Do you recognize that feeling of being completely absorbed by something? That feeling where you feel that you have no other choice, you want it somewhere, but at the same time it causes stress. This may be related to your work, a temporary project, caring for your child(ren), or the preparations for a move abroad. It's what you fall asleep to - and that doesn't happen without a struggle - and it's also the first thing you think about when you wake up.
If you experience this feeling for more than a few days, there is a chance that what you are doing does not really correspond to what you really want; and that your attentions are not in line with your true intentions. The latter can result in a feeling of stress and ultimately even lead to burnout.
What are your true intentions?
Your real intentions are the motivations that come from within, things that are close to your heart or that you are passionate about. You can see these true intentions as your personal mission or meaning. For some, this means protecting nature and animals, while for others it is about caring for fellow human beings.
Your true intention functions as a life mission that gives your existence meaning. It represents the pursuit of a higher purpose that is part of something bigger than yourself, but of which you are a part. It's what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning, especially if you find ways to contribute to it.
For me personally, one of my greatest motivations, and therefore my highest intention, is sharing knowledge. I have come to believe that if everyone knows what everyone else knows, there will be no more war or even fighting. When everyone knows what everyone else knows, all that remains is understanding and love for each other. That thought motivates me enormously to make my contribution.
My mantra is therefore: 'Knowledge = Love'.
What are acts of kindness in everyday life?
Attentions refer to what your attention is focused on. It is the actions you perform and the time you spend physically or mentally on something. This starts in the morning when you wake up with a dry throat and need a drink of water, tea, or coffee. It's not so much that you're dehydrated, but the tickle in your throat - the attention - signals that you want something to drink.
Then you go to work by car and come to a red traffic light. That attention makes you stop. Both your work and the traffic light are attentions, although they arise from your intentions.
You stop at the red light because you want to continue your life to care for others, and you work because it earns you the income that allows you to offer your children a carefree childhood.
Within the context of harmonizing your attention with your intentions, three categories of intentions have been distinguished:
Essential Attentions: These are the attentions that are necessary for your survival. If you do not pay attention to this, there is a risk of serious consequences, including death. These matters must necessarily receive your attention and therefore attention. Examples are food, drinks, a safe living environment, and a red traffic light.
Passion-driven Attentions: This concerns matters for which you are intrinsically motivated and which you consider important to pursue based on your deepest convictions. You like to spend time and attention on these because they resonate with your personal mission or purpose. This could be caring for others, contributing to the environment, or as in my personal example, sharing knowledge with the belief that this leads to greater understanding and love.
Misleading Attentions: These are the acts of kindness that receive a disproportionate amount of attention and cost energy, but are not necessarily in harmony with your true intentions. They are made important by personal beliefs or choices, often motivated by external pressure or momentary gratification. It seems as if the attention it demands is being commanded, but in fact you are simply making the matters themselves too important. This can be an extreme distraction from your passion-driven attentions and essential attentions, and require a reconsideration of what you are paying attention to.
To avoid unnecessary stress, it is important to find harmony between your thoughts and your true intentions. This means making conscious choices about where you invest your time and energy so that you live in accordance with what is truly valuable to you.
A practical example where intentions and attention were not in harmony:
A woman, who is strongly committed to animal welfare and healthy food, was given a management position at an international NGO. In this role, she was able to actively contribute to making a difference in the field of animal welfare. She was able to focus her attention within her work on what she finds really important in life, which at first glance seems ideal.
However, the problem arose because she was working from early morning to late evening, including weekends. This may be manageable for a while, especially during a training period, but in the long term stress and burnout complaints will inevitably arise.
Although at first glance it seems that what she pays attention to is in line with her intention, in practice, it appears that it does not correspond with her other intentions. In addition to animal welfare, she also thinks it is important to be there for her environment and friends, to dance or exercise twice a week, and to eat healthy to stay physically fit. By making her job so extremely important and therefore devoting so much time and attention to it, there was no room left for her other intentions and attentions.
How do you align your attentions and intentions?
Below is a simple, effective exercise that you can do yourself to align your attentions with your intentions.
Step 1: Grab a pad of Yellow Notes and make a list of your true intentions on the left and a list of your concerns on the right. These may or may not be things that you are currently paying attention to. For example, if you intend to stay physically and mentally healthy, write down what you would like to do in your attentions. Do you want to pay attention to sports, dancing, healthy eating, or hiring a mental coach?
Write one intention and one gift on each note. You can fill in as many notes as you want.
Step 2: Rate each Yellow Note from 1 to 10, where 10 means that you find the intention or attention extremely important, and 1 means that you are not actually interested in it.
Step 3: Take a red and a green pen and draw a line from each intention to each attention. A red color means that the intention has a negative influence on your attention and a green line means that the intention actually motivates you to focus on your attention.
Step 4: Do the same as in step 3, but from your attentions to your intentions.
Step 5: The final result gives you a graphic overview of which intentions distract from your attentions and vice versa. You can solve this by making certain intentions or attentions more important. Simply rate them higher and meditate every evening and morning, feeling how important they are to you.
Know what you value and aspire to in life
To effectively align your time and attention with your intentions, it is essential to have a clear picture of what you truly value and aspire to in life. This process starts with self-reflection and identifying your true motivations and goals as with the exercise above.
Here are some more tips:
Engage in self-reflection regularly
Take the time to think about what is really important to you. This includes not only your professional ambitions, but also your personal values, such as health, relationships, and hobbies. It is crucial to have a balanced vision of your life, taking into account all aspects that influence your well-being.
Actively set your priorities
Once you have clarity about your intentions and focuses, it is important to prioritize them. This will help you determine where to focus your time and energy. Setting priorities makes it easier to make choices that are in line with your true intentions.
Ensure a healthy private and work balance
It is important to find a balance between work and private life, between effort and relaxation, and between give and take. A balanced life ensures that you remain productive and satisfied in the long term, without becoming exhausted.
Be open to change and be willing to adjust your plans if necessary. Life is unpredictable, and sometimes your intentions and focus can shift. Flexibility allows you to adapt to new circumstances and seize opportunities that are in line with your values.
Seek support if necessary
Don't hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or (coaching) professionals. A good support network can help you stay motivated and provide you with valuable insights and advice.
By following these steps, you can live a life more in tune with your true intentions and avoid unnecessary stress. It is an ongoing process of tuning and adjustment, but by making conscious choices you can ensure that your attention and energy goes to what is really important to you.
Question and answer
What are true intentions and how do they differ from intentions?
True intentions are the deeper motivations and goals that come from within, things that you really care about and are passionate about. This can vary from taking care of nature to sharing knowledge. Attentions, on the other hand, relate to what your daily attention is focused on, such as work, the traffic light, or healthy eating. The goal is to align these acts of kindness with your true intentions.
How can misaligning intentions and attentions impact your well-being?
When your daily attention (attentions) is not in line with what you really find important (your intentions), this can lead to stress, dissatisfaction, and in the long term even burnout. This often happens when people spend too much time on matters that seem urgent but do not resonate with personal values and goals.
What can I do if my intentions and attentions do not match?
Start by identifying your true intentions and current focuses. Make a list of both and evaluate how well they are currently aligned. Use strategies such as prioritizing, saying no to less important things, and scheduling time for activities that are aligned with your intentions.
What do you do when you have trouble identifying your true intentions?
It can sometimes be challenging to identify your true intentions, especially if you are used to conforming to the expectations of others or if you are still discovering what really matters to you. Start self-reflection and ask yourself questions such as: "What really makes me happy?" and "What would I do if money or time were no object?"