Why Living Your Life with Intention is So Important Right Now (and Always)

We can become the creators of the life we want by learning how to live our lives with intention.

Why living your life with intention is so important right now and always.

When we feel anxious, uncertain, and we’re struggling to find our sense of control, many of us don’t know where to turn to find satisfaction and peace. We may even feel frustrated, disheartened, and angry that things aren’t going the way we want.

There’s so much that’s going on right now, and it’s hard to know what we can really “do” about any of it. We see the pain and discomfort in so many people. We may want to “fix” the hurt we see in others. We may want to protect our loved ones from the pandemic and the unrest we see in the world. We may feel angry and hurt about situations in our own life—our jobs, our health, our safety.

Unfortunately, we can’t control the actions of others, but we can control our reactions to the different circumstances we face. What we intend we create, and we are the creators of our own lives. We can create the life we want and maximize our satisfaction by learning to live life with intention.

What does it Mean to Live Intentionally?

What is important to me? What do I really want? What can I do to live a life of greater purpose?

No matter what’s going on around us, these are big questions. But right now, with so many of us feeling trapped and powerless, intentional living feels even harder to grasp. We may feel our choices are limited right now. We can’t fall into the routines and patterns that are comfortable. We can’t predict what is coming next. Our typical path to comfort is out of our reach.

What we CAN do is consciously set our intention to create the life we want. We are masters of our destiny. We create the lives we intend.

At a certain level, we always have an intention of what we’re doing. But we’re not always conscious or productive with our intention. After all, you may “intend” to get a snack when you go to the kitchen cupboard. When you eat that cookie, are you really carrying out your intention? Yes, but not necessarily with something that serves you in a fulfilling way. Every action you take is within your power.

Alfred Adler taught that all behavior has a purpose. It’s up to us to identify the purpose so we can understand and shape our behavior. We can be more conscious about what we want out of each interaction. When we’re conscious and aware—mindful—about each action, we create a great deal more satisfaction and fulfillment.

When we wander through life without consciously setting our intentions, we may be surprised at how fleeting moments become. Suddenly years have passed, and we’ve gone through the motions without awareness. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Right now, when we’re living in this state of uncertainty, setting our intentions can feel daunting. After all, we’ve seen most events and plans get canceled. We’re still socially distancing as we tentatively adjust to the current reality. We’re not sure what the next few months will look like as the pandemic continues to play out. Will we go back to work in our offices? Will our jobs still exist? What about schools and our kids? How will our social lives look when we can’t hug our friends? If we’re single, how will we meet new people and date? What about the economy? What about the safety of our loved ones?

There are so many factors to comprehend that setting our intentions can feel challenging. But our best bet, as always, is to take each moment one step at a time.

Set Your Intentions for the Moment

When the big picture feels daunting, looking directly at what’s in front of us can help. For example, before going into a meeting with coworkers on Zoom, take a moment to set intentions for the meeting.

What do you hope to get out of the interaction? Do you want to have your boss notice you? Do you want to make a stronger connection with your coworkers? Do you wish to clarify action items for a project or address a concern? Set your intention before you pull up the screen and connect.

When we’re going a thousand different directions, we might “spend time” with our partner but find that we don’t really connect during the day. So when we do have a date or a period of time together, set an intention and even an agenda. It may sound strange but can help us address the important items we want to discuss.

Setting an intention helps us maximize our time together and we leave feeling closer and more focused. Rather than just rushing through our day, we can make that time precious and meaningful.

Even seemingly mundane activities benefit from intention. When you make dinner for example—what is your intention? Do you want to prepare a nourishing meal? Do you want dinner to become a break, where you connect with your family? If you’re eating alone, can you really connect with your food? What if rather than tapping your phone while you eat, you ponder the flavors and textures of your meal? What if you think of the way the food is fueling your body, you stretch, and you feel all your feelings, physical and emotional?

When you get ready for the day, what if you set an intention to evoke a mood or capture a certain feeling? What if you dress with the intention to feel confident and self-assured? What if you dress to feel your best? To get noticed by others? To attract compliments? To feel empowered and poised?

