Intent: purpose, aim, objective or goal.
Earlier this week, before “Snowmageddon” hit here in NYC, I was working with sixth and seventh grade students. Since we’ll soon be prepping for our spring dance show, I wanted to motivate them for the work ahead. They’re almost all on social media and know about the # trend, as in everyone hashtagging everything.
So I asked each of them to come up with a one word hashtag that describes them, or helps them with a goal. It needed to be their word. I wear mine on my wrist every day thanks to a great company called “My Intent.” They manufacture jewelry with words provided either by their customers or ready-made for sale, with the ultimate goal of having “meaningful conversations” and “positive energy.” My word is create.
I intend each day to create things: to design, to sew, to write. Not every day is creatively successful, but it’s my goal. Especially when my medical issues block my progress, it’s a positive affirmation that I can look at. And I do, very often. It reminds me that not every day will be too painful to create something beautiful.
They initially struggled. But soon, they were ready to present to their classmates. Some of their words were: focus, improve, dedicate, turns, balance, cooperate, confidence, and kindness. A few kids said things like sleep and chill. Great goals at 12 and 13 years old. And older, to be honest.
When I explained why I asked them to come up with the words, they got more into it. To live, work, and play with intent is to mean it. Far too often, we float through the day, just trying to get through all of the activities and responsibilities we must complete. It takes a commitment on each person’s part to be present for those moments.
So I asked the kids to be present, to really make an investment of themselves in the choreography they’re creating. The thing about dancing in a group is that everyone has to make the same level of commitment, or it’s painfully obvious that something’s amiss. It’s inevitable that some rehearsals will go better than others. But I wanted to make sure they understood why teamwork mattered. Why dancing with intent is necessary. Why living with intent is even more important.
We spend so much time with our faces buried in our phones, laptops, and tablets that we aren’t always aware of life around us. Case in point: walk down any city street. NYC is perpetually full of people bumping into one another on sidewalks because everyone is looking down, not forward. I get annoyed and say, “Really??” in my exasperated way, but I do it too!
I asked the students to make a goal of intention. The intention to live, work, play – fully dedicated to the activity at hand. Even if they’re just meeting friends, be present. Homework or exams? Work hard to the best of their abilities.
By the end of the class period, they were trying to come up with more words for themselves. And words for the class as a whole. It was fun to listen to their responses. They got it.
It all came from putting on my bracelet on a particularly bad day. I reminded myself that the day-to-day of being chronically ill sometimes takes the joy away. It often robs me of my intent. And I resent that.
So now I make a commitment to myself, to my life, each day. Whether it’s writing, designing or sewing, I strive to keep going. Time with my family? I’m motivated to check in with them and know how their day was. If I’m talking with my daughter, I’m invested in hearing what she has to say.
There are days that I can put my head down and think, “I did it!” And far too many where I shut my eyes and know that nothing was accomplished. But I am willing to try again. I intend to try.
And, on those hard days, that has to be enough. And it is.
Be kind to each other.
Peace & painlessness,