Before the new year becomes . . . well . . . just THE year, I want to take one last look at my word for 2019: intention.
Because . . . it turns out intention was a trickier word than I anticipated it would be. And I learned some very important things from it.
Like, well . . .
Intention is not really an extension of focus (my 2018 word). Or . . . not like I expected it to be at any rate. For me, focus was about clarity. Figuring out what I wanted to focus on by figuring out what I was focusing on. Important work, to be sure. I initially thought that intention would be about following focus. But it was so much more than that!
Intention is about purpose. About being deliberate. About understanding the why behind my decisions and my choices. It was more thoughtful and less active. It involved . . . creating a pause . . . building in a thoughtful and deliberate beat between an idea or a thought and my taking action about that idea or thought. I trained myself to be more mindful of what I was doing and (more importantly) why I was doing it. And this was a very good thing.
To really be intentional . . . meant I needed to be very, very clear about the what and the why. At first, I thought that would be easy. Because I'd done all that focus work already. I knew what I wanted to focus on in my life. But I learned that . . . focus is a fleeting thing. Life is fickle. New things (or ideas or thoughts) come along all the time. So it's easy for our focus to be pulled in new directions. I figured out that I needed something more . . . stable. More permanent. So I developed a list of my personal values . . . which are the underpinnings of my everything, really. Focus areas may change. But my personal values don't.
(Here's an example. At the beginning of 2018, I jumped on the "make nine" bandwagon, and chose nine projects I wanted to make during the year. I thought it would be a good way to focus on things I wanted to make. It was not. I think I only made one of those items. Was it because I lost my focus? Was it because I wasn't intentional enough? Did I fail? Nah. I came to understand the next year - in my year of intention - that I didn't "fail" with the "make nine" thing at all. Because I did make nine things in 2018. Just not the nine things I set out to make in January of 2018! Turns out that - for me - the "make nine" thing was fickle. It only represented nine things I was interested on that day. The real and important thing? One of my personal values is "making things." And I was very deliberate, very purposeful . . . about "making things" all year long.)
So rather than think of intention as an extension of focus, I changed my thinking a bit. Focus and intention are related -- but that relationship is tricky! My intention work got so much more sharp and successful when I linked my intentions to my personal values . . . instead of my more fickle focus areas.
Another key thing I learned in 2019 is that no matter how clear you are about the whys and whats and the alignment of action with personal values . . . well . . . intention still meets reality. There are only 24 hours in the day, after all. And weather happens. And other people's values/intentions don't always line up with yours. There are seaonal variations. Health issues. Personal quirks. Things just come up. So even when your best intentions set you on a path for greatness, it's still going to be a bumpy ride with plenty of obstacles in your path. Adaptablility and flexibily are key. Even (maybe especially?) when it comes to intention.
I also ended the year with a big question for myself: If we make time for the things we really want (focus/intention), and I say I really want to do something . . . but then I consistenly don't make time for actually doing the something . . . what does that mean? And what does it mean that I do make time for stuff I'm only meh about???? (I'm still pondering that one.)
Intention was a great word for me last year . . . in ways I really didn't expect. I learned so much. I did a lot of thinking and journaling. I put some new things into practice in my life. I came to understand myself in a whole new way. And I even developed a solid exit plan for a big commitment I've had for a while that just does not line up with my personal values.
That's the power of one little word!
(I can't wait to see where 2020 takes me.)
Tune in next week. I'll tell you about my word for 2020.