Putting intention into your day-to-day activities can help you find more meaning. Intention helps you approach your actions mindfully and with greater certainty: What do I want to get out of this situation? What am I going to do to make that happen?

Maximizing Your Connections with Others

Right now, as we’re all feeling distant and removed from familiar situations, mindfully fostering our sense of connectedness is even more critical for our wellbeing. Many couples and families are spending a great deal of time together, but it’s challenging. We may feel like we’re “stuck” together—we’re all floating around in the same space, but we’re not really connected.

We can find ways to talk about our feelings. It doesn’t need to be intense or complicated, either. We can make a game out of sharing. For example, play a “feelings” game at dinner with family members. Each person goes around and says, “Today I felt sad about this,” or, “Today I felt joyful about that.” Activities like this make dinner feel intentional. Everyone shares, and everyone walks away feeling a little better after.

It can also be helpful to write down our intentions and our plan. This is something we’ve used when we help people with networking. Set a mini-goal before the event like, “I’m going to make three comments during this virtual gathering.” When we write it down, it helps solidify our intentions and keeps them at the forefront of our minds.

Bringing more intention into our day-to-day activities doesn’t need to be a profound, sweeping change or an arduous task. We can make incremental efforts to set our intentions before we work out, cook, watch a television program, or listen to music. What do we want to get from the experience? What do we intend?

Take the challenge to set your intention for your next activity and see what happens. Reflect afterward—did you feel more confident? Did you connect more with others? Was it a more satisfying experience? Did you feel a greater sense of purpose?

For more ways to bring meaning and purpose to your life, we’ve put together many of our courses available online at Wright Now. We’re happy to offer these fantastic resources to help you live a life of more.

Dealing with a Sense of Ambiguity During Coronavirus

Rather than trying to mitigate the discomfort of unknowing, what if we focus on the areas of our life we can control? 

Many of us struggle with ambiguity. It’s human nature to yearn for security and safety, but when faced with uncertain circumstances, we feel anything but secure.

During the past several months, one certainty prevails: we’re not really sure about what tomorrow will bring. In January, could any of us have predicted that we’d be working from home in two months? Or that social distancing would become the norm? Did we ever suspect we’d know so much about Coronavirus?

When the news is deeply concerning and we’re receiving mixed messages from all sides, it can be confusing and disorienting. It may leave us with the sense that we’re untethered and don’t have control over our lives.

The Good News: We’re Never Powerless

If we feel powerless or out-of-control, the good news is we’re never truly powerless. We always have the ability to do work and to have an influence on others. We might face new circumstances and unfamiliar situations, but we still have power over how we choose to react.

When we were children, most of us hated when mom or dad would answer a request with, “We’ll see.” Sometimes, the idea of “we’ll see” feels worse than a flat-out no. Most of us probably pushed the point at least a few times to force a negative answer rather than waiting in limbo.

Even as adults, the idea of “wait and see” is tough. We’ve become accustomed to instant answers. If we don’t know something, we can simply Google it and find the information. We don’t have to wait weeks for purchases when we shop online because we have Amazon Prime. We don’t need to wait a week for the next show in a series because we can simply stream it on Netflix. All of this instant gratification is the antidote to “wait and see.”

We all prefer concrete answers and knowing rather than wondering. Speculation and guessing leave us feeling unnerved and discombobulated.

The discomfort of ambiguity comes from our longing to predict and reach conclusions. Humans are acutely aware of their circumstances. We imagine and anticipate constantly. We play out entire scenarios before they happen (sometimes resulting in our own self-fulfilling prophecies coming true).

We tell ourselves people at work aren’t going to listen to us, so we walk into a meeting with our defenses up in full force. We imagine that a new connection won’t want to go on a date, so we don’t ask or we approach the question sheepishly. When it doesn’t happen, we think our prophecy came true, proving how right we were about our mistaken beliefs.

Prediction isn’t always helpful, but it gives us a sense of control over our circumstances. Our brains are predictive organs. We’re assessing new situations and assuming what will happen next.

