The Necessity of Intention
I grew up in an eclectic Black household raised by a phenomenal single mother. A household born of traditions from a woman who spent her entire adolescence in the church. Who spoke of day long weekend services, Wednesday prayer committees, and Monday Worship. In response to such a strict upbringing, my mother searched for her own concepts of religion. Branching out to mysticism, while still holding on to many beliefs steeped in Christianity. My mother was just as likely to be found on a prayer line as she was on a conference call with her psychic. We were a family of pick-and-choose Catholics, who dabbled in a hodge-podge of traditions and sayings pulled from other cultures. I spent my childhood hearing “God helps those who help themselves,” (which funnily enough, is often mistaken as scripture), while also placing Guatemalan worry dolls under my pillow in order to make my fears and anxieties disappear.
Most importantly, I was taught to value the importance of speaking things into existence. Understanding the power our words have in the universe, and the discourse we can create with our intentions.
To this day, there is truly nothing I have not accomplished when I have put it out into the world. While my methods are more subtle than my mother, I keep a list of goals I would like to accomplish tucked away in a journal near my bedside, the effects are no less tangible. A trip to Berlin, a new job, a change in location or experience; all are things that I have spoken or written into existence at one point or another.
However, as October comes to a close, I have truly realized is that setting a goal is not the same as setting an intention. For so long, I shaped my distinct goals as indicators of my success and well-being. In actuality, the ways in which we structure and visualize reality, our intentions, are just as important as the achievement itself. I thought furthering my career was how I intended to achieve greater happiness. I assumed leading by example was meant to manifest as a position rather than a mindset. Your intentions are meant to power your goals, and positively shape the path you take to achieve them, not the other way around.
Several months ago, with a day job and part-time consulting work, I met my goal of making a six figure salary. While it was something that I had visualized as a milestone for my thirties, I was amazed that I had managed to accomplish this at the age of 26. But with financial gain came impossible circumstances. 80-hour workweeks, playing catch-up on weekends, and little to no time to pursue side projects which used to bring me joy. I had envisioned this goal as financial freedom and the ability to support my family in a significant way. I was completely unaware of how my intentions should have shaped how my goals are achieved, and ultimately I had to give it up.
Don’t confuse setting goals with setting intentions. I made the mistake of focusing on a destination or end-game, rather than truly cultivating the pathway to get there.
Setting an intention should be larger than a one-time goal.
Intentions are meant to power the path you are on, they should not be considered stops along the way. You should believe in your intentions wholeheartedly, they should be your purpose and truly reflect how you’d like to move throughout the world. Most importantly, you have to believe in your intention as if it is the air you breathe. If you can’t believe in it, it may not be for you at this time.
It can be short and sweet.
In both time frame and length. Your intentions can be for the short term! What matters is the power behind the mantra. “I” statements like, “I intend to think about my responses before vocalizing.” Or “I will not let minor mistakes deter my progress,” can be specific to a period in your life. Similarly, this can also relate to the breadth of your intentions. Expressing that “I intend to approach situations with positivity and care,” doesn’t need to be a book-long mantra to hold importance for you.
It can shape your day-to-day.
Mindfulness and intention to me, are directly linked. Having a set intention, specifically one that mediates your day-to-day, can create a sense of mindfulness that allows for greater clarity. Even taking the time to carve out a few minutes in your morning and meditating on your intentions can be extremely worthwhile. Having a mantra, a few “I” statements about how you plan to go about your day, can make conflicts less stressful and allow you to navigate difficult days with the positivity of your intent.
It won’t change you overnight.
We cannot change our mindsets in day, but we can put in the daily effort to solidify a mantra into a way of life. Anything we make a commitment to is an investment in our future selves. Our job is to create a pathway that is not only sustainable, but gives us life and the will to continue when our goals seem unreachable. Make sure that the intentions that shape your journey keep healing, growth, and energy in mind.
Oluremi Olufemi is the Reflections Editor at Spoken Black Girl and a contributor at Black Girl in Om. Generally social media makes her tired, but she can be found on Instagram @oluremi_sohpia