Intention Makes Us Better

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We are either moving forwards or we’re moving backwards. Everything we do, whatever activity we are engaged in – even if we think we’re engaged in no activity at all – is either progressing us or regressing us. It is either working in our favour or it is working against us.

There is no standing still.

Sometimes we allow external influences to trigger automatic reactions within us, and we find ourselves acting without conscious, beneficial intent, dragging ourselves downwards. We get angry, we get stressed, we find ourselves inadvertently nurturing our worst traits, and even if we feel like we’ve vented and let off steam – or won some sort of victory – we have actually acted against our best interests.

And there are individuals and organisations that benefit from this regression. The tabloid media, for example, often the mouthpieces for organisations or individuals that have a political or financial agenda, attempt to trigger us into feeling a certain way. They wish to manipulate us, enrage us, cause us to be afraid, outraged and angry, firing up the latest moral panic to – at best – keep us distracted and, at worst, direct our hate and fear towards certain groups, people, trends or things.

Too much salt will kill us. Too many foreigners will undermine our sense of national identity and destroy our culture. Video games will turn our children into killers. There are paedophiles on every street corner. Your laptop is spying on you.

And when our fear and rage bubble to the surface, either manifesting within us as quiet torment, or spilling out onto social media, into bigoted views or violence in the streets, we send ourselves spiralling backwards both collectively and individually.

But if we can nurture equanimity, and instead of allowing ourselves to be triggered by the smallest outrage choose to act with deliberate intent – and only then with the intention of progressing ourselves and doing the right thing – then in most cases we can progress forwards. It can be anything, from questioning our own knee-jerk biased reaction to the latest tabloid story, to stopping ourselves from taking the last doughnut and instead leaving it for our colleague, to choosing not to flip out in traffic, or recognising that we’re feeling tired and grumpy, and could do with a nap.

When we start to act in our own best interest and the best interest of others by slowing down, and questioning our first response, and then either deciding it is the right response or choosing an alternative, we can give others the benefit of the doubt. We can begin to train ourselves to recognise our own humanity in others, to try to understand before we criticise, and to choose to listen before we eagerly take our turn to speak. To assume positive intent before negative.

Not everyone is out to get us.

Slowing down to act with intent, we can say yes to that take-away dinner, but only if we go for a run around the block first. We can say no to that bottle of wine tonight, because we want to have a clear head tomorrow. We can choose a different story to the one that is being served to us by some person or organisation that has a hidden agenda and might wish to manipulate us. We can pause to hold the door open for the person coming up behind us.

By choosing actions intentionally and reducing the amount of time we spend on autopilot, we can start to see where we are, and not just focus on where we’ve been or where we want to go. We can see the people who are there with us, we can stop to breathe the air, smell the honeysuckle, and really savour our food. We can feel the earth beneath our feet, appreciate the sensations and textures that we would normally take no notice of. Intention opens up the world, and our blinkers fall away.

Intention leads to decisiveness, which builds confidence, self esteem and a sense of identity. We start to know our own mind, rather than just accepting the status quo. We start to have an opinion, and rather than simply sharing the same knee-jerk opinion as the masses, it is one that is thought-out and reflects our true values.

By choosing intention and actions that move us forward, we can start to embrace compassion, and we can enjoy not only helping ourselves but also helping others. The simple act of slowing down, and choosing the option that will either send us forwards or send us backwards makes us wise and thoughtful. Do we choose to complain about the task that our boss has given us, or do we just get on with it, do the best job we can and improve our reputation in the office? Do we act selfishly or selflessly and grow our humanity? Do we choose to do nothing, say nothing, and let the power of silence and stillness be our response?

We can take control of our life, one decision at a time, by simply making a decision. Do it intentionally, take ourselves off autopilot, and make the best choices for us and for others. Whether that means getting more sleep, saying ‘no’ more often, drinking more water or simply switching off the television and reading a book for ten minutes, it is a muscle that will grow and make us stronger, better and happier.