from an early age impressed on Jenny how to ‘dress for success.’ Years later, when she thought about it, she always smiled and got a warm feeling when she remembered her mother’s voice.
“Now, Jenny, you can wear either a dress, pants or skirt and a nice top, but the skirt or dress must be in the middle of your knee. Make sure your clothes are not too tight or revealing. You need to stick to white, blue, navy or gray. Never, I mean, never walk out of the house in crazy patterns or shocking fashions, never!”
From that early age, it became Jenny’s intention to always ‘dress for success.’ She didn’t have to think about it because it had become automatic. When she went clothes shopping she could tell the intent was emotion-driven. She just didn’t like clothes that fell onto her mother’s ‘never list.’
Thoughts and Emotions Build Intents
Emotions are basically a flow, of feelings and at the same time, an experience of them, such as joy, sadness, anger, fear. Thoughts trigger different emotions and emotions trigger different thoughts. They work hand in hand.
Thoughts and emotions have a profound effect on each other. Intentions are formed as a result of that effect.
Jenny’s Thoughts and Emotions
When Jenny thinks about her mother, she gets a feeling of sadness because her mother is no longer with her. The feeling then changes to warmth and love as she remembers her mother’s arms going around her. These are all thought driven emotions.
Once while shopping, a store clerk said, “I think you would look great in this,” as she handed a dress to Jenny try on. It was pink with big flowers. Jenny instantly felt disgust, “I would never wear that,” she said out loud, throwing up her hands as if she needed to protect herself and backed away from the dress with a sour look on her face like the clerk was trying to give her a dirty rag. This triggered an emotion-driven intent.
An Intention Is Revealed
Jenny’s intention is to honor her mother and never to buy or wear a pink dress with big flowers or a crazy pattern.
Are you aware of your thoughts, emotions, and intentions, on a moment by moment basis? Are you actually aware of how they, affect your vocal elements and body language in your communication?
I have to say that I haven’t been very aware. There’s also a good chance, most of you are not, either.
If you say or do something that affects another person and they comment on it, are you too busy defending your intentions – “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” – that you don’t see the effect it has had on them?
Again, I can’t say that I’m always aware of the effect my communication has on people. As I have written these posts, I’ve become much more aware of my communication and the communication of those around me.
When you say, “I didn’t mean…” you are NOT allowing the other person to feel heard. You are discounting the other person’s feelings and changing the focus back to yourself, where you can justify and defend your intentions, thoughts, emotions, and actions., demonstrating no empathy, understanding or remorse.
I have to say for me personally, too many times I have said something like, “I didn’t mean…” but never gave it another thought. I didn’t hear the person out or even consider their feelings.
It’s very easy to launch into defensiveness if what you hear sounds like it may be a criticism. I haven’t always checked the person’s intentions or if they meant what it sounded like.
I have jumped to an erroneous assumption with my husband only to discover what I thought he said or was implying wasn’t what he meant at all. Once we’ve gone defensive, it’s very hard to back out.
Intentions are nonphysical and cannot be detected by our five senses. Yet, they are as real as anything physical.
Becoming aware of your intentions is key because they precede and set the direction and tone of your communication, which in turn, results in action. Your action can take several different forms:
- Words flavored with verbal elements, such as tone, pitch, volume.
- Body language, body movement or posture, gesture, facial expression, eye contact, touch, adding space.
- Physically leaving.
Both our thoughts and emotions are a continuous flow which creates our intentions. They are always flowing, therefore, we often need to slow the process down and become aware of our thoughts, emotions and the intentions they create.
This morning as I prepared for the day I noticed my mind rushing from one item to the next, things that had to be done today. As I entered into prayer I was able to consciously slow the flow of thoughts and emotions and then determine my intention.
Many people worldwide begin each day with prayer or meditations to set their overall intentions for good, like the prayer in Psalm 19:14.
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
That’s a good start, but what about the curve balls life throws during the day. A boss that is unhappy with the work you turned in, kids who are just being kids, problems you face. Are you able to slow your mind and emotions down to create an intention that says what you really want it to say, which then affects every part of your communication?
Live With Intention
Loretta G. Breuning, Ph.D. in “Living With Intention” states that “we run on automatic for routine tasks with little or no thought to our intentions.” In automatic mode, we do not give thought to our emotions, words, body language, or actions while interacting with others. What pops into our mind often comes out of our mouth without any thought.
In comparison, when we live with intention, we are aware of our thoughts and emotions. We notice the effect our words and body language have on others. We think before we speak or act.
We can become aware of our intentions. But it does take more mental energy and thought that running on automatic.
Living with intention will create different results in our life.
Jenny and Frank
Jenny had spent time praying before starting her day and had had a fantastic day. She was late going to lunch because she was wrapping everything up on a major project that her boss seemed to really like.
She walked down the hall toward the lunch room, oblivious to everything around her, basking in the success of her project.