But right now, we’re in very unpredictable times. We’ve never been in a global pandemic

So, how do we deal before? Much of the information headed our way is new and hard to interpret. We don’t have any idea what tomorrow will bring. Experts can’t even predict how the outbreak will resolve or turn out.

Neuroscience tells us our brains make up predictions to deal with unfamiliar situations. We’re seeking answers because they give us a sense of security and control, but unfortunately, right now, there are no clear answers to be had.

Embrace the Discomfort

When we can’t predict the next scenario, it’s uncomfortable. When we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, it’s unsettling.

We must recognize that just because we’re uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean something is wrong. It might be upsetting, but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become paralyzed by uncertainty.

So when we think, “I don’t know what’s happening.” Remind ourselves that it’s okay. No matter what comes our way, we can handle it. Set your intention to get through and not just survive but to thrive. We’ve handled every moment in our lives up to this point, and we will continue to move forward.

With our students at Wright Graduate University, we talk about the concept of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is the belief that we can handle whatever life throws our way. We will figure something out. Even if it’s frightening or we feel scared, we will do it.

It’s not about erasing our feelings or beating ourselves up for feeling scared or uncertain. Fear is a perfectly normal, healthy emotion that we all experience. There’s nothing wrong with our fear, but we should remind ourselves that we don’t need to let the fear of the unknown prevent us from going forward.

There’s no reason to crumble in the face of fear. Allow yourself to feel it, acknowledge it (as we like to say, “name it to tame it”), and then continue. Yes, we may feel scared, but we can keep going.

Focus on the Unambiguous Areas

Unless we’re directly involved in frontline work, there’s likely not much we can do about the Coronavirus outbreak. Rather than focusing on questions about when we’ll get a vaccine or worries about the numbers and spread of the virus, we can focus on the areas of our lives we can control.

For example, if your job situation feels uncertain, focus on the ways you can build your resume right now. There are plenty of classes you could take (explore Wright Now for some courses to help you make the next step on your career path). You can reach out to friends and professional connections. Ask a friend to do a mock interview over Zoom and give you pointers.

Similarly, if you’re feeling disconnected socially, consider the ways you can still connect with others. Send a friend a letter or card. Start a group where you share what you’re reading, watching, or listening to right now. Participate in a Podcast exchange and discussion. Hold a virtual dinner party or happy hour over Facetime.

If you’re unsure about getting outside and staying safe, consider spending time in your yard or your balcony. Take a nature walk in a peaceful area or go for a drive.

Whatever we decide to do right now may require a safe, cautious approach. Rather than focusing on the unknowns and restrictions, focus on the actions we can still take. There’s no risk in dancing, listening to music, gardening in the yard, or learning something new. We are never powerless.

Revisit Times of Strength

When we’re struggling to find our sense of self-efficacy, it may be helpful to review all the times we’ve faced challenges in the past and made it through. We may perceive our scars and traumas as painful wounds, but we can also examine them as powerful lessons.

Our experiences help us become more empathetic. We can relate to others who may also be struggling. How beautiful is it that from painful experiences, we can grow and become examples of resilience? Even in challenges, we can discover meaning and value.

When we feel like the headlines on the news and the comments are social media are too much to bear, we can find ways to distance ourselves. Stay informed, but don’t bombard yourself with all the stress and terror that you can’t control. Instead, focus on the lessons you can extract.

We can work to become more comfortable with not knowing. We can’t predict the future because we don’t know what’s to come. That’s true any time, not just during a virus outbreak. The unknown doesn’t mean something’s wrong. It means we have to focus on drawing our security from our sense of being rather than our sense of knowing.

In many ways, the gift of Coronavirus has been a chance to step back, to “fast” from our regular lives and activities. Many of us have longed to pause, but never felt like circumstances were right. Now we’re able to take a break and just “be.”

As we move forward, we’ll look at rebuilding. We’ll sort through what really matters and emerge with newfound priorities and purpose. We’ll design our lives so we don’t just go back to what we were doing before—so we can emerge as something even better.

Dealing with the ambiguity of Coronavirus may seem like a lot to process right now, but we can realize that life is often ambiguous. Instead of focusing on the areas we can’t predict or control, let’s focus on how to become the best version of ourselves.