Being a grown up in the 21st century means that many of us start our day with an overly-ambitious list of tasks on our To-Do list, failing to learn to be more realistic, and kinder to ourselves about what can be achieved with our time.
We are so busy ‘doing’; even as I write, these words are racing out at speed because my son’s due home any minute, and my intention is to stop working, and switch off.
But intention is very different from my ‘to-do’, or even my wish list.
How is intention different?
Our ‘goals’ or aims tend to be about what we want to achieve, and how we get there. There’s something very satisfying about scribbling something off the list, isn’t there?
And our brains like it; we get a little dopamine hit and a feeling of reward. But as a way of life, our addiction to ‘busyness’ is doing nothing for our wellbeing.
Intention doesn’t get a big tick. In fact, it works much more effectively if we keep it with us, rather than putting it behind us.
Intention is about what we are, not what we do. It tends to be driven by our beliefs, our purpose, what keeps us grounded or motivated.
And increasingly, as neuroscience continues to learn about the wonders of ‘neuroplasticity’; our brains’ ability of shape and reshape itself according to the lives we lead and the experiences we have; studies are telling us that meaningfully practicing intent literally helps to re-wire our brains.
When we give ourselves a recurring message, when we repeat, rehearse and role play a particular thought or action – such as an intention – we reinforce the neural pathways in our brains associated with that.
And if we do that for long enough, and regularly enough, that thought or action will eventually be so well established, that it becomes second nature; your head’s literal pathway of least resistance.
In this 2 minute video, Dan Seigal; co-author of ‘The Whole Brain Child’ (amongst many other brilliant books); talks about the power of intent in activating a particular kind of brain cell called ‘mirror neurons’.
All of our brains have them, and they’re activated when we observe the behaviour and actions of another human being.
Ultimately this means that, from infancy, without any conscious awareness on your part, your brain was programmed by the actions of the grown-ups around you.
And now, our own children’s programming is being determined in the same way; whether we wish it to be that way or not.
But what’s more significant is that what really fires up the mirror neuron network is intent; understanding the intention behind the actions and behaviours.
And so the implication for the kind of parents (or educators or care-givers) we intend to be is huge.
How are you intentionally showing up for your children every day?
And how intentionally are you showing up for yourself?…
Because overseeing the needs of our kids often means we overlook our own needs… But here’s the thing;
Our kids brains are patterning on how we treat ourselves, not just how we treat them.
So instead of charging through the day at the speed of light as we try in vain to be ‘more productive’, stop. Or at least slow down.
And ask yourself what’s on your ‘To Be’ list… In other words, what’s your intention? We are, after all, ‘human beings’, not ‘humans doing’.
So how do you intend to be, for yourself? More self-compassionate, less pessimistic, less triggered?
How do you intend to be with your children? More patient, more grateful for them, more present and connected…
What do you intend to be together, and how can that feed and nourish everyone?
Can you create a regular pattern of intention setting, whether it’s part of a morning ritual, a Monday morning pep-talk to yourself?
Can you support your kids in setting their own intentions; to overcome specific difficulties, or to cultivate the characteristics they value in others, for example?
Because the bottom line is this; every thought, action, decision, behaviour and belief starts in the brain so; whether we want to change any of those, in ourselves or our kids; it means changing what’s happening, right there 🧠
It’s opportunity enough that improving our own wellbeing can begin, simply with our intention to do so, but if; just by observing how we put those intentions into practice; we can help programme our children’s brains to do the same, why wouldn’t we?
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