As a mother you’re probably familiar with the term Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD. This is an issue that affects an estimated 11% of children and 8% of adults in the U.S. Some of the symptoms are difficulty paying attention, losing focus easily and trouble controlling impulses.
My son was diagnosed with ADD when he was 4 years old but thankfully with the help of his teachers and my study of behavior management skills, he was able to learn how to manage his mind and his behavior, to successfully navigate challenges at school and to focus on the task at hand. He is now 23 years old and a successful Software Developer.
While the term Attention Deficit may be familiar, the less familiar term Intention Deficit is something I believe we all suffer with to certain degrees without knowing it. Intention Deficit is when you are living your life unconsciously as opposed to living on purpose; when you aren’t clear on the direction you want to go and are stuck focusing on what you don’t want rather than on what you do want.
Here are some indications that you may have it:
- You tend to just go day by day, week by week, trying to keep your sanity from Monday to Friday
- You feel overwhelmed or stressed more than 50% of the time
- You have certain habits that aren’t giving you the results you want
- You often make decisions based on other people’s expectations or opinions
- You feel like you’re just not heading in the right direction in your life or your career
- You aren’t working towards any goal that could stretch you personally or professionally
Living with intention can show up in “big picture” decisions like what you want your career to look like in 5 years and taking steps to make that happen as well as “small picture” decisions like getting clear about your intention before calling that friend to complain to them about something they did.
Living with intention means the difference between blaming people, places and things for your life versus taking responsibility for your life; it puts you in the driver’s seat of a beautiful Italian sports car with the top down as opposed to a rusty old mini-van.
This week I’m going to discuss what it means to live with intention, why it matters and how to get better at it.
What it means to live with intention
One of the most common things that clients want to be coached on is what to do. They have an issue that they are confused about and they want some guidance on what to do.
The real issue that I work with them on is not necessarily what they choose to do, but much more importantly, the intention behind it. You want to make sure that you set an intention that is useful because you are going to get an entirely different result with seemingly the same actions.
For example, let’s say your husband made a comment that you feel hurt or angry about. You recognize that your thoughts about your husband’s comment are creating your feelings but you want to know if you should tell him how you feel or whether you shouldn’t bother.
Here’s where intention is so important. You have to ask yourself:
- Am I hoping to change his mind about something?
- Am I trying to control him?
- Am I trying to punish him in some way?
- Am I hoping that he’ll feel sorry and apologize?
- Am I looking for him to say something so that I can feel better?
If your intention is any of the above, then I recommend pausing before acting. When you suffer with Intention Deficit you are unaware of how your actions will create your results. More often than not you react to situations without deciding ahead of time, without having the awareness of how you think and feel before you act.
By first having the awareness of the result you intend to create, you then have the power to create a better result. Instead of allowing the primitive brain’s default mode to think “He shouldn’t have said that”, which makes you feel angry and then leads you to get him to feel bad for what he said, you can use your higher brain to make a better decision.
When you live with intention you may still decide that you want to talk to your husband but you can also decide that you want to come from a place of love, honesty or intimacy. Taking action from the feeling of love and connection could mean you say “I love you and I just wanted to share with you what I was thinking and feeling when you said XYZ”.
Setting an intention to share your truth means it doesn’t matter how he responds. Deciding ahead of time how you want to think and feel creates your experience of any situation.
Living with intention means being aware of and taking charge of how you think, feel and act. It means showing up as your best-self based on what you choose to think instead of wondering why you have the results you have and wondering “How did this happen?”.
Why living with intention matters
Living with intention means you decide ahead of time what you want for your life. You decide how you want to spend your time, how you want to show up in your relationships, what kind of parent you want to be, what direction you want to go in your career. The options are endless.
On the flip side, when you live with Intention Deficit you tend to be unhappy with where your life is at and often try to feel better by numbing with things like food, shopping, alcohol or social media. A lack of intention can manifest in:
- Creating lists but never following through
- Often getting swept away in negative emotions
- Having repetitive, unhelpful thoughts that seem to be on a constant loop
- Believing that your buttons get pushed easily
- Blaming circumstances for how you feel
The reason that living with intention matters is because it helps you create the life you want rather than being stressed about the life you have. If you’ve been feeling powerless then learning how to live with intention is going to give you your power back.
