What is it?
We all want to be intentional, right? We don’t go around doing everything completely by accident. We CHOOSE our actions, our words, our responses to things. Except when we don’t.
The truth is, our brains got wired a certain way in childhood. They rewired in adolescence. We are still creating new neuronal connections every day. But some of those connections are like superhighways now, they’ve been travelled so frequently. They have lots of lanes and wide, easy on-ramps. We can travel on those roads without even thinking, without looking closely at where we’re going, paying more attention to the song on the radio than the road.
Our habituated responses to what life throws at us everyday are like superhighways. We get on them without thinking twice. Unless we are INTENTIONAL about where we are going and how we are getting there,we may always take the road most travelled. We can decide to take a different route, but we have to be paying attention. We have to notice: “I’m about to go down that same old road” in order to choose a new one. And the new road takes so much more effort. It’s bumpy and pot-holed and not nearly as fast. We have to turn the radio down and focus because the terrain is unfamiliar. Sometimes it feels like we are whacking a new track through a forest and actually WE ARE. We create new neuronal connections by doing new things, having new thoughts. It takes time to pave this road, to make a ride on its surface as smooth as a superhighway. Building a new road in your brain takes a lot of work.
But it’s worth it. Because more roads mean MORE CHOICES about how we get where we’re going. We are no longer confined to our habituated responses, our default settings, our defenses. We can learn what it feels like in our physical body when a habit is rising up: the tension in our throat, the tightness in our stomach, the buzz in our head. We can learn to use that physical sensation as a cue, not a trigger. We can insert pause, relax, and CHOOSE. Choose our best response in the circumstances, not the one that relieves the physical sensation but gets us less of what we really want in the long run. By practicing AWARENESS, self-observing, noticing our own habit urges, and choosing, we become intentional people living INTENTIONAL LIVES. We become our best self rather than some predetermined version of who we might be.