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One of my favorite words is intentional. I believe that when we bring intention to our lives we can reduce anxiety and live happier. Too often we make decisions from a place of obligation, should, guilt, or habit. The most frequent compliment I receive from clients is that I help them get honest about their personal priorities (aka their intention). By living their lives from that place they have less anxiety and live happier. Many, many of us experience anxiety in our lives because we are constantly trying to fit our square selves into a round hole. Any time we are trying to become something we aren’t it will cause anxiety.
So I encourage you to pay attention to your intention and live your life from a place of purpose and curiosity rather than engaging in activities that drain you or are purely out of obligation. A very basic way to start is to simply ask yourself the following questions.
Since it is the holidays let’s use a holiday scenario: Your Friend Lucy, asks you if you want to attend her son’s performance at a local college. Lucy is a friend of a friend so you run in the same social circles but you aren’t that close.
Do I really want to go to the concert? Honestly you are torn. You love music and especially holiday music AND your holiday plate runneth over. You could make it work but you are already running low on energy and we haven’t even made it to Thanksgiving (this question is a tough one because the answer is rarely black and white–sometimes I will try the coin trick if I really get stuck on this question–but the other questions in the series will help narrow down your answer)
What is my motivation? You love holiday music and you want to be supportive of Lucy’s son. You remember what it was like to be performing in college and wanting people to come. You also want to make a good impression with Lucy. This can be a tough question to answer, we don’t want to admit that sometimes our motivations can be manipulative, trying to or ‘look’ good.
What am I hoping to gain? Getting in the holiday spirit. Getting on Lucy’s good side. Your kids are both in school together and she lives in your neighborhood so best to get her on your good side. Frequently I follow the what is my motivation question with this one because I can convince myself my motivation is pure and clear but when I ask myself what I hope to gain…sometimes the answer isn’t so pure 🙂
Why am I REALLY engaging in this activity? Because it is easier than saying no. You don’t want to upset Lucy and your new friendship and you do like holiday music–you can make it work…it will just require less sleep. Yes this question is similar to do I really want to go but it is helpful to ask it again and in a different way because then you might get at a deeper answer. Because the real question here is…”Are the reasons I am giving make this a high enough priority that getting less sleep is worth it?”
What would happen if I said no? Honestly not much, Lucy knows it is the holiday season and if you genuinely explain to her that you are just too busy AND hope to see her son perform she will understand This is usually the case, if we are honest and genuine with people they get it. Too often we expand our self-importance. Is your whole relationship with Lucy going to hinge on this one event…probably not. And if it does do you really want to be friends with someone who would be that petty?
Ok, so I recognize that is a VERY basic example. But those VERY basic situations happen all the time in our daily lives. When we aren’t intentional we can be saying yes to activities and people we don’t care about without any regard to our own priorities and intentions.
Next time you find yourself complaining about an event or activity…ask yourself, “Did I engage in this activity intentionally or is it out of obligation?” You have the right to say no. You have the right to make decisions based on your priorities and values.