When it comes to pursuing your goals, it helps to draw yourself a mental map… but I would suggest working in pencil vs. pen. In other words, don’t be so attached to your plans that you miss out on opportunities for adaptation, exploration, curiosity, and the occasional coincidence.
Like so many things in life, it’s all about balance. Attach yourself to your plans enough to be able to take meaningful action; however, even with clear vision and intention, sometimes you have to let go of form and function. If you can find a way to loosen your grip, you may be able to avoid burnout and find a level of synchronicity. Magic can happen when you know where you’re going, but still allow yourself to wander and explore.
None of this diminishes the importance of setting your intentions upfront — Without that step, things won’t just happen. The word “intentionality” comes from the Latin word “intendere,” meaning “to point to” or “aim at.” It’s really about directing your attention somewhere, making deliberate choices that reflect your values. Adapting an intentional mindset, one with purpose and aim, can help us maintain positivity, experience clarity, and be more focused and present in our own lives.
To set your intentions, first create some space in your mind, consciously “clearing your plate.” You can do this by taking a short walk, using your brain creatively (e.g., making a meal, writing down your thoughts), or even playing with your kids or dog. Once you’ve taken that step back, come back to these questions: Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be? What do you want to achieve? This is the equivalent of pulling back the string of your bow, aiming your arrow at whatever you decide the mark is.
Take some time to feel into your intentions, and really imagine what it will be like to reach your goals. For our brains, visualization can be just as fruitful as actually being there, so spend time in your mind, experiencing the emotions you hope to achieve at the finish line.
Now that you have a destination, you’re ready to start your journey. There will always be distractions, but remember, not all of these distractions are bad. Sometimes, taking the scenic route can give you a whole new perspective. In fact, after you’ve taken the time to set your intentions, it can be valuable to purposely dive in from a different angle. This can even increase our momentum. Changing up our routine helps us make new connections we might have missed otherwise. A good rule of thumb is to follow your curiosity, knowing you can always recenter if need be.
Finally, never be so attached to your destination that you’re afraid to switch directions entirely. Be engaged enough in your own life and in touch with your intuition that if you can conceive of a better, newer goal, you aren’t afraid to change tracks and pursue it.
Wherever you’re headed, stoke your passion and desire to follow through. Celebrate the big and small wins, and as you walk down many roads, show yourself self-compassion and appreciation for your progress. In many ways, this topic can be summed up by a quote from comedian Kumail Nanjiani. He says, “You can go slow. Allow your dreams and goals to change, but live an intentional life.”