The only way we can stay with something for a sustained period of time is if we are clear in our intention and our motivation. And for some people and for some things we need to remind ourselves on a daily basis.
So when people miss something or forget to do something or decide not to do something, I would always say there’s a pretty good chance at some level our motivation has changed or slipped or we’ve forgotten what our initial intention was. So I would go back to that intention. What is it? Why am I doing this? What do I want from this? And really kind of examining that hard. Really examine the intention. And if you do, you’re not going to miss it. If you find what’s behind the action, you’ll follow through on the action.
It’s easy to forget the reasons we initially decided to do the things that we do. We start to make a change because there is something we care about enough to do something to include more of it in our lives. But in the day-to-day experience of work or relationships, the original inspiration and motivation can quickly become lost in distractions, difficult situations, and differences between expectations and reality.
Just pick something to work on. Write something, draw something, program something, animate something, sew something. It doesn’t matter. Anything that your heart is drawn to.
Set an intention for this activity: I’m doing this out of compassion for others, out of love for myself, to meet my commitment to so and so.
Now get started: begin actually doing it. Don’t worry about whether you’ll do it for 10 minutes or an hour. Don’t worry about how good you’ll be at it, or what people will think of it, or whether you’ll succeed or not. Those are not relevant to the task.
Intention is an important part of mindfulness practice. The idea is to set an intention for what you’re going to do, or set an intention for the day ahead. Then, regularly reflect and remind yourself of the reasons you’re meditating, writing, working, or whatever it is that you’re doing. What is important to you and why? What effect does this have on yourself? What effect does it have on the people around you? What is the thing that you think is cool about what you’re interested in, the thing that makes you excited just thinking about it? Why are you drawn to doing this?
I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: “Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?”—then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.
In other words, there will be a million distractions from the core reason you’re doing what you’re doing, but by taking the time to clear the mind and refocus on why you really care about what you’re doing you can always find a way to move forward. When you start something new, take the time to clarify for yourself why you’re doing it. And when you’re in the middle of being lost in actually doing it, take a break to remind yourself why you started.
Published 28 February 2015
Kevin McGillivray is a web developer, writer, and teacher from Wisconsin. He writes about creativity, mindfulness, code, and tea.