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The Power of Intention

January 28, 2014

Power of intention: a tool for navigating life

As published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette


Family life is a journey. Finding tools to navigate this adventure is essential.

As a Boy Scout I learned that the best way to avoid getting lost in the wilderness is to stay found. This seems to work well in life, too. So our family uses a number of practices throughout the year that help us stay connected to ourselves, each other, and the natural world we inhabit.

One practice is setting annual intentions, which we do by creating vision boards to welcome the New Year. As family projects go, this often takes a few weeks to complete.

We start with a pile of old magazines, print materials and crafting supplies strewn across the kitchen table. Using the images to guide our thoughts about what we want to create in the coming year we each clip pictures and words that reflect these intentions. Our kids, Zoe and Adam, hone their scissoring and literacy skills, and together we eagerly discuss our emerging visions, building a level of excitement and ownership about the year ahead.

After collecting a pile of clippings, we use glue sticks to affix them to our individual boards, with varying degrees of artistic flair. The kids decide the shape of our boards. Last year Zoe chose hearts. This year chickens, in honor of a successful project – building a coop and starting a brood of backyard chickens – which played a prominent role in our 2013 vision boards.

When the boards are complete we hang them from the curtain rod above our kitchen table where they serve as a constant reminder and source of conversation about where we are headed on this leg of our family journey.

For my wife, Lori, and I our boards generally reflect a mix of personal, family and professional intentions, which we discuss and reevaluate throughout the year. The boards also include tangible, family-centered activities, including camping trips, special projects and other adventures.

We make room for big and bold ideas, too. So building on last summer’s successful day hike in the White Mountains, the kids have decided they want our family to hike the Appalachian Trail — all the way from Maine to Georgia. That the trail runs through 14 states and is roughly 2,180 miles long matters little to their fertile imaginations.

For nearly 10 years, Lori and I have set annual intentions and, in recent years, designed vision boards as a way to create shared vision and direction for our family, before becoming parents and since. We have realized a surprising number of these intentions, often more abundantly than imagined. This has bolstered our appreciation for the power of intention, the belief that we have choices in life, including the choice to chart our future and to model this practice for Zoe and Adam.

Of course, the journey is filled with unexpected twists and turns. Assumptions prove inaccurate, conditions change and priorities shift — these are the guarantees in life. Yet we find that the practice of creating a shared vision, setting intentions and having ongoing conversation about our plans helps ensure that we do not wander too far off course before taking notice and reorienting — staying found.

And, observing Zoe and Adam dream big, realize success, adapt to unexpected events and negotiate disappointment — building their resilience and ours — is tremendously fulfilling.

So while we might not make it to Georgia, this year, lively family conversation has already begun to give form to our plan to hike a section of the trail this summer, a reminder that life is more about the journey than the destination.

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