When you are confused, clarify your intentions

On yesterday’s coaching call in Conscious Growth Club – which set a new record at 5.5 hours – I often referred back to the importance of clarifying intentions. This is especially critical when you’re facing those tricky either-or decisions, both of which seem like partial matches.

Clarify Your Intentions

Whenever you get confused, it’s often super helpful to pause and clarify your intentions. Just declare what you actually want in a sentence or two. Express it aloud or in writing. Then let it sink in and see how your body, mind, and feelings react to it.

Does your intention feel like a true expression of your desires? Does it feel a little off still? Do you like the internal reaction it creates within you? Does some part of you object, and if so, what’s the specific objection, and how could you resolve that?

Keep tweaking your intention till you feel satisfied with it, like you really feel that it’s yours. With practice you’ll often find yourself crafting nicely aligned intentions on the first try.

One reason we sometimes drown in partial matches is that reality is trying to guess at what we want. If we keep saying maybe to reality’s offers instead of serving up a firm yes or no, reality gets confused. It can’t read our minds and pull out some deeper level of clarity if our minds are confused. Even if reality could read our minds in such situations, it would only read confusion.

When we bring clarity to our minds first, we can clearly communicate our desires to reality, and reality can see that we’re being honest and respond in kind.

This doesn’t mean that reality will always deliver what we want, but it often will. Typically it behaves like a human. If you tell another person exactly what you want, the other person will often gladly deliver if your request seems reasonable. For instance, you can tell a server at a restaurant what you want from the menu, and they will usually bring you exactly that. If you make a stretch request that’s not on the menu, they may at least try to deliver that too, or they’ll make suggestions based on how close they think they can get.

Are You Frustrating Reality?

Reality can be very accommodating when you’re clear about asking for what you want. And it can behave as if it’s frustrated with you if you perpetually act confused, much like an a server at a restaurant trying to hide their annoyance with an indecisive customer. Reality may try to be polite with you, but behind the scenes, consider that your confusion is actually annoying and frustrating reality. It wants to bring you want you want. It wants to be appreciated. It wants to be seen as beautiful. But your confusion may not be letting much of that potential beauty come through, just as your confusion at a restaurant stunts the best efforts of the server and the cook to please you.

If you don’t tell reality what you want, it has to guess. And it evaluates the accuracy of its guesses based on your responses (i.e. your actions and behaviors). If you take the bait of a partial match, reality assumes it scored it hit and gave you what you want. It doesn’t know that it actually missed unless you say a firm no and give it some revised suggestions.

You wouldn’t want to frustrate a server at a restaurant by acting perpetually confused about what to order, would you? Of course not. So why would you ever want to behave like this with life or reality? Isn’t it always going to be self-defeating? How is this pattern ever really going to help you or anyone else?

Since this pattern is so dreadful in terms of results, I suggest that you stop running it. Yes – simply that. Just don’t run the confusion pattern.

You don’t have to run this pattern. It’s not a mandatory or essential part of life. It’s really a request to pause the flow of life, but if that’s what you want, just ask reality to pause. There’s no need to evoke confusion.

Don’t sit down at a table in a restaurant to order if you’re not ready and hungry for your next meal. Just rest in the state of being not hungry yet. You can do this with goal-setting too. Instead of acting confused about what to do, just rest in the state of not being hungry for any fresh goals yet. Don’t chase after partial matches. Give your hunger some time to build up first.

This too is a form of intention. Just as you could set the intention to enjoy your next meal when you’re actually ready for it, you can hold the intention to invite a juicy and delicious goal to come into your life when you’re ready for it.

Sometimes Rachelle will ask me what I want for dinner when it’s still early afternoon, and I’m not actually hungry yet because we just had lunch. When I’m not hungry, I don’t feel like eating, so it’s difficult to say what I might want to eat later. Consequently, my intention for dinner may not be very specific at that time, but I can still form the intention to have a dinner that I’ll enjoy and appreciate. And that’s good enough for that point in time.

That’s a good default decision when you’re not hungry yet, both for food and goals. Just set the intention to discover a fresh goal or direction that you’ll appreciate. This connects nicely with creating a life that you’ll appreciate too. As your hunger or desire builds, you’ll be able to order something more specific, just as your able to eventually figure out what to eat for each meal.

I don’t normally chase after goals till I’m hungry for them. I let possibilities remain in possibility space until I’m strongly attracted to something specific. I often see items on life’s menu that look like they’d be interesting to explore and experience at some point, but it’s best to wait till the hunger is there, and I really have an appetite for that specific kind of experience.

