Super busy these days? Who’s not? 

Most of us operate today in a state of continuous partial attention.

Constantly on, overstimulated by everything and nothing at once, our dominant mode of attention is split, ensuring we’re never present to what’s unfolding now.

But we feel ‘powered on,’ active, busy, and useful. 

Yet in this state of partial attention, we’re more reactive, often making costly decisions or fearing that we will. This leads to feelings of overwhelm and dissatisfaction or unease.

We could blame technology, our kids, bosses, etc., yet what drives this state is a desire to be connected and alive.

We make excuses, and blame ourselves for missing out or not functioning as well, or needing more rest. The result? We feel lousy and play chronic catch-up.

Power of Intention

Years ago, I mentioned to a teacher of mine that I was leading a workshop on the Power of Intention as an antidote to our full and busy lives. She scoffed.

She went on to say that ‘intentions are useless, they have no teeth.” You see, she’d bought into the notion that setting intentions is woo-woo, the equivalent of naively wishing something to happen with no commitment to action.

Her biased beliefs couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

Science Says

New scientific findings reveal that the act of setting an intention changes our biology.

Our brains are made up of extraordinarily complex circuits – neural pathways – that function like superhighways rapidly transmitting messages. Like the impact of regular traffic on our asphalt roads, the more times an electrical message travels down the same beaten track, the more it shapes our very bodies and way of being.

Bruce Lipton, researcher, and author of The Biology of Belief, tells us:

“The beliefs we hold in our minds are converted into electromagnetic fields by nerve cells and the brain ‘broadcasts’ this information to all of the cells within our body.”

In other words, since our minds and bodies are deeply connected, every thought we experience has a direct cellular effect on us.

The word “intention” derives from the Latin intendere or intentio, which means both “stretching” and “purpose.” By consciously setting an intention, we’re activating our energy, and broadcasting a message throughout our biological system.

The very moment we set an intention, the communication pathways between our mind, brain, and body fire up. Our cells respond to the information in these energy fields and use it to influence their behavior and even gene activity.

When we set positive intentions, every cell within our body behaves in alignment with the intention we have just set and vibrates at the same positive frequency.

With our intentions, we can stretch toward a new purpose, like being fully present and connecting with those around us.

The power of intention literally changes the shape of our brains.

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Clarifying Your Intentions

To set an intention, you’ll begin by taking a few steps:

  1. Know the definition of an intention
  2. Know what is not an intention
  3. Reflect on what you care about
  4. Jot some notes down to capture your thoughts
  5. Wordsmith for fun, so your intention captures what you want to extend out into your world.


1. Briefly defined, an intention is a clear, compelling statement of an aim or direction you’re moving towards, stretching out into your life. 

An intention could be:

  • An outcome you want to create
  • An experience you wish to have
  • Insights you’re looking to find in certain areas of your life
  • Directional compass for your life

An intention serves as a framework of sorts to help you to set priorities, use your time wisely, and align yourself with resources – thoughts, attitudes, choices, people, partners, and connections.

Your intention should be closely tied to your personal thoughts, values, and perspective on life. Intentions can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase you’d like to align yourself with, like “open your mind and heart,” “love,” “softness,” “strength.”


2. What is not an Intention 

It’s not a requirement your set for an experience: “Either I get this experience/sensation/insight, or it didn’t work.”

It’s also not an expectation for your experience: “This is going to come up!”

It’s not a prescription for yourself: “I know this is exactly what I need.”


3. Take time to quietly reflect on what you care about.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How do I want to show up today? In what mood? With curiosity, playfulness, hope?
  • What skills do I wish to use more of today? Listening, speaking up, being open, planning, enjoying, crafting, exploring?
  • What values do I intend to live out today? Safety, risk, honesty, good-will, integrity, joy?
  • What actions move me towards what matters most?


4. Jot a few notes to yourself. Draw pictures. Doodle it. 

Let your mind roam free for a bit. Capture it all in words, pictures or doodles. Do it your way.


5. Wordsmith for fun and to zero-in on what sounds and feels right. 

Words matter – they create the world. So, play with just the right words that capture what you’d like to create. Take your time here, because . . . words matter.


6. Declare your intention and then, let it go.  

Once you set a heartfelt, firm intention – let go of it.

You’ve reflected and put effort into what you can influence, and asked for what you wish for.

It’s time to trust your life’s experience and open yourself to what will arise.

Imagine the light and expansive feeling that the outcome of your intention will create for you. Summon that feeling into the moment and focus on it.

Doing this consistently over time will help you escape the state of continuous partial attention and move you toward what matters most.

Set an intention or two and follow these steps for a few weeks. Let me know how it goes for you.


ABOUT THE CREATOR OF The Leadership Pause 

I’m Dr. Chris Johnson, psychologist, executive coach and author of The Leadership Pause: Sharpen Your Attention, Deepen Your Presence and Navigate the Future available on Barnes & Noble, Bookshelf, and Amazon

I drew content from my book in crafting Calm the Chaos for Busy Professionals, an online course, and Are You Willing to Go First: Conversational Keys to Leadership Success, two of my popular course offers.I publish The Leadership Pause newsletter bi-weekly on LinkedIn. If you’re not already subscribed, click the Subscribe button to follow me too!

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