Without intention you are directionless; you get in your car and just drive without any destination in mind. When you learn to set intentions you know exactly where you want to go, you enter it into the GPS, you don’t abort the trip just because the GPS is rerouting you and you get to your destination.
It’s important to have an awareness of your attention as well as your intention. By paying attention you are being present with where you are; you create awareness and presence in your life. By setting intentions you are planning where you want to go by creating a vision for how you want to experience your life.
How to get better at it
Before you learn how to get better at setting intentions, ask yourself “Am I waiting for circumstances to change so that I can start living my best life?” Have you been waiting for the kids to be a certain age, for your boss to recognize your value, to lose those 20 pounds?
If you wait for circumstances to change you will be waiting a long time and putting off what you want. There are probably areas of your life that you feel dialed in, that are working for you, but I’m pretty sure there are also other areas that aren’t.
Whether it’s your work, relationships, self-care or any other area, learning how to set intentions and then having a commitment to that intention is how to get a better future. You cannot just passively consume information and expect things to change; you need to actively apply what you are learning.
A word of caution if you are a perfectionist – you know you are great at creating elaborate plans, downloading that latest app to help you make the changes you want to make, getting super pumped to do this thing! But let’s be honest – you don’t follow through with those plans, you use that app for a week and forget about it and you get distracted by the next “shiny object”.
What happens is that you get an adrenaline rush with the excitement of the possibility of a new result you want but then the discomfort that comes with change becomes apparent and you lose interest. Setting an intention often means making a change and the primitive brain does not like change.
To have what you want you have to be willing to be uncomfortable in the process. Everything you want is on the other side of discomfort.
I suggest starting small when you are learning to set intentions. You can always have a big vision for what you want, create a big intention but I encourage you to then create small daily intentions. This helps reduce overwhelm and gently control the perfectionist “all or nothing” mentality.
I believe that setting intentions first thing in the morning is the best way to start the day. You are using the higher part of your brain to decide the intention for the day, you are choosing it on purpose and you are paying attention to how you want to think and feel about it.
You could choose things like liking your husband for the day, thinking positively about your boss for the day or enjoying that spin class instead of dreading it just for today. It doesn’t matter if you feel resistance towards your intention for the day, it only matters that you are choosing to think, feel or do something on purpose.
Imagine you have a huge menu in front of you to choose how you want to experience the next 5 minutes, the next 24 hours or the next week. What do you want to think, feel or do? Remember that the circumstances of your life are what they are and don’t need to change in order for you to have any experience you want.
Let’s say you want to feel better at work so you set an intention to make work more enjoyable. Up until now you’ve been frustrated with your boss, your workload is overwhelming and your coworkers aren’t pulling their weight.
In order to accomplish the big intention of making work enjoyable you would set a daily intention each workday morning. Maybe for one week you decide each morning that you want to feel more respectful of your boss so you choose to think “He really is good at what he does” or any other thought that is believable.
Once you set a daily intention to feel more respectful and you choose the thought you’re going to practice, your brain gets to work creating a new thought pattern. By setting an intention each day, you create a new neural pathway in your brain that, over time, will have you less frustrated with your boss and enjoying work more.
No matter how big your intention is, breaking it down into daily steps or even hourly steps will add up. The only thing that matters is that you are choosing how you want to show up.
Intention deficit is completely manageable when you learn how to manage your mind. A whole new experience of life doesn’t happen overnight but you can pay attention in this moment and create an intention for the next. That’s how you evolve into the best version of yourself.
- Intention Deficit means you are living your life unconsciously as opposed to living on purpose.
- The reason that living with intention matters is because it helps you create the life you want rather than being stressed about the life you have.
- When you learn to set intentions you know exactly where you want to go, you enter it into the GPS, you don’t abort the trip just because the GPS is rerouting you and you get to your destination.
- Whether it’s your work, relationships, self-care or any other area, learning how to set intentions and then having a commitment to that intention is how to get a better future.
If you’d like some help with setting intentions, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get to work together.