Act with Intention–—and Reap the Rich Rewards

By Denise King Gillingham, MSW

How do you choose to use your power?

So, what do you want? Seems like that should be a very easy question to answer, doesn’t it? But the fact is we often struggle with the answer. The difficulty comes from not having a plan and instead following the current and acting automatically, without intention.

When you act with intention, you use your control to create the life you want. Intentions help us move forward, achieve goals, and improve our quality of life.

So, how do we ensure that our actions are purposeful? Use the following three-step plan to help you get started living your life with intention.

Step 1: Define Your Core Values

Seems daunting? Try this: think about a time in your life when you were at your most happy, a time when you had to pinch yourself to realize that you were not dreaming. What was happening? Where were you? Whom were you with?

Evaluating the conditions of this optimal state will tell you a lot about your values. If you were happiest during a beach vacation with friends, for instance, that was filled with exercise, good food, music, and quality time with people you love, your core values include friendship, relaxation, nature, physical activity, music, comfort, coziness, and cooking (or other creative endeavors).

If you want to delve deeper into your core values, try choosing a time when you were extremely angry. What were the conditions of that experience? Zeroing in on these heightened states is a good way to mine for values.

Step 2: Set Goals That Are in Sync with Your Core Values

Once you have clarified some of your core values, you can move on to determining your goals: what do you want? If you can achieve clarity about your life’s purpose—what you would like to achieve—you are more likely to head in that direction.

For this exercise find a place where you can safely and comfortably relax and close your eyes for 15 or 20 minutes. Visualize the following: It is five years from now and your future self is greeting you. She opens the door to your house. What does she look like? What is her name? What is she wearing? How does she greet you? What advice does she give you regarding the next five years? What is her house like (location, colors, feeling)? During this visualization relax and let as much information come to you as possible.

Perhaps your future self is a writer dressed in purple who lives in the country. There are a lot of plants in your house. Maybe your future self advises you to let things happen and to not be so rigid. She greets you with a hug.

Now think about what this information is telling you. Are you currently living your life according to your core values? Do you need to make some adjustments so that you are moving in the direction of your choice? When you look at the information from this visualization and put it together with your core values, what do you see? This will give you additional information that will help with goal setting. Your goals should be in sync with your core values.

Step 3: Establish Your Intention

Using the information from steps 1 and 2, you are prepared to act with intention. Now it’s time for the action step: look at a situation and decide what you want to get out of it. Will the way you show up—the attitude and the demeanor you show to the world—help you move in your chosen direction? If not, examine how you would like the world to see you and present yourself in that manner. Hint: be genuine and direct in your emotional expression.

Keep your values and goals in focus. Look at your whole life and consider the impact that your decision will have on the big picture. Remember that you have a choice about “who” shows up in every situation. How will you use your power most effectively?

Use your opportunity to act with intention and move forward in your life!  Denise King Gillingham, MSW, CPCC, is a certified co-active coach who specializes in helping people achieve enduring life change through accessing their inner wisdom. Her international practice includes clients from all walks of life. Denise received her master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and has been a mental health professional for more than 15 years. She shifted her focus from therapy to coaching in 2006. Her professional experience includes private therapy practice in Prague, Czech Republic; crisis intervention with New York University; in-patient therapy at Payne Whitney Clinic in New York City; and substance abuse counseling at Bronx VA Medical Center in New York City. She develops and conducts workshops on emotional intelligence for organizations in the United States and Europe. Contact Denise at dkgcoach@gmail.com.