Over the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing the word intention pop up a lot. As people set resolutions for the new year, they begin to think and talk more about this concept of living on purpose, of what you hope to put into and get out of life. I’ve even noticed a trend towards setting intentions instead of resolutions. I think this is brilliant, because setting intentions is a great way to figure out how to be happy.
But what the hell is an intention? And how do we decide which one to set? What does that even mean – setting an intention?
intention: what one intends to do or bring about
intend:to have in mind as a purpose or goal
So basically, you begin with the end in mind.
You focus on what you want to happen. It’s like the opposit of goal setting, which usually involves specific steps and timelines and actions to take. Intentions don’t bother themselves with all those details; we just think about the finish line and trust that the how will happen.
I know, it sounds unrealistic and overly optimistic. It can also be overwhelming to try to figure out how things will “end up”, which is why I generally try to concentrate on just doing the next right thing. But if you can’t figure out what that next step is, or in which direction you should even be looking, imagining the end can help you find the beginning.
When setting intentions for the year, we imagine what we want the end of the year to look like.
When setting intentions for life, I find it’s helpful to think of my funeral.
“What do you want people to say at your funeral?” I asked Jared during a recent car ride. It is, I’m sure, an absolute joy to ride in the car with me.
“Why are we talking about this?” he asked.
“Because knowing what you want said at your funeral helps me know how you want to live your life.”
“What do you want people to say at your funeral?”
“I want people to say that I inspired them to do something scary. I want them to say that they learned something from me.”
“Of course you have an answer for that.”
“I think about these things, Jared. What do you want people to say about you?” I asked again.
“I want people to say I was a nice, cool guy.” This is not the response I wanted from my husband, but it isn’t at all surprising if you know the man. He makes a lot of decisions based on whether or not he will be perceived as nice or cool.
“What about when you’re old? What does that look like to you?” I asked, hoping to get a better look at his deepest dreams and aspirations.
“I don’t know. Who knows this stuff?”
“I do!” I said again. “When I think of myself as an old lady, I imagine a small apartment lined with bookshelves, and the shelves are stuffed with books and photos and memories from grand adventures I’ve had during my life. I imagine being surrounded by memories, a small family, and a few good friends.”
“I imagine I look good.” I’m pretty sure he wiggled his eyebrows at me, signaling that he was done with this line of conversation.
In Jared’s defense, I don’t suppose most people do think about their funerals or old age, especially not in their thirties. I’m probably weird like that. But I think if we did, if we just closed our eyes and allowed our ideal future to materialize, we’d get a great clue into what would make us happy today.
Taking the time to think about what we want for our lives gives us a better chance of reality being at least close to our dreams. It gives us direction, a North to turn towards when we’re looking for the next step to take.
Close your eyes.
Imagine yourself at the end of your life, a life you have loved and are prepared to leave with no regrets.
What do you see?
What did you do that made you happy?