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Intentionality: Choose Intention, Not Tension

With all the daily ups and downs and the moment-by-moment challenges that arise in our lives, it's easy to forget that we have a say in how we feel. We have the ability to choose our response no matter what happens (and things do happen). It's called being intentional, and when setting intentions, we bring more joy into our life. We can begin to create the quality of our experience mindfully, even when it doesn’t feel like we have any choice. This is why mindfulness is so powerful.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Press your reset button to change your mindset

How do we do this? By being mindful of our reactions and self-talk. At any moment, we can pause and press our reset button, shifting tension to a conscious intention.

Perhaps our intention is to remain calm even when things go wrong. These mini-decisions determine the quality of our lives and whether or not we live in the present moment. When our experience in life is not by happenstance, it becomes intentional. We are no longer victims of circumstance; we begin to change the way we interact with life and enter a better flow.

Wherever You Place Your Attention, Your Energy Goes

Let me give you an example. A while back I was returning home from a business conference in San Diego. I left at 5 a.m. to catch my flight. A phrase used in one of the presentations: “Intention, not tension” was still lingering in my mind. After checking in at the San Diego airport and passing through security, I dragged my computer case and carry-on suitcase (ugh! the handle had just broken—so no wheels!) down the long terminal to the gate. Stopping on the way, I grabbed a coffee, finagling my bags while carefully balancing the hot drink.

I made it to the gate and spotted an open seat. Ah, what a relief! I set my carry-on bag down—whereupon my computer bag slipped off my shoulder, jerked my hand, and flung my coveted macchiato off into midair—one of those slow-motion moments.


My tasty coffee crashed instantly onto the floor and splattered everywhere. (Ever wonder why airports have such dull carpets? Now I know.

My coffee instantly disappeared into the gray-brown carpet, leaving absolutely no stain whatsoever!) In the background, the loudspeaker was saying: “Do not leave your luggage unattended at any time…” NO WAY was I going to hike the mile back to Starbucks with those bags for any kind of fix!

“Intention, not tension. Intention, not tension.”

I knew that what I said to myself at that moment could impact my entire day for better or for worse. So I chose to be grateful that there wasn’t a need for major cleanup, I hadn’t splattered anyone’s expensive suit, and I had just filled up my water bottle. I consciously turned my attention to thoughts of gratitude and for the recent opportunity to meet so many great people.

Our attention determines where our thoughts, emotions, and energy will go.

Related reading: "What Is Mindfulness? And Why All the Hubbub?"

Choose to Be Intentional: Set Positive Intentions

One of the things I teach at my emotional intelligence and leadership events and to my clients is the power of intentionality. Why? Because clear intentions are vital to creating a beautiful relationship, a happy family, a meaningful life, and a fulfilling career.

When we have a clear intention we are much more unlikely to engage in self-sabotage. What is so helpful about the phrase “Intention, not tension” is that it’s simple, and such a wonderful reminder to stop, take a breath, and remember what’s truly important. Think of someone you love with appreciation, and a little incident like a spilled macchiato will disappear as quickly as my coffee on the gray-brown carpet.

Take time to reset and set an intentionSo the next time you hit a little bump in the road, say to yourself, “Intention, not tension.”

Imagine you're an actor in your own movie. Use a clapperboard to "take two," regroup, shifting your attention to what you want and how you would like to feel!

How do you want to respond? Will your response reflect your deepest values? Will you allow those annoying daily occurrences to steal your peace and joy? Or will you turn speed bumps into reminders to slow you down and appreciate life more and savor its gifts?

I may not have had a warm macchiato to sip on that morning, but I did have my joy and ease intact, and I looked forward to returning home to the ones I love.

How can you apply this key to your life in a positive way? If we don’t apply what we learn, nothing changes. If we take small steps toward change, life becomes sweeter. When we practice small, effective keys over and over, our habits support our goals and dreams instead of taking us off track.

“Intention, not tension.”

To create more intentionality and emotional intelligence in your life, contact Heartmanity today for personalized support!

Help me be my best self!

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Brain Fitness, Mindfulness and Perspective

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