Set Intentions Daily

You can never set too many intentions. Even speaking your intentions aloud 100+ times per day, updating them moment by moment as you go, isn’t too much.

It’s very likely that you’re under-intending. I’d say a good minimum is to set at least 5 fresh intentions every day, and that really just gets you in the door.

Once you get enough practice, it should take you just a few seconds to set an intention. It’s as simple as asking, “What do I want for dinner?” But do this for every part of your day too, such as by asking, “What kind of experience do I want to have while performing this next task?” Then just speak your answer aloud.

When I go running, I clarify what kind of run I want to have. When I start my workday, I set an intention for the type of workday I want to have. Then I update my intention many times throughout the day. This is pretty automatic for me now.

On a recent 10-day trip to Philadelphia, I practiced setting intentions multiple times per day. When I walked into a new building like a restaurant or museum, I often whispered aloud my intention for the upcoming experience, such as:

  • I intend to enjoy a fun, social, and delicious meal with the people I’m with.
  • I intend to have a chill, relaxed, ponderous, and deep experience perusing this art museum… and to find at least a few items that seem especially meaningful.
  • I intend to enjoy this rainy day and to feel refreshed and stimulated by the rain, making the day feel more memorable and special. Rain is a gift!
  • I intend to feel grounded in a deeper understanding and appreciation of past events as I explore historical landmarks and museums, feeling like I’m part of the stream of history.
  • I want to enjoy listening to this live jazz quartet and to feel that everyone else is enjoying themselves as well. It’s so lovely to appreciate live music.
  • I want to help the people I’m spending time with today feel welcomed, at ease, socially comfortable, and playful as we share lots of laughs together. I am open and receptive to connecting with people.
  • I want to create some special memories that I’ll appreciate for many years to come.
  • I want to walk all around Center City and explore something new each day.
  • Since I’ve explored a submarine and an aircraft carrier, I want to explore the Battleship New Jersey too… and to ponder what it must have been like to serve on such a large ship, especially during WWII.

I love to set intentions to clarify what kind of inner experience I want to have. When I find myself drifting into a type of experience I’d rather not have, I like to pause and reset by clarifying my intentions for what I actually want to experience next.

Coach Reality and Your Brain

On one level I see these as suggestions to reality – the Submersion course goes into great detail on that framing – and it’s amazing how well this works. But on another level, they’re also suggestions to my own brain. I’m giving my mind some extra instruction for how to behave internally.

In the absence of such conscious instructions, reality tends to drift away from the kind of experiences I want to have. Maybe because I do a lot of coaching these days, I like to actively coach reality and my own brain to lean in the direction I’d like it to go. So you could see these intentions as a form of self-coaching. But I actually lean more towards seeing these intentions as offers, instructions, or even commands to reality itself. Since my body and mind are also part of reality, I don’t really need to separate them out. I find it simpler to imagine that all of reality is listening – but only when I give my intentions some expression (verbally or in writing).

How do I know where I want reality to go next? I just decide in seconds. Why? Because part of my intention for my life is to be decisive. Being indecisive seems boring and slow, so why would I want to experience a life full of indecision? Since I regard being indecisive as a rather pointless way to experience life, I direct my experience towards decisiveness.

I do my best not to overthink my daily intentions. It’s almost always better to offer reality some guidance than none at all. I know that I can always change course at a moment’s notice by offering fresh guidance.

I use a similar practice throughout my workday. I keep setting fresh intentions for what kind of experience I want to have during each segment of the day. For this short blog post, I intended to share something helpful that might be useful to people. Actually this began with an intention to share something in the CGC forums, but then as I began writing, I updated the intention to turn in into a blog post, so it could benefit more people.

An intention doesn’t have to be complicated to inspire action. Even a very simple intention that you verbalize in a second or two has value. It’s better to speak an intention like, “I intend to really appreciate this day,” than to have no intention for the day at all.

Intend Clarity, Not Confusion

One thing I’ve observed about myself is that I don’t spend much time feeling confused about what to do next. I’m usually very clear about my goals and desires. I find it easy and natural to decide what to do next, both on a macro and micro scale. I think one reason is that I’ve practiced setting intentions a lot. Today this is a built-in daily practice for me.

