A few weeks ago, I read a book that turned my brain upside down for a while. Living with Intent, by Mallika Chopra, raised so many new questions. I am naturally a goal-setter and a planner, but this book wanted me to take things to a new level. I had to take the meditation and mindfulness principles I’d been studying and apply them to life planning. I couldn’t wrap my mind around that concept. With mindfulness, you live in the moment, experiencing things as they are. How does that translate to planning for the future, when the future doesn’t even exist?
Chopra gives an acronym for the process: Incubate, Notice, Trust, Express, Nurture, and Take Action. I realized I’d always been in the Take Action stage. And to be fair, I’ve accomplished a lot, especially in the past year. Setting specific, achievable goals is the way to finishing what you start. But as I stepped back to the Incubate phase, I started to realize how much expectation I’d built around my achievements. I expected perfection from myself, for one. I wanted to be the best at everything I did, and receive only positive, glowing, grateful feedback. When it wasn’t that, I beat myself up. I expected my friends and family to be proud of me. In some cases, they were; in others, they were dismissive. In some cases, I received biting, unfair criticism – as opposed to helpful feedback that inspires growth.
I wasn’t enjoying anything. I was rushing around, adding more things to my plate, wanting the shot of dopamine that never came.
I asked myself: what fulfills me? I realized that my work was more about the process than the final result. I felt fulfilled by writing a short story, not by getting it published. I felt sad after my bassoon group was done performing – rehearsal was more fun. Why did I want that validation at the end? Because I wanted to believe my work was meaningful. I wanted others to tell me that what I was doing was right. From Brene Brown, I’ve learned that I am enough, no matter what stage I’m in, no matter what anyone says to me. I have to believe it.
How does this lead to intent? Normally, I would spend hours thinking about what concrete things I want to achieve in the next year. I want to write this many short stories (or words). I want to finish this many house projects. I want to teach this many webinars. And so on, and so forth. I still believe that specific goals are important (Chopra covers this in the Take Action phase). But I’m not going to be as focused on the final products. I’m going to see where this journey carries me next year. I have a full-time job and freelance work, and I’m going to have two children. I need to be able to go with the flow. Be proud of my house even when it’s messy. Let stories go unfinished. Let my mind spin out to sea from time to time. Say no. Stick up for myself.
I don’t know how I will measure this success, since these goals aren’t measurable. I’ll just have to see how much gray hair I have by the end of the year, I guess.