I have myriad personal and professional goals that I want to achieve. I made a personal goal sheet that I hang on my refrigerator door. Each morning, when I open the refrigerator door and grab the creamer for my morning cup of coffee, the goal sheet silently stares back at me. I am reminded of the goals waiting to be accomplished, waiting to be achieved. It is a memo to self of all I have to do and have yet to accomplish.
At times this goal sheet can leave me feeling depleted and worn; it is a daily reminder of what I have not done. So I am making a conscious effort to increase my daily intentions, my deepest wishes for myself and the world that align with my authentic self.
Intentions are different from goals. Intentions are focused on the here and now, the present moment. Intentions are formed by my most heartfelt wishes, my passions, and my truth.
My goals are future-oriented: what can I accomplish or do next? Goals involve planning and specificity and typically have an external quality. I was frequently waiting to feel “happy or fulfilled” based on the external, the goal, rather than finding happiness in the present. I have this goal-setting thing down. It is setting intentions that I find much harder.
So why is this age-old Buddhist concept of intention so hard to grasp and incorporate into daily life? I like the analogy of the car. Instead of always being in drive in life, shift down to neutral. Yet, why is it so difficult to shift to neutral, if just for a few moments?
I run nearly every day after work. I always set an intention just prior to the run. It typically consists of something like “I will be present. I will leave my worries and fears behind. I will cleanse myself of the day.”
When I run I am mindful of how I carry my body: Are my hands relaxed? Are my shoulders tight? I listen to my breath; my breathing gets heavier and heavier as the distance lengthens. I hear the sound of my feet as they hit the pavement, then the sound they make as I transition to running onto the gravel surface below. I am able to cleanse myself on the run, leave behind my worries from work, all my lists and just “be.” I am able to focus on the now, my form, the sounds and sensations surrounding me.
So instead of wondering if my miles on the run today will be faster or my heart rate per minute will be in the aerobic training zone, per my GPS training watch, I enjoy the present and let go, cleansing myself of the various stressors of the day. When engaging in physical activity I find the concept of intention readily available to me. My body enters into an altered physiological state via the run, and I am free in these moments. But frequently, when I am not running, my mind wanders back to personal and professional goals, what’s next, what can I accomplish today?
Goals allow for accomplishment and a planned future outcome, but I can often be left feeling frenzied as a result of what is left to do and what has not been done. So, I am working on increasing my intentions, allowing myself to be in the now, enjoying and finding happiness in the present moment.
It takes effort to avoid losing oneself in the goal setting or daily activities of life, like the shopping that needs to be done or the bill that’s due tomorrow. But for today, I chose to awaken my spirit, body and mind, by reflecting on my intentions, my truth.