While working as a therapist in a women’s prison program, I was faced with a lot of adversity. In just my first day, I was antagonized, criticized, and judged by an inmate and two of my coworkers. If not for my supervisor, I probably would have quit early on (instead of staying for 18 months). She dropped some gifts of advice on me throughout my term, including this, “Set your intentions and then stay on your path, regardless of what comes your way.” I did that, and it helped me to remember why I was there, rise above the chaos, and really support those who needed it.
Here are seven steps to set your intentions and stay on your path:
1. GET SPECIFIC.
Write down the specific parts of your life where you want to set intentions. For an example, I will use my job at the prison.
2. BRAIN DUMP.
Do a brain dump of all the things you want when it comes to [insert topic here]. Example: all of things I wanted when it came to my job at the prison:
• To get my hours towards licensing
• To help the inmates/clients to heal
• To help the inmates/clients to understand themselves
• To come from compassion
• To remember that I am there to help them with recovery
• To learn more about addiction
• To have health benefits
• To have a steady income
• To work with a treatment team
3. FUNNEL IT DOWN.
Narrow it down, and prioritize it, to three specific intentions:
a. To get my hours towards licensing
b. To remember to come from compassion
c. To help the inmates/clients to heal
4. FUNNEL IT DOWN MORE.
Funnel that down to one specific intention. It can be a combination of all three of the intentions. Create the intention that is going to serve as your mantra when you feel like you are being knocked around your path. I chose this one:
“My intention is to complete my hours, always come from compassion, and to focus on helping the inmates with their healing.”
You can also shorten it to, “Hours, Compassion, Inmates, Healing”
Set 30 minutes aside and find a quiet place where you will not be bothered. Sit or lay down, close your eyes, and visualize your path. Visualize only one path that can look and feel like anything YOU want it to be. Let the path be surrounded by a guardrail of some kind. The guardrail can be made out of any material you want and it does not allow you to get pushed off the path. Visualize key words written around you — in the ground, on the guardrails, etc. (“Hours, Compassion, Inmates, Healing.”) Use your five senses to visualize what you would see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Afterwards, write down or record what your path looks like. Example:
I visualize my path to be made of soft, white sand. I am surrounded by plush green grass and tall trees lavished with colorful fall leaves. I can see mountains coming up over the trees. There are rays of sunlight shining through the trees lighting my path. I can feel perfect warmth on my skin, along with a light breeze. I can hear a gentle waterfall in the distance. My guardrail is made up of lavender scented, silk-covered beanbags, similar to my meditation pillow. On the ground before me, in the trees surrounding me, and etched in the mountains are the words “Hours, Compassion, Inmates, Healing” and “Breathe”. There are pieces of chocolate along my path, and the song “Eye of the Tiger” is playing.
Play out the different scenarios that could unfold. If a “hurricane” (aka a bad situation) or a “tornado” (aka a bad person) tries to knock you off, what will you do to take care of yourself? Play out each potential scene, and visualize yourself breathing, repeating your mantra, and feeling grounded.
7. PRACTICE and REINFORCE.
Practice and Reinforce your mantra both reactively and proactively. Reactively: Each time you get pushed around that path, remember your intention. Take a deep inhale and on the exhale and say it out loud (repeat until you feel a shift). Proactively: Dedicate five breaths each morning and five breaths each night to reinforcing the intention.
You can do these steps for any or all of the other items you wrote down in Step 1. And if you need some simple and effective ways to take care of yourself when you feel knocked or blocked from your path, please see my other post: “7 Ways to Cleanse Yourself Daily of Negative Energy Absorption (NEA).” Feel free to share your experience or ask any questions.