How Understanding Your Intentions Can Improve Your Life

Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Conscious Living, Manifestation / LOA, Thrive with 0 Comments

By Dr. Srini Pillay

How Understanding Your Intentions Can Improve Your Life

Intentions play a powerful role in shaping your career, relationships, health, and more. Managing your intentions is key to making effective decisions and reaching your goals. Despite this seemingly obvious fact, we often miss the mark. On the outside, this may seem like a mystery, but new research on the science behind your intentions can help you connect your intentions to your actions more easily.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a Zen master to align your intentions and actions. Once you understand how the brain formulates and responds to intentions, you’ll unlock your ability to align them with your goals and improve your life.

Intentions Are the Sum of Many Parts

Neurological studies have revealed that the brain doesn’t have a central intention center. Instead, conscious and unconscious factors, emotions, and actions all work together to create and modify your intentions. Thus, intentions are the sum of many parts — far more complex than you’d imagine.

For this reason, your perceptions, fears, rewards, risks, and memories all need to be aligned. If they’re not, your intentions will feel fragmented. For example, let’s say you want to be wealthier and know that you would love the freedom it would bring. But you’re afraid of failing and know that you would hate the sacrifice it would take because you’ve suffered from overworking in the past. These mixed messages will confuse your brain. You have to overcome your fears and ambivalence — or at least tinker with them until your brain has the “all clear” signal.


Intentions and Actions Influence Each Other

Intentions prepare us for action long before we’re aware they exist. Studies indicate that even when we think we’re still choosing our next step, our brains have already made a decision. For example, the moment you consciously choose to leave your partner likely comes long after his brain registers the decision. Your brain has already started to move you in that direction.

But just because your intentions shape your decisions, it doesn’t mean you’re at their mercy. You can consciously offset these unconscious influences to align your decisions with your long-term goals, not the whims of the moment.

To do this, ask yourself a series of questions: Am I being too prudent? Am I making the changes I need to? Am I considering the big picture? By consciously questioning your intentions, you can reaffirm your choices or realign your decisions with your goals.

Deliberate Intentions Can Help You Meet Your Goals

Broad intentions are hard for your brain to follow, but formulating specific intentions can help you stick to your plan and reach your goals. For example, instead of saying you want to lose weight, you should articulate a measurable goal, such as losing 10 pounds in two weeks. Segmenting intentions as specifically as possible is best for following through because your brain can digest specific information more easily.

However, there’s no use being specific if you have a plan B. If-then scenarios remind your brain to stay on track, but formulating a plan B can derail your initial intentions. Your brain sees that plan as a backup option and has less motivation to focus its energy on plan A.

Others Can Detect Your Intentions

Intention management is also important because other people pick up on your unconscious intentions. You might like to think you can cover up your thoughts, but mirror neurons in your brain allow you to perceive others’ intentions automatically. That’s why the teenager who sucks up to his parents hoping they’ll lend him the car later isn’t fooling anybody.

With this in mind, allow your “gut feelings” to be put to the test by your analyzing brain. Don’t just throw them away. If you sense something, put it on the conscious table so you can see whether it’s justified.

The brain is a complex mystery, and we’ve only scratched the surface of its intricacies. But even the little we do know gives us insight into our everyday actions. You have the power to connect your intentions with your actions if you act more consciously.

The next time you have an intention, follow all four steps: See whether what you want, the risks, the rewards, and prior memories are aligned; question your path more frequently; be more specific, and eliminate plan B; and put your gut feelings to the test. Your conscious brain will help steer your super-efficient but often inaccurate unconscious toward your goals.

srini-velvet-jacket-160x170Dr. Srini Pillay, founder and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group, is a pioneer in brain-based executive coaching who is dedicated to collaborating with experts to help people unleash their full potential. He also serves as assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Programs at Harvard Business School and Duke Corporate Education.

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