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3 Easy Steps towards Acting More Intentionally

Updated: Oct 19, 2019


By: Nicole Bentley, LCSW


Learning to set intentions is a skill that can serve us well in making sure we get the most out of our experiences. Have you ever gone home from a party or left a dinner with friends and felt like you didn’t bring your best self to the table? Or maybe you went home to see your family and it didn't end well.

Have you ever left an interview knowing you could have done better, or felt self-conscious about how a meeting with a professor went? What you bring to those situations is in your control, and setting intentions ahead of time will help you to feel empowered and your authentic self.

There are 3 easy steps to setting intentions: identify your vulnerability areas, set your intentions based on your values, and cope ahead for the situation. These steps can be applied to any situation where you want to feel more prepared, empowered, or authentically yourself.

1. Identify your areas of vulnerability

Vulnerability areas include any situation where you feel dissatisfied with the outcome. Whether it is something you said or did, or your reaction to the actions or words of another person; you can put your best self forward if you are intentional. Ask yourself: What situations do I walk away from feeling unhappy with the outcome? What are some situations where I am too hard on myself? When would I like to present differently?

2. Set intentions based on your values

Your values are what guide your actions and allow you to feel like you are living your best life. Once you have identified a situation where you would like to be more intentional, ask yourself: How do my values interact with this situation? What values would I like to pursue in similar situations in the future? The answers to these questions will allow you to set appropriate intentions to make these situations different in the future, and to ensure your actions are guided by your values.

3. Cope ahead

This step allows you to put the plan into place. By following steps one and two, you have identified vulnerable situations that you would like to change your relationship with, and you have used your values to set intentions for that experience. Coping ahead involves applying details to those intentions. Ask yourself: What can I do to support myself as I aim to act differently? What steps can I put in place to ensure that I am bringing my best self to this situation? Will I need support from a peer? How will I practice self-care afterward?

Here is an example of a person named Sam, and how he utilized these steps to live a more intentional life. Sam struggles with going home to see his family for the holidays, because when he does he often feels compared to his sister, and judged by his parents for his choice of career, lifestyle and partner. Sam identified going home for Christmas as an area of vulnerability as he usually comes home feeling bad about himself. Sam thought about his values, and decided that self-respect was at the top of the list, so he chose to cope ahead and make a plan that pursued that value. Sam decided he would stand behind his decisions when his parents questioned them, and he would respect his own choices despite the opinions of others. Sam also planned to write a few affirmations to improve his self-image when he feels compared to his sister. With this plan in place, Sam felt more confident traveling home for Christmas. This plan did not change the actions and words of his family, but it did change the way Sam reacted to those actions and words, which ultimately allowed Sam to feel that his trip home was successful and in line with maintaining his value of self-respect.


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