But another reason is that I intend to find clarity, and I intend to act with clarity and certainty. So I use the power of intention to intend my way out of confusion. I basically tell reality, “Let’s not waste this life running in circles and acting all confused. That seems dreadfully boring. Let us instead pick some stimulating and inspiring paths to explore, and then let’s enjoy the flow of exploring them. When I need a break from that, I’ll let you know.”

I also intend to live out and enjoy a rich and fulfilling life. Really I have so many layers of intention that point towards clarity, action, alignment, exploration, and experiential richness. That’s the kind of life I want to live, so that’s the kind of life I do live.

Confusion is a choice – really the default choice for many people because they haven’t voiced the desire for something better. If you’re stuck in confusion, it’s because you’ve haven’t chosen and declared your intention for a lifestream that glides from one clear decision to the next. You could intend to have a graceful flow of clarity.

Note that declaring your intention to make a choice between two partial matches is not remotely the same as what I’ve been sharing about the higher level intention to enjoy a life rich in clarity. Instead of dwelling on one either-or decision at a time (and repeating ad infinitum for the rest of your life), why not set the intention to solve this either-or problem permanently? Why not intend to graduate from the land of partial matches? How many more of these confusing decisions do you really need to face before you declare that whole mode of confused living to be utterly boring and pointless, and you finally demand more from life in terms of perpetual clarity and flow? You can make this choice in any moment. Do you want it or not?

When someone faces an either-or decision, and I ask them what they want, at best they will usually say they want clarity about that specific decision. They want to make an intelligent choice. They want help considering and evaluating the options. Fair enough. But how often do they express the intention to solve this type of problem permanently or to graduate to an experience of perpetual clarity as they gracefully flow from one decision to the next (or something generally in that ballpark)? Pretty much never.

And so reality brings them what they affirm, which is more of the same – more confusing either-or decisions about partial matches.

Transcend Partial Matches

If you really want to transform your life in a huge way, set the intention to transcend partial matches. See those either-or decisions for the traps they are. When you spot a decision like that, decline to make it. Just leave that particular restaurant, and go somewhere else entirely. Recognize that you’re sitting in the wrong restaurant entirely – i.e. you’re sitting in the wrong reality. You’ve somehow intended your way into a reality of partial matches. When you realize that you’ve done this, say “D’oh!” and then step back into the space of pure possibility. Remind yourself that a lot more is possible than those few options that your current reality is presenting to you. Then intend your way into a fresh reality that presents you with much better offers.

What if you don’t know what you want? Just guess. Guess repeatedly. Declare what you want many times each day. Speak your intentions to an empty room – reality is always listening, and so is your brain.

Saying that you’re confused or that you don’t know what you want is an intention too, and reality is actively listening to those kinds of statements as well. If you declare confusion, reality will obediently deliver more confusing offers and experiences. If you don’t want to have that kind of experience, then intend and declare certainty instead. Intend to experience a reality rich in full matches. Go to a restaurant that serves meals you’re likely to find deliciously satisfying, not a restaurant that serves meals you find disappointing. Then tell the server what you want, and own the choice.

Whenever I look at a menu, I intend to find and declare the right choice for me in that moment, and if I see nothing on the menu that fits what I want, I’ll try to concoct something and order off-menu. Worst case, I’ll declare the restaurant a bad fit, and I’ll go somewhere else. But when I’m ready to order, I order with certainty, not with doubt and confusion. Life expects much the same when we order our goals, experiences, and desires.

If you’re confused, what you may not like to hear is that you’re intending to be confused, and reality and your brain are simply satisfying your repeated requests for confusion. You may think you’re just observing what exists, but observation is also intention. You cannot just observe neutrally. For more on this, see the article on Creative Observation.

Before you move on to your next action, set at least one intention for what you want to experience next. What kind of hour or day do you want to experience? What seems desirable to you? Do you want to experience some chill creative flow, stimulating inspiration, enthusiastic motivation to close some open loops, compassionate connection with people you like, a tasty and energizing meal, or something else? Don’t put this decision on reality. You decide. And declare your requests, commands, and instructions aloud – many times each day. Then let reality do its best to serve you what you want.

Or don’t. Remain in the land of partial matches. Live out the rest of your days like a confused emoji.

If you want to tap into some extra intentional energy, tune into my intention for you. As I publish this piece, I’m intending that you experience a rich and wonderful breakthrough to a new level of clarity in your relationship with reality today, one that gives you a delicious taste of what you could experience if you ask for it regularly.

Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site stevepavlina.com and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

You may also like...