I’ve been trying a new practice - intention setting. I’ve done it haphazardly for a while, but I decided it was time to make it a standard part of my daily life. Here’s the basic idea: I set an intention for the month, then do weekly check-ins, revamps, etc, and daily I see where I can implement the intention into my day. Ideally I would get up in the morning, look at my intention, plan ahead for where I might use it, and even plan for how I will use it in areas that I can’t pre-plan for, then at the end of the day look back and see where it went well, where it could be improved.
So, what it is with intention setting? What is it? Why am I doing it? Why do I feel the need to share it with you?
An intention is like a goal, but different. A goal is a concrete tangible something that has followable steps to achieve. An intention is a bit more vague. I think of it this way; I set an intention that is overarching, then I set goals that honor the intention. The goals are the concrete steps I take, the plan I follow, to implement my intention.
My intention for June was to simplify and/or declutter anywhere I could. I started with my closet. I did some pretty massive decluttering and simplifying. This surprised me because I clean out my closet on the regular. I have a very small closet (and always have) so there isn’t room for things that aren’t used. But when I applied the idea of simplification I got rid of a lot more stuff than I would have otherwise.
The idea behind the intention of simplification is to uncomplicate my life in any way I can. How can I reduce the extra time wasters, the clutter in my outer environment and my inner environment? Applying this to my closet meant I thought hard about what I truly needed, what I truly loved, what would make life simpler. I decided "simple" meant walking into my closet and not having to make decisions, as in not standing in my closet trying to decide what to wear. Does this fit right? Does this top go with these pants? I wanted to be able to walk into my closet and grab the first thing I saw because everything in there was something I loved to wear, felt good wearing, and looked good on me. So I picked up each piece of clothing, asked myself a series of questions: did this fit? really fit? did I pull on it or adjust it when I wore it? did I smile when I saw it was clean and available to wear? how often did I wear it? If it passed the “I love you and can’t wait to wear you” test then I asked myself, what do I wear it with? If I love the shirt but have no pants to wear with it, then it’s useless!
Halfway through this project, I had multiple piles going. There was the "I love you, wear you and you are part of a perfectly matching outfit" pile, there was the "I love you but you aren't’ part of an outfit" pile, the "I love you but you really don’t fit me" pile, the "get out of my house now" pile, the "I’m not sure about you yet" pile, etc.
Some piles were easy to deal with. The "get out of here" pile went into a garbage bag for donation. The "you don’t fit me" pile went into that bag too but with a little more hesitation. "Simple" meant only having clothes that fit. "Cluttered and complicated" is I love this, but it doesn’t fit me, but it will if I lose 5 lbs. The outfits got hung up or folded together so that grabbing something to wear was simple and didn’t involve decision making. Then there were choices to make about the "I love you but you don’t match anything" pile. Was I going to invest in more clothing? Was I going to put it in the donation bag?
So, intention = declutter and simplify, goal = clean out the closet so choosing what to wear in the morning is a quick and easy process.
Every morning I get up, look at my calendar and think, How can I simplify my day? How can I declutter my usual tasks? Is there a simpler way to deal with email? Cleaning? Planning for clients? Working on upcoming projects?
These all seem like non “spiritual” types of things, and intentions are usually loftier, aren’t they? Well, yes and no. But remember that my goals are the concrete steps to reach my intention. My intention is to live simply, to live uncluttered BOTH physically and mentally, emotionally too really. Our outer environment reflects our inner state. Clutter outside is evidence of clutter inside. So to get rid of the clutter in my head, and in my heart, I’m beginning with the clutter in my house, in my routines, etc. Then I think things will get more interesting because it will be the same questions that I ask myself about the lofty things. Do I love it? Does it fit me?
I asked, rhetorically of course, earlier why I was sharing this with you. Well, to be honest, my intentions are selfish. I'm sharing with you for accountability, and with a desperate hope that maybe you'll want to join me. Maybe this intention setting idea will resonate with you and you will want to make some of your own or even journey alongside me in the ones that I've chosen. We can set the intention, create some goals, and compare notes along the way. Even if you don't, I'll be checking in periodically with my progress, insights, failures, successes, whatever. Let me know about yours too, and if you want to make this journey together then let me know that. It could be fun; it will definitely be challenging!
*** It’s already July, which means I have a new intention, but I’ve decided to expand my experiment. I got the idea from Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. I’m not jettisoning last month’s intention but adding an additional one. Now, that could get a bit complicated since the first intention is to simplify, but I’m not ready to give that one up yet. I’ve uncovered an interesting pattern - I avoid the work where I most want to succeed. I found great joy in my initial acts of decluttering (incidentally, Finding Joy somewhere, somehow, every day is July’s intention, but that’s for another blog post), but then I found myself avoiding the act of looking for ways to declutter and simplify because I was too busy doing what I had to do for the day… does anyone else see the irony here? That avoidance, i.e. that “failure” to achieve my simplification goals, tells me with absolute certainty that I was on the right track. So, I’m going to continue my efforts to declutter… actions, thoughts, ways of thinking, being, doing… while adding on my new intentions.