I’m a scholar through and through, so it’s no surprise that one of my central values is learning

If you asked me to describe my ideal method of learning in only two words, they would be slow and steady. I thrive when I can focus slowly and steadily on researching, reflecting, synthesizing, and writing. I savor the moments when I can take time to mull on ideas and make connections in my mind. Although my academic and professional training provide me with the ability to learn quickly and under pressure, I enjoy the process and perform better when I can be slow and steady. 

So, how do I create a life that is more slow and steady? I set an intention.

My focus for July is intention, and I’d like to start off this first week by showing you how to root intention in values and practice intention through presence.


What is Intention?

The word intention evokes two phrases in my mind:

  1. To do something with intention
  2. To set an intention

Both phrases use intention as a vehicle that moves us from point A to point B—we practice intention by doing and setting. This focus on getting to point B might lead us to mistake intentions for goals, although the two differ in fundamental ways.

A goal is the end result you hope to achieve, while an intention is how you plan to get there. 

A focused intention can help us to achieve our goals, but the point of an intention is not to check off a to do list. Dr. Deepak Chopra describes intention beautifully as “a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create.“ If you aim to create a calmer life, then you can set an intention to “embrace mindfulness,” which you might practice through meditation.


Why You Should Root Intention in Personal Values

Healer and counselor Christie Inge writes that “[a] well-crafted intention starts with your values and becomes a statement about how you want to show up in the world. [Intentions] are guideposts for who you want to ‘be’ and how you want to show up, instead of what you want to ‘do’ or accomplish.” I like Inge’s description because it differentiates being from doing. Since intentions are states of being we would like to inhabit, rooting them in personal values can help us manifest a more meaningful life.


How Presence Helps Us Practice Intention

Amy Cuddy is the contemporary scholar on presence. She’s well known for her “superman pose” TED talk and her book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges [1]. Cuddy defines presence as “the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values and potential.” In other words, presence allows us to act as our most authentic selves.

Let’s look at one more take on presence before we connect it to intention. In their article “The Power of Presence and Intentional Use of Self: Coaching for Awareness, Choice and Change,” Dorothy E. Siminovitch and Anne M. Van Eron define presence “as the ability to exist and respond to the ‘here and now’ situation of the moment” (90). Presence assists us in decision making, because when we are present, “[r]ather than reacting to people and situations, we are able to observe our own physical, mental, and emotional responses and, with this awareness, be ‘at choice’ about what we say or do” (92). 

If we combine these two definitions, we learn that presence helps us to focus on seeing, feeling, and acting authentically in the moment. By practicing presence, we actively choose to live in line with our intentions. 


Values help us to set meaningful intentions. Presence helps us to make choices that align with those intentions. I’ve developed the following three prompts to help you set up a plan to live in line with your own intentions.


1: Determine Your Values

Values are key to self development work. You can access general lists of common values by Google image searching “values list,” but I recommend using my Three Keys to Abundance exercise as a method for determining your authentic personal values. 


2: State Your Intention

Next, practice writing (or thinking or saying) intentions that feel in line with your personal values list. If you feel stuck, you can use my model from the introduction to this post. 

My work and passions revolve around learning, and I enjoy learning the most when I can be slow and steady. Thus, my intention is “live slow and steady.” 

Some of my other intentions include “choose love over fear,” “listen well to the people you love,” and “be curious.” You can also see a list of common intentions here.


3. Choose Intention with Presence

I know that I’m in line with my intention to “live slow and steady” when I achieve a state of flow—that feeling of being “in the zone” where time seems to just fly by while you’re doing something you love (in my case, learning). An ideal way to achieve a state of flow is to take myself to a beautiful coffee shop to sit by an open window and work on a project without a pressing deadline. In order to get into that coffeeshop state of flow, I have to first minimize distractions, be sure that I’m not hungry or tired, and allow myself to feel relaxed and grounded. If stressors arise, I can be “in choice” about how I deal with them. 

If you encounter obstacles or overwhelm, ask yourself “what choice would be most in line with my intention?” This can help you to feel proud and comforted with the choice you make, because it will help you to further achieve your intention (which you can trust is motivated by your values).



[1] There is a free 1 hour 22 minute video of Amy Cuddy’s keynote speech with the same name as her book on the UC Davis Institute for Social Sciences YouTube page.


*Please note that the original version of this blog post was published here

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