Living with Intention


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By Amanda Gilbert

From a mindfulness perspective, there are two ways to go about living our lives. One is to go through life with the awareness of what we’re actually doing, saying, thinking, feeling and creating, while the other, is to live without practicing present moment awareness. The downside of the latter, more common approach to interact with the world is the fact that we are a little more on autopilot and perhaps, only taking in about half of what is actually happening or making itself known to us at any given present moment of our lives.

“Am I living my life with intention?”

As you read this you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, the first way sounds more of what I want. Awareness of what I’m doing, thinking and feeling is definitely a good thing!” However, in reality, all of us have experienced the autopilot mode in our unique version of non-awareness. Whether it’s moving through the motions and hum-drum of our daily routines and schedules, or somewhat mindlessly going from meetings, to dinner, to Netflix to phone scrolling, to sleep and then waking up to the same unintentional schedule again the very next day. When you pause and take a look at how you are moving through your day today, or even how the first month of 2021 has gone by, you may ask yourself: Am I living my life with intention? Or perhaps, more poignantly, am I aware of the amount of intention from which I am living my life each day?

“Intentionality is bringing awareness to the reasons and motivations for why you are doing just about anything.”

If you’re feeling a little uncertain about what living intentionally means or how to bring more intention into your life, don’t sweat it. As a meditation teacher and practitioner for well over a decade, what I can confidently say is living with intention is well within your reach and even available to you right now. One of the very first teachings mindfulness teachers share is the importance of intention and how to be intentional. To start, let’s talk about what living intentionally means and why it is important.

Intentionality is bringing awareness to the reasons and motivations for why you are doing just about anything. In my new book, Kindness Now, I open up chapter two with the phrase, “Everything in your life begins with intention.” And it is from intention in which everything else flows. Becoming aware of our intentions, or why we are doing anything starts with the awareness to pause and contemplate our intentions and deeper motivations. This is why a mindfulness and meditation practice is very helpful to living a fulfilling, happy and healthy life because it teaches us how to pause and become aware of our reasons, inner-why’s and intentions for doing, thinking or saying what we are doing.

“What would it look like for me to be more aware of my intention?”

Here is one of my most-shared intention setting contemplation practices. You can do this practice right now or whenever you feel like you want to grow your awareness of how you are living your life and whether there is intention present.

  1. To start, create a moment of pause. Maybe you want to get comfortable just like you are about to meditate or read your favorite book. If you’d like, you can close your eyes for a moment to slow down and feel centered.
  2. Invite in a deep breath and release the breath out.
  3. Then, silently ask yourself the following reflection questions. Between each one pause and become aware of what comes up naturally as an answer.
    • What would it look like for me to be more aware of my intentions?
    • What are my deepest values and intentions that currently influence the way I live my life? (Some examples are: happiness, success, recognition, peace, family, or fame).
    • How can I create more pause in my life to connect to my intentions and then live from them?
  4. After these reflections you might want to write down your answers and insights. And make sure to take a deep breath in and out.

Keeping our intentions close, by getting in the habit of being aware of them and living from them is a way out of living on autopilot and feeling more fulfilled, alive and fully present in your life. Being that it’s the end of the first month of a brand new year, pausing right now and connecting or reconnecting to your intentions and choosing to live your life with awareness will for sure set you up to living with intention this year.

For more on Living With Intention pre-order Kindness Now: A 28-Day Guide to Living With Authenticity, Intention, and Compassion.

Amanda Gilbert is a meditation teacher, speaker, lecturer of mindfulness at the University of Southern California and author. She has been a meditator for over seventeen years and now leads meditation for top companies like NBC, Paramount Pictures, W Hotels, Merrill Lynch, Macy’s, and YouTube.