As I briefly mentioned a few weeks ago, my intentional journey took hit a rocky patch this summer. And though in some ways it’s still a work in progress for me, I’d like to share the negative ways that I have approached intentions and how I plan to move forward. My hope is that by sharing the negative patterns, others may avoid the same pitfalls.
This summer I made intentions for every area of my life and refused to leave room for compromise, change, or Life.
As I mentioned a while ago, I went to a four day retreat called Lifebook that helped me create new intentions for every area of my life. Coming out of the program, which I definitely recommend, I had massive breakthroughs in terms of career vs. purpose and email. But I also took my intentions to a not-so-good place.
After discovering what my ultimate lifelong intentions were, I was quickly dissatisfied with my current life. I started to want to live all of my intentions NOW. Right this second. Going through the journey to develop the skills, and assets that I desired was not acceptable to me. I wanted the fullest, complete life I craved immediately.
The problem with that mentality was that it is simply not possible.
Right now I am 26 years old, I don’t have the dream house I designed in my head, and I don’t have all of the desires of my heart. I don’t have children, I am not married, I am not eating my ideal diet, I do not have the money to travel to Italy, I do not have the income and savings that I would like.
Comparing my ultimate ideal life with my current one made me feel dissatisfied and brought out my latent perfectionist side.
I suddenly wasn’t allowing the new intentions to be general guides or beacons in my life, instead I made them absolute present moment necessities. And since I have no real way of knowing which intentions will really happen in the future or which ones I’ll have control over, I was scared as much as I was dissatisfied.
I was so attached to the glossy vision I had of my future that I was unwilling to acknowledge that much of the things I desired were not controllable. And some things, like when (or if) I have a two natural born kids (a boy and a girl, of course), is not something I can just snap my fingers and dictate.
I also cannot know – or demand – that I am guaranteed that I will one day have the exact home that I dream of, all the way down to the drawer pulls on the bathroom cupboards. (Hey, it may sound silly, but I was as attached to the minute details as much as the massive ones.)
The other more sinister aspect of this all or nothing mentality was that it allowed for no imperfections in myself. I was hyper-critical of myself each time that I did not live up to the ideal that I set for myself. This insanely high level of criticism also leaked into my relationships. I started to measure them by the same perfect vision and when people fell short, I had a hard time empathizing and felt frustrated. Forgiveness, understanding, and gratitude went by the wayside when things didn’t match my expectations.
Thankfully, I eventually became miserable enough to start to examine my beliefs and re-think how I would like to approach life.
For a while, the best thing that I could do was let myself not focus on intentions at all. Sure, I still got up each day and generally drove Jess LC and my personal life in positive ways, but I didn’t dictate what I needed to do or accomplish. I floated around a bit and let myself relax from the mental death grip.
Now that I’ve had time to decompress, I’m slowly revisiting my intentions and recognizing which intentions are within my circle of current influence. My dream house, theoretical children, trip to Italy, and ideal income are not things that I can control today.
But habits like reading, saving, working out, and meditating are intentions that I have direct control over. For now, I’m leaving the pie in the sky wish list up to God or life, and focusing on the present moment power I possess. I have faith that if those large dreams I have are meant to happen, they will occur naturally as a result of me moving towards them in the down to earth, not always perfect, methods I have available to me each day.
In addition, I’m also revisiting the words intention and goal.
A few years ago, during my struggle with perfection, I recognized that the word “goal” was very black and white for me. If I met my goal, I succeeded. If I did not meet my goal, I failed. Whereas the word intention felt much more flexible, gentle, and kind.
Somewhere during this summer, I started treating my “intentions” like “goals.” I placed my self-worth in achieving those intentions perfectly as soon as possible. Now, I’m working to return back to what I really do mean when I say the word intention, a gentle determination to act in a certain way as much as I can.
It’s not about being perfect all the time, it’s about doing the best I can in the present moment.
Which is all we can ever ask of ourselves.