Intention - The Four Pillars Pt. 2
Updated: May 1, 2020
“I help young men find the motivation to live intentionally, communicate effectively, and to serve those around them. “
Intention: I did not consider what it meant to live intentionally until I was twenty-three years old, working at Pacific Quest. Part of the weekly staff exchange involved a ceremony welcoming back the students who had completed the rite of passage marking the culmination of the program. These students returned as mentors, and the return involved a ceremony where they got to present their “intent statement.”
Some examples of these intent statements were: “I am an honest young woman who has power over my situation.” or “I am a vulnerable person who is not afraid to show and share my feelings.” or “I am a young man who shows strength in the face of adversity and trusts myself.”
I learned that the intent statements were supposed to be difficult to claim. They weren’t necessarily a reflection of who the student was at that moment. Instead, they were an ideal that the student was striving toward. If the intent statement was easily held and internalized, it was not challenging enough. We, as guides, would encourage them to push the limits of what they could claim. The intent statement was also supposed to bolster the students as they went home and continued to create a life they could be proud of. It was a guidepost to reference at moments of temptation, adversity, or frustration.
My introduction to intent statements prompted a two-year exploration of what it meant to live intentionally. Many people I encountered viewed intentional living through an environmental perspective: reduce, reuse, recycle. Others approached it from a mindfulness perspective: live in the present moment. And others viewed it as a religious or spiritual obligation: live intentionally for God. It was apparent that “intentional living” meant something different depending on who I asked.
So I began to meditate on my definition of “intentional living” and, in an anticlimactic moment of clarity, I decided that living intentionally meant (drum roll please….) “understanding why I do the things I do.” Now, it may seem like I lack significant brainpower if years of exploration led to such a banal platitude. Still, I must be honest; this banal platitude exploded my understanding of existence. It inspired me to dig deeper and to really, truly, understand why I did the things I do.
(I will save you from the anecdotes about standing in a grocery aisle and wondering why I picked the blue can of pinto beans, as opposed to the red one, or why I ate a kale salad today instead of spinach. Suffice it to say; it did get tiring analyzing my every decision.)
On the macro level, questioning provided clarity to my life in ways I had never before experienced. I started to ask questions that mattered to me: Why did I move to Hawaii to work in a garden with teenage kids? Why did I ignore that difficult conversation last week? Why did I feel important enough to cut someone else off while speaking? Why did I often isolate myself? What was I afraid of? Who did I want to be? What was the purpose of my life?
I didn’t always arrive at an answer, and when I did, the answer often changed. But I began to notice a theme across my life and my behavior. I started to recognize consistencies that I had never seen because I had never looked deep enough. It was a fascinating, scary, liberating, and wonderful experience. I finally began to understand myself.
I work with all of my clients to address, “Why do you do the things you do?” It is not always a formal exploration, and it often doesn’t culminate in an intent statement, but it does plant a seed. It starts the process of analyzing behavior and seeking to understand internal motivations, experiences, and behaviors. The blooming of the seed is often delayed, but it blooms nonetheless. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful gifts I can give as a mentor: understanding why you do the things you do.
Below are my intent statements. One is my personal intent statement, and the other informs my professional identity. Both are difficult to own, and both provide direction, purpose, and meaning.
“I am an intentional creator who is antifragile in the face of adversity.”
“I will love everyone around me; I will amplify them. I will help them be the best they can be.”
Thanks for reading, please share if you feel so inclined. And as always, reach out if you or anyone you know has a son who could use some guidance.