On Being Intentional

Being deliberate * Doing things on purpose * Acting with a purpose * Thinking before you leap * Pausing to reflect

The theme

Going into a new year, I often decide on a theme, a phrase, a feeling or a word that I want to define my year. An idea to return to, a guide, a yardstick to measure myself by. An umbrella of sorts to hold over my future. It’s my way of saying, Yes. This is how I want things to look, be, feel.

I choose to keep a word in my head that I can easily reference and go back to, a phrase to check in with. I write it down in lots of places. I make a note in my phone. I add my phrase to my phone calendar on random dates, so that it will pop up unsuspectingly and remind me, “This is what you want. Are you doing it? Are you working towards it? How are things going? CHECK IN.”

How these themes and ideas come to me is quite random. Sometimes it takes an hour of zoning out and staring at the ceiling. Other times it’s a clear thought that has been in my mind forever and I just decide to finally act. This year, my phrase came to me via the written word: books.

After returning home for a Christmas visit I had nothing but time on my hands and a decades old library card in my pocket. I sat and I read book after book after book. “Be deliberate“, would jump off the page at me. Hmm, interesting. What does that mean? I would read on, finish the book, and immediately dive into the next one. “Be intentional“, I would read. Oh wow. Weird. This book said the same as the last. In the next book, “be deliberate“, again, and on it went. It was always this same thought, not necessarily expanded, and always phrased either “be deliberate” or “be intentional“.

After 7 books, I decided to pay attention. I couldn’t ignore how strange it was that the same two phrases were leaping off the page at me time and time again. I’m not sure what version of higher forces you believe in, but I took this as a sign.

What does it mean?

Well. Oddly enough, I have a history of not exactly being deliberate. Sometimes, when I have an end goal in mind, I will do whatever it takes to get there, often forsaking the clearest, easiest route for a path that brings me stress and anxiety. Definitely not being deliberate or purposeful there. That’s what we call ‘floundering’.

Often, when it comes to creativity, as in life, we don’t always know how to get to the end result. We want our story to be written and read and loved. We want our song to be heard and adored. We want that big part in the tv show, or the good reviews from that play we did. We strive for the end goal. When we think of how to actually get there, well, up goes that giant Trump wall with us on one side and our finished product on the other.

I’m trying to be of the mind that it doesn’t actually have to be that hard. Perhaps, if we try to be intentional with our decisions, it will lead us right to where we are supposed to be?

Being intentional has the nice power of narrowing down our overwhelming choices. It’s easy to let our mind run wild with our creative ideas, and in some ways, that’s the best way to be. We don’t want to restrict our creativity.

I believe creative folks are dreamers by nature. We have to be. We are constantly dreaming up ideas, we are thinking in abstract ways, trying to bring a thought to life. But sometimes we need to reel it in. When we dream all those ideas and we find that one meant for us and it stays there, nipping at our heels, we know we’ve got to do something with it. Let’s take it step by step and do it on purpose, shall we?

Narrow it down

When it came to creating this collective, for example, boy, did my mind run wild. There was idea after idea and possibilities galore. I had to stop somewhere. I had to be intentional. I ran over my list of ideas and I scrutinized each possibility under my new “Be Intentional” microscope.

Sure, I could rent a space and find some old desks, open the collective and invite friends to join me at my new address. I could have done that. But am I being intentional by doing that? What is my intention anyway?

Well, my intention was to start this thing now. My intention was to reach people now. My intention was to have a safe, open space for sharing now. Was renting a space and saving up a bit of money to furnish it, really my intention then? Well, no. Not exactly. That would have taken a fair bit of time. That idea is still possible and I happen to think it’s a great one, but I want to do that when I am deliberately doing it, not just because it’s the first idea that popped into my head. Are you still with me?

We can apply this to lots of our creative whims. Want to write a poem about loss and suffering but what keeps popping into your head is how much you love your cat? Write your poem on purpose. Write the thing that you want. If you sit there with a pen in your hand and a few hours, you can come up with a million ideas. But if your goal was to sit down and get out a poem in that spare 30 minutes, then you need to be intentional with it.

On honesty

Another way of looking at this? How about be honest. Be honest with yourself about what you are actually trying to create. Are you really trying to get better at painting with watercolor or are you dying to just sit with your sketchbook and a pencil? Think about your end goal honestly, and then take just the first step. Take that first step on purpose and then re-evaluate where you are. Maybe you only need to take one more step and you’re there, or maybe you need to keep going a bit before you get to the good stuff. However you do it, do it on purpose, and for a purpose. Be intentional about it.

– – Brittany Forbes

How are you intentional about your work? Are you honest with yourself about what you want to create or do you get stuck doing the thing you think you should do? Do you give yourself too many options sometimes? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss! Or, you can find us on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest if you’d rather connect that way. Remember, this is your space too. Use it!

Brittany Forbes writes in Canadian, loves in English, and dreams in French. She writes about travels and various other journeys over at Letters To Rayelle.

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