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On Living with Intention

We’ve all heard one phrase or the other around ‘intentions’ – whether that’s setting them or living with them. Somehow we’ve made it very complex and mysterious and I think it’s become far too easy to mystify particular things that really shouldn’t be all that complicated.

Sometimes people do this for personal gain, i.e. the more complex they make it sound, the easier it is for them to make a profit from explaining it to you. On other occasions, people get some form of a high from being gatekeepers around particular topics and areas of life. Sometimes the mysticism surrounding particular topics is actually fuelled by the laziness that we have when it comes to understanding something that we haven’t been familiar with for the bulk of our lives.

I see all of this when it comes to discussing and exploring intentions or living with intentionality. Even in trying to write this blog post I found it so difficult to actually try to explain the crux of it.

Simply put, I’d link it to moving purposefully. Deciding what you want and letting your actions, thoughts and behaviours reflect that. Throughout this post, I’ll make reference to the following:

  • Setting intentions – deciding what you want for or from something. This will then guide the decisions you make and actions you take.
  • Questioning intentions – taking the time out to examine existing desires, hopes and approaches you may have towards a particular endeavour or relationship.
  • Living intentionally – moving or behaving purposefully.
  • Changing intentions – deciding to pivot from the current desires, hopes and approaches you have towards a particular endeavour or relationship.

What’s the alternative?

The first thing I’d like to say about intentionality is that if you don’t think it’s necessary to incorporate it into the way you live, then I’d ask you to explore what the alternative of that might be. If setting intentions, no matter how frequently you choose to do so, seems like a futile exercise – then what does the alternative look like?

Do we not then end up living by happenstance (which a lot of us are comfortable with) until we experience the rude awakening of failure that we didn’t plan for but at the same time didn’t plan to avoid…?

Even if setting intentions for you is an activity that happens once or twice a year, to me that seems better than not taking the time out to explore what you want in particular areas or aspects of life. You can become really granular with it and choose to set intentions for every single task but I think the main thing to focus on instead is the principle behind it which to me speaks more to moving purposefully through life.

When you move with intention, you aren’t as easily swayed by all of the unexpected forces that come your way – from other peoples opinions, to trends, tragedies, etc 

For example, in disagreements with loved ones or when I feel hurt by someone else’s actions, I often ask myself – who do I want to be?
This trumps what the easiest reaction would be and forces me to lean into my intentions around the kind of person I want to become, even beyond the pain I currently feel. The intention I’ve set becomes the fuel as opposed to the emotions I experience.

What does living with intention actually look like?

The second thing I’d like to point out in thinking about it, is that sometimes living with intentionality looks like setting intentions as well as examining your intentions. In particular seasons in scenarios it may just be that you need to question your motives or your desires surrounding particular actions or decisions. This can be done through a quick internal dialogue as opposed to a lengthy process of mapping out what you want over 100 pages of a notebook.

Over the past year I’ve also loved exploring the fact that I have the power to create the life I want. I can move from the space of living like life is happening to me, to making things happen in life. And part of this involves setting intentions.

The analogy I love to give is one I heard Jordan B. Peterson explain where he spoke about how our minds work when it comes to setting goals and intentions. He explained that when you think about or are exposed to a particular car for example, your mind all of a sudden begins to see everyone else that has that same car on the road. These cars were there all along, but now your mind is filtering everything else out as noise and unnecessary information based on the targets set before it. 

Intentionality and pivoting

Setting intentions doesn’t mean that you will always get the desired result, simply based on the fact that you can’t always control every variable involved. But what it does mean for me is that even when the arrow misses the intended target, my lessons and insights gained from that venture are seen in light of the desired target that I had in mind.

So simply put setting intentions helps with acquiring specific feedback even in light of failure.

Even if you don’t always have a concrete plan, you can have an intention. Over time, your intention should feed your plans. 

Setting intentions allows you to pivot when needed because you aren’t tied to the goal in an irrevocable way but the intention instead. You’re aware you can take an alternate journey to the goal instead. 

Always remember, you can:

  • Set your intention
  • Question your intentions
  • Change your intention

Questioning your intentions requires honesty. For example, often with content creation and business goals, I have to ask myself, am I doing it for approval and acceptance or for the betterment of those who experience what I create?
Sometimes we won’t like the answers we might find when we ask the hard questions, but nonetheless we must ask them at least to avoid the chaos that often comes as a result of choosing to bury our heads in the sand instead.

How do I actually do this?

Living with intention will look different from person to person as well as in each season. The main takeaway I want to leave you with is having the mindset and moving purposefully through life. In some circumstances you’ll need to question your intentions and in others you may need to actually set them – decide what you want the outcome to be as opposed to living in happenstance.

Sometimes you may need to journal in order to do this, other times just creating space to look inward without all the extra noise is a part of the process. Especially when it comes to intentions around life decisions that are the norm or expected societally – you may have to question what you really think about it and if you actually desire it or have been told to.

A simple place to start is to be willing to ask yourself “why” often.

If you’d like, you can also create a framework for yourself where you’re able to examine and/or set intentions prior to particular important decisions. Whatever approach you adopt, just ensure you are moving purposefully and allowing that to be reflected in your actions and decision making.


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