on intention

It was only at a dinner party during NYE that I realised I hadn’t picked a theme for the coming year yet. Like I wrote last year, instead of setting myself a list of goals that I’m unlikely of going to achieve, I try each year to focus on one word that shall be my anthem for the months following. Now someone asked about my new year’s resolutions, and I went completely blank. I realised that I hadn’t given it any thought yet.

I often feel, and especially in winter, that my mind somehow disconnects from my body and from a distance I see my body do all of these things, and all of these things are happening around it, but I am not there in my own skin to intervene. At a certain point, there’s just the daily things that cost all of your energy and consume you wholly. Vision, ambitions, and plans have just leaked away somehow. This winter was no exception. In fact, I’ve had better ones. By the time it was NYE, I was feeling lost at sea, without any waves to cause a bit of sensation.

And then the question about my new year’s resolutions was dropped. Fired at me, like a bomb. Nothing but a long, deep silence after.

In the silence started to grow the realisation what this inclined – the fact that the question had caught me by surprise. It probably was a sign that I had not been living at all very mindfully over the last couple of weeks. Or months, even. Things had just kind of ‘happened’. And I was feeling sorry about how some of those things had worked out. Some had left me feeling sad and disappointed. In cases screwed over. Big time. But there came the biggest realisation – that is that in most cases, I had not done anything in the process to try and change those things. I felt like I had watched my life go by, but I had had not stirred the wheel. I had seen life unroll, but I had not tried to influence the direction in which.

‘Blowing with the wind’ is one of my life’s philosophies, and I’m a huge protagonist of taking life as it reveals itself to you. I love embracing the day as it comes and to be open for surprises and spontaneity. But I have come to realise that there is a great difference between having an attitude of acceptance and appreciation, and utter passivity. There is, in other words, a difference between moving/bending along, and being blown away.

Hence the word that shall be my theme song this year. Intention shall be my intention.

‘Intention’ can be explained somewhat negatively as ‘having an agenda’ – being intentional about life meaning being controlling, authoritative, suppressive, or imposing one’s will upon things. This is not the way in which I would like to use the word. In etymology, the word doesn’t only mean ‘design, object’ or ‘will’, but it also means ‘purpose, aim, aspiration, wish, desire’. In Middle English, intention also stands for ‘emotion, feelings, heart, mind, mental faculties of understanding’. To live intentionally is, in other words, not so different than ‘to live with the heart’.

Such an explanation of the word is even further justified by the meaning of the Latin verb ‘intendere’, which means ‘to turn one’s attention’. To live with intention, is in this sense not so different from living with attention. ‘To intend’ does not mean that you try to manipulate events in a way that the outcome fits your purpose or design’, but it does mean living with attention and openness towards external factors, to what is outside, while also listening to what is already inside. Having intention simply helps you choose where to direct your outward attention to. Knowing what your heart’s desires are, makes you attentive to the right things. In other words, intention makes you see and recognise opportunity when it comes along, opening up to the right people at the right moments.

So how does one travel through life with the heart as compass? Living more intentionally will mean asking oneself questions like ‘Why am I doing this?’, ‘What do I want from this?’, ‘What are the things that I want to achieve?’ and ‘How do I make them happen?’. I will need to take time every once in a while to check in with myself whether I am still moving in the direction that I want to. Not in order to have full control and manipulate fate or destiny, but in order to make the most of it. In order to spend my (precious!) days well. To await life with open arms and be ready to seize it when it comes along.


  1. Lieve Lau, wat een mooi voornemen voor je nieuwe reis! Ik wens je toe dat het een onvergetelijke reis gaat worden! En ik verheug me nu al op je blog!


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