She was dressed as usual, in a gray pantsuit with a soft white silk shirt. As she walked into the lunch room she saw Frank sitting at the far end on the only table in the room.
He sat eating a burger that he had gotten at the corner hamburger stand. The sauce dripped down his hand and arm and onto the hamburger wrapper on the table.
When Jenny walked in he said ‘hi’ to her with a mouth full of food.
Frank a very opinionated, middle-aged, slightly overweight, man who worked as a paralegal in Jenny’s law office. He always wore a short-sleeved, usually white, dress shirt that always needed ironing. His shirttail hung out on one side, with a dribble of sauce down the front.
He always seemed to be a source of irritation to Jenny, so she tried, on a regular basis, to avoid him as often as possible, but she was late to lunch today.
Still trying to maintain her good intentions and cheery attitude, she tried to ignore him until he said, “Honey, you really should wear fall colors, which bring out the green in your eyes instead of the lighter colors which make you look washed-out.”
Jenny had been practicing “Living with Intention.” She gave Frank a smile. She could feel that it was forced, but it was a smile.
She took several deep breaths trying to calm her emotions and her thoughts and hoping that her voice and body language would show a good intent. She finally managed to say with a soft voice, “Thank You,” all-the-while wanting to “knock his block off” but not wanting to show her negative intention.
Jenny got her lunch out of the frig and headed back to her desk to eat. She rarely ate at her desk because she want a break from her office, but not today.
Instead, she decided to work on what she called “Setting Her Intentions.”
Set Your Intentions
Setting your intentions allows you to focus on who you are in the moment. It helps you work toward achieving your dreams and gives your purpose. It is something you need to work on daily to achieve.
According to Marla Tabaka “Many entrepreneurs are excellent at identifying their values and know that living within their interpretation of them is a powerful way to achieve success, and more importantly, happiness. Daily intentions can help you do that.”
Many of our thoughts, emotions, and intentions aren’t that easy to determine. Many times, we just don’t like the direction of our life. We don’t have the loving attitude that we’d like or we seem to be operating on automatic all the time. Sometimes there is a particular situation that needs attention. Try this.
Find a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts and emotions. Make sure you have a notebook, journal, something, and a pen to answer questions and take notes about your personal discoveries.
Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths and relax. Focus on your breathing. Don’t change it, just become aware of it. After a few minutes, become aware of your physical body. Start with your core, around your abdomen. Focus on how you feel. After a few minutes move outward toward your arms and legs. Notice any tension, stress or pain. Relax. The purpose of the exercise is to learn how to be aware of your thoughts and emotions to set your intentions.
Start in the center, around your abdomen and concentrate on how you are feeling. Move outward toward your arms and legs noticing any tension or pain. The purpose of this exercise is to get our mind to systematically focus on individual parts of our body. In doing so we are able to direct our mind as a discipline.
Melissa Eisler in Intention Setting 101, states that “your intention should be closely tied to your personal thoughts, values, and perspective on life. Intentions can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase you’d like to align yourself with, like ‘open your mind and heart,’ ‘love,’ ‘softness,’ ‘strength,’ ‘compassion for myself and others,’ ‘peace,’ or ‘freedom.’”
Make sure you chose an intention that is positive, not negative. Our mind picks up, as reality, what we say and repeat.
Proverbs 23:7 “For as ‘a man’ thinketh in his heart, so is he…”
Questions by Melissa Eisler:
- What matters most to you?
- What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?
- What would you like to let go of?
- Who would you like to forgive in your life?
- How do you feel when you are your happiest self?
- What makes you proud?
- What word(s) would you like to align yourself with?
- What fears would you like to release?
- What are you grateful for?
10 Intentions You Can Borrow
By Melissa Eisler
You can borrow one of these if it resonates with you, but try to create something personal for yourself.
- Find balance
- Open your mind and heart
- Stay steady, calm and focused
- Act with courage
- Embrace change
- Give and receive love
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable
- Connect with others
If you don’t consciously choose your intentions then your unconscious thoughts, emotions, and intentions will take over. You have to consciously choose!
We can choose intentions that will change the course of our lives, take you to a different destination.
In addition to choosing long-range intentions, you must also be aware of the intentions you are choosing on a moment by moment basis. Set intentions for yourself for each day to eliminate some of the automatic intentions, like an off the cuff remark that may be hurtful to someone else. The automatic intentions or responses will lessen.
You are used to setting goals of things to accomplish on a daily and weekly basis, but most of us don’t set intentions at all.
When was the last time you looked at what you wanted to change in the way you communicate with coworkers, significant others, children, or friends? Have you thought about who you need to forgive or make amends with? Do you feel balanced and at peace? What fears do you need to release? Have you made a list of things and people you are grateful for?
If you can’t answer these questions, perhaps it’s time to Set Your Intentions.
You can train yourself to become, aware of your thoughts, your emotions, and set your intentions to become more of the person you have always desired to be.