Start Your Day With Intention.
I sometimes wonder what it was like back when there were only 10 commandments. Now it seems like there are so many, we haven't got a hope of staying on track. So many rules about how we should live our lives, so many reasons to feel bad about the fact that we're not making the grade.
Remember back before you'd even learned the 10 commandments – or whatever the equivalent is in your faith – back when the worst of life was that you couldn't quite get your ABC right or hadn't yet got the gold star for knowing all your times tables? Remember how you believed that once you'd got this bit sorted, it would get easier?
Odd that it never did. And for the kids of today it's getting tougher. I'm glad I'm not that young any more. I'm glad that I don't have kids who have to go through what they'll all have to deal with. Maybe you don't either. Or maybe you do and you don't need a non-parent telling you what to think, say or do.
But whose-ever kids they are they are our collective future and whether we're connected to them or a world away, we share the responsibility for encouraging them to think, to choose how they want to live, the world they want to live in. We share the responsibility for helping them to understand intention, action and consequence.
This is hard, especially if we don't understand it ourselves. Most of us get into adulthood by grasping the nature of actions and consequences – but most of us are not fully taught to live intentionally.
"So long as you know what you're doing…" was a constant refrain from my Mam – when clearly I had no idea what I was doing, and wasn't even certain I could cope with whatever happened as a result. What I learned was that living with intent, being decisive, planning and acting and being accountable for the consequences, had nothing to do with knowing what those consequences might be. It had everything to do with taking the risk.
I knew what my intent was. Sometimes I managed it; sometimes not so much.
"Live intentionally" is one of the newer commandments from the multitude out there in the ether, one of the many injunctions that we will all fail to live up to. Hard as we try, we cannot live intentionally. We cannot hold on to our lives moment to moment to moment and decide in an instant what our intention must be, what our best intention should be, what we would will it to be if only the moments didn't come rushing in so fast one upon the other, waves at high tide, tumbling the rocks, sucking away the sand, throwing vision-clouding spray, deafening our ability to think, this and this and this….and what now, what next…and what if…
…what if, we go a little easier on ourselves (and on our kids)?
What if we accept that living intentionally is hard and that most days we will lose the thread somewhere in the pressure of just getting by? What if we simplified it down to just starting the day with intention?
Start the day with intention. That we can all do. We can get up in the morning and decide for ourselves that today will be…
…what? What do you want today to be?
Sociable or solitary
Creative or frivolous
Pick a word. Any word. But the one word that sums up what you want from this day. This one day that will not come again. This day in which you already have things planned, and in which things you know nothing about the universe may have planned for you, and in which, hopefully, you have left space around the edges to enable you to come back to your word.
I'm writing this on a holiday Sunday, with chores piling up and the weather turning wintery, no deadlines to meet, but conscious of stuff not being done that needs to be done, that no-one will do if not me. There'll always be 'stuff to be done'… but it is a Sunday, and I am on holiday…so I chose Calm.
Being intentionally calm today meant ignoring the unpainted walls, allowing myself to be soothed by the beautiful music of Shapiro's Silk and Bamboo, snippetting my way through old magazines, collecting quotes and pictures to inspire (maybe) some other time, enjoying the way the sunlight reflected off the dining table incongruous in the half-built room, then enjoying the sound of the rain against the open top lights, (forgetting for now that the wooden windows really will need to be painted before the frosts set in in earnest).
On another day, a Calm intention might mean getting through a meeting without rising to provocation, or enjoying the bustle and brightness of the station rather than fretting about a cancelled train, or something else again.
But on another day "calm" might not be my touchstone at all. It might be "courage" which could still require a calm approach to my meetings but could equally mean the opposite: it could mean daring to be the provocative one.
The difference between starting your day intentionally, and trying to live intentionally, is that you are only committing to this one day. You are not saying that for the rest of my life I will be SO GOOD at this. Already the pressure is off. Just for today I will be…
…calm, or adventurous, or brave, or vulnerable, or creative, or playful, or exceptional, or whatever it is that most fits.
Just for today.
The difference between starting your day intentionally, and trying to live intentionally, is that you accept that you need different strengths or different days, different strategies for different circumstances. Sometimes you have to lead, sometimes follow. Committing to 'today' allows you to do that.
Starting the day with intention does, however, give you that anchor, that touch-stone. If you sum up your intention in a single word. It is easy to find your way back to during the day when 'stuff' starts getting in the way. A few minutes early in the day – in the shower, on the train, at the traffic lights, waiting for the kettle, feeding the cat – but better still just sitting quietly focussed – thinking about your intention, anchoring it to a single word – is all that is needed.
If you're visual write it out in suitable colours, cool or vibrant as best fits, or find an image that expresses it. If you're tactile find an object to attach your word to – a pebble you can carry, a bracelet to wear, a pen, anything that you will hold or touch during the day. Play with the idea until you find what works for you.
Merely starting the day with intention means that you will get some of it right, but it also means that if you end your day having lost your intention along the way it doesn't matter, because tomorrow is another day. Another day that you can start with intention. The very same intention, or a totally different one.
Our lives are made up of individual days, if we can start each of them with intention, then we will live intentionally for a great deal of the time – and we won't beat ourselves up when we flop, which has to be a bonus.
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