What Is Your Intent? Reminding Yourself Why You Do What You Do.
Research shows that the most successful and resilient people are driven by a sense of purpose. However, for many of us, everyday work can become routine and boring, or totally overwhelming and stressful. Reminding ourselves of our deeper aspirations (our intents) can help find new passion and purpose in our work, or help us admit that it is time to make a change.
An intent is who we aspire to be -- as individuals, members of our community (family, workplace) or citizens of our planet. As a child, my father, the well-known author Deepak Chopra, would regularly ask my brother and I what we wanted. We would respond with things like tickets to a concert, new clothes or video games. He would patiently guide us to think about the qualities in our life that we wanted -- love, connection, joy and a sense of purpose.
An intent represents our deepest desires -- those emotional and spiritual yearnings that we ask for when we are honest and authentic. Intents are different from goals. Goals are task oriented, come from the mind and often have an end result. Intents are emotional and come from the soul.
In the New York Times bestselling book Well-being, the Gallup organization outlines the five essential elements for a thriving, healthy life: career, social, financial, physical and community well-being. While ideally we would be thriving in all five areas, financial and career well-being often feel beyond our control because we have family and community commitments.
While responsibilities may seem overwhelming and our jobs at times mundane or stressful, sometimes it is helpful to remind ourselves why we do what we do and find new ways to motivate ourselves. Here are some ideas that you may want to try to reconnect with your desires and find daily motivation:
1. Try this meditation, and ask yourself, "What do I want?"
You can do this exercise anywhere -- in bed, in your office, or in your car before you head home. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe in and out. While breathing in, count to three in your head. One. Two. Three. While breathing out, count to four in your head. One. Two. Three. Four.
Take three breaths like this. In and out. In and out. In and out.
Now, ask yourself: What do I want?
If the first thing that comes up is a material desire -- like, I want money, that is normal. Push yourself a little more, and ask why. What desire will that fulfill? Remember to be honest with yourself -- this is a personal exercise.
2. Set a micro-intent for today.
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to think about what our life intents or desires are -- it may be helpful to take little steps first!
In the morning, before you start work, set an intent just for today. Perhaps it is: My intent is to connect with someone new today. Or, my intent is to break my routine today. My intent is to express gratitude to my coworkers today.
Try to set a micro-intent for every day for one week.
3. End your day with gratitude.
The research on gratitude is compelling. Gratitude can help you sleep better, have more empathy, reduce depression and have more mental strength.
Expressing gratitude is something that is easy to do -- and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
At the end of the day, before you go to sleep, take a deep breath, put your attention on your heart and think of one thing you are grateful for. When you think about what you are grateful for, you start to be more conscious of what makes you feel loved and happy.
The first step to achieving anything in life is to know what you want. Our desires and aspirations change over time, and it's important to check in and reassess if you are on the right path. Once you're clear about your deepest desires, you can start thinking about the ways you can achieve them. You can set goals and milestones to make the changes that will make you healthier, happier, more connected and of service.
It is not possible to change our jobs or careers easily, but an intent is like a seed. A seed is full of potential -- we plant it, let the soil, rains and sun nurture it, and trust that, in time, it will blossom into a beautiful tree or flower. Once we know our intents, we get more comfortable expressing our desires to ourselves, to our loved ones and to our community. We start to seek out opportunities to live out our desires through our relationships, our work and our daily activities. We start to find more purpose in small ways, day by day.