Start with why. Begin with the end in mind. Consider where you want your life to be in three years. These common phrases all point to the same thing using different language: intention.
Most of our conversations about purpose are anchored to intention. The assumption is that if we know our purpose, we’ll be more intentional about how we spend our days and life. If we don’t know our purpose, then our actions can feel random or meaningless. (So the story goes — a lot of purpose-seeking is deeply rooted and nicely camouflaged fear of uncertainty.) Intention comes up in nearly every conversation I have with clients and students because we’re discussing planning. To make a plan, you have to set a goal. Plans and goals are intentions about the way you will (and won’t) use your time, as well as what is and isn’t important to you. I know a friend of mine who is an SEO Consultant spends most of his day staring at computer screens. I personally wouldn't like that as I love to be outside. Many of us don’t do our best work because we haven’t set a clear intention to do it, especially when we zoom down to how we’re planning our days.
Undercultivation of intention is easier to grasp and see in ourselves and others than overcultivation of intention, at least at first blush. But when we look around and see how stricken with anxiety people are because they’re so focused on achieving certain goals by certain times by certain ways, it’s easy to see how much people’s suffering comes from being attached to the world matching their intention. The world has an annoying way of not doing what we want it to, but as the thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
But for intention to have any grip, it has to be about something. One of the chief reasons we’re using a project as an anchor for changing our work is because it gives us a focal point to be intentional about how we’re specifically using our time, energy, and attention on the project. The project is analogous to focusing on our breath or a specific feeling in meditation.