How to be intentional

How do you become intentional?  How do you determine every day to follow through in the steps you have determined to take to achieve your goals?  How do you change your behavior, your thinking, the very way your brain and body are programed to work and respond to circumstances and situations to move you closer to your goals, rather than keep you in the same place.

As I mentioned in my last post, it's not enough to just want it.  Being intentional requires you to be mindful of your thoughts and behavior every moment of every day.  It requires you to think about what you're doing in every circumstance.  It requires you to make choices that aren't necessarily instinctive.  It's a process of behavioral modification that takes time, patience and a whole lot of effort.

So how do you maintain this?  On the face of it it sounds exhausting.  All that work of thinking about your actions before you make them to ensure they line up with your goals. And it is.  Sometimes we bite off goals that are so big it's impossible to be intentional and achieve them.  The work it requires soon exhausts us and we find ourselves coming up with more and more excuses about why it doesn't really matter if we don't change our behavior just this once.  Soon it's a slippery slope to abandoning goals and dreams and living in our current state all the while bemoaning we don't have enough self-discipline to change.

The thing is, being intentional should be challenging.  It should require effort.  But it shouldn't be that hard.  No one wakes up one day and decides that they are going to run a marathon that day, despite never having run a day in their life.  Well ok, maybe some of us wake up and decide that, but after 5 minutes of puffing and pounding down the payment we are soon ready to call it quits and determine it was just a flight of fancy that made us think we could run a marathon without any preparation.  The thing is when we start being intentional we have to start small.  It's the small incremental changes that are possible.  Little behavioral modifications that do cost us in time and effort, but are not so costly that they are beyond our reach.  Small things which modify our behavior just a few percentage points each time and breakdown that big change into bit size pieces.  

For me 21 day challenges have been a great way to start working on the really big goals and dreams in my life.  I take the big dream or challenge and break it down into several steps that I need to achieve along the way.  That way I can focus on the smallest, and easiest change at the start and work to build that change into my life.  I keep at it, day by day.  I allow myself to fail on occasion (we all need permission to take a break), and I pick myself up the next day and carry on as though nothing happened.  I set mini-goals and timelines for these changes, but I don't beat myself up if it takes me longer.  Sometimes some things just take longer to change.  The thing is I don't loose site of the big picture and the fact that the tiny corner of it I'm painting right now will eventually help me complete the whole art work.

Being intentional for me is about being realistic and setting challenges that are hard, but not to hard.  Things that stretch me, but are not completely outside of my comfort zone, just a step or two from the boundary.

What do you do to be intentional?  Are you proactive, or do you just put it out there in a word or phrase and trust the world to bring you change.  I'd love to hear your thoughts and what works for you.