Sunday, September 12, 2010

Set Intentions Mindfully

The practice of mindfulness often refers to intentions. For example, I’m working on my meditation practice, so I start the week with an intention to mediate earlier in the day. Is that different than my intention to go to the supermarket after work? Is it the same as my intention not to yell at my child? How does the intention affect my behavior? Is it even worth setting an intention?

There’s evidence that setting an intention and making it public do help with behavior change. You set your quit date (cigarettes, chocolate cake, whatever your poison) and start telling people and it improves your outcome. Intentions are good for all sorts of changes we desire. Think about what you’d like to be doing differently and consider how you might set an intention for yourself.

A few suggestions on intentions.

* Becoming aware our intentions is a start. Although I wanted to write a blog for the past week, I did not set a specific intention to do so until today. Think about it. Do you ever do anything without first intending to? If you do, I challenge you to go back and try to identify whether there was really a little bit of an intention, even if unacknowledged. If you really can’t identify your intention, that’s okay, you can set an intention to notice your intentions. No, I’m not kidding. And you can always just go on to the next step, which is setting an intention.

* Make a conscious choice about your intention. What is it you want? And how do you intend to get it? Do you want to notice every time you go into the kitchen to get something to eat and ask yourself the 3 mindful eating questions? Do you want to stop yelling at your kids and become more mindful? Do you want to get your expenses handed in on time?

* Remind yourself about the intention. How will you do it? You can write down your intention for the day or week in a lovely journal. That’s great, but if you do be sure to decide when you’ll refer to that lovely journal, lest it just gather dust on the shelf with your other new year’s resolutions. You can leave yourself little sticky notes in prominent places to remind you. You can set your phone to remind you. You get the idea.

* Continuing the work without judgment. In other words, work on your intention, notice if you’re sticking to it, but don’t start telling yourself your bad, lazy or a slacker if you don’t get it done as often as you’d like. Just notice, and remind yourself again of what the intention is. Keep at it.

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