Intentionality is a gamechanger. But sadly, it is something all but the most resolute of us are lacking. Why is that? Because it requires all the elements of HARD – commitment, routine, pausing, self-assessment, realignment with our values, restarting with focus. Any one of those can give us fits but the combination? Whoa! Don’t let that stop you. Intentionality has such a huge payoff that it is worth the effort on the front end. Here’s how:
Take a moment to identify, or create, events during your day that signal you to stop and breathe. For the rare person who sits down to eat three times a day it can be mealtimes. It could be every time you wash your hands. Perhaps you pause each time you complete a task before moving on to the next. Mine is an alarm every thirty minutes that chimes like a Tibetan singing bowl.
For a long time I simply used it to keep track of the passage of time so my day wouldn’t get away from me. It worked for a while, but it became a nuisance and I would swipe it off without much thought. It was routine but it lacked all the other hard elements. I now am committed to pausing whatever I am doing and breathing quietly through three chimes of it, swiping it off and then assessing if I am doing what I need or want to be doing in that moment.
More often than not my answer is a resounding “no”. These days I can begin a task and in less than thirty minutes I am off chasing squirrels. I can be working my way through my emails and find myself playing Wordle when the chime goes off and not know exactly how I got there. In the midst of writing a blog post I can hop online to check a reference and end up watching cat videos on Pinterest. When the chime sounds, I take that realization and realign with the values (intentions) I’ve chosen for the day and I restart with focus (intentionality).
This practice has brought about insight. When I was younger, I was laser focused and highly productive. I could do intense mental or physical work from sunup to sundown without a break and feel pumped about it at the end of the day. In hindsight I’m not so sure how healthy that was but it seemed beneficial at the time. And now? Word games and cat videos and sometimes just staring into space.
The causes can be as unique as the individual who is affected – menopausal hormonal changes, age related cognitive decline, emotional stress, the uncertainty of the world at large, device addiction, inadequate nutrition, lack of exercise, poor hydration, medication side effects, lousy sleep hygiene, boredom – the list is long and complicated. Figuring it out certainly has value but is not always a necessary piece in the change process.
Developing an intentionality practice goes a long way towards addressing the problem. Make the commitment. Put in the work until it becomes habit. The payoff is worth it. It is a gift you deserve to give yourself.