Monday, May 7, 2012

Intentions & Core Values

"Your reality becomes what you focus on."  --singer/songwriter Jewel

"If you aim at nothing, you are likely to hit it."  --Mary Kay Ash

I think we would all like our days to have a certain flow and smoothness to them, and for our goals to be reached easily and effortlessly. But like Mary Kay implies, if you fail to define your goals, your intentions will fly like arrows with no target, perhaps even hitting some helpless cow minding its own business, or lodging in your own behind. We have the best intentions, yet we find ourselves wasting time, running late, missing deadlines or burning the midnight oil to meet them, forgetting to visit our grandmothers, and feeding our families fast food. We may realize dimly that our priorities have gotten out of order, such as when we end up confined to bed with the flu because we have run ourselves ragged. Or maybe you feel unfulfilled, or that you wish your life had deeper meaning. Or perhaps there is something you are dying to learn or do but you just don't have the time or energy. Maybe you wake up each day simply wondering, "Where should I begin?" It's not that you have planned to fail, but that you have failed to plan (another Mary Kay-ism, I think!).

What are intentions, exactly? According to Phillip Moffitt's article, "Morning Awakening," in Yoga Journal (June 2012), "Intention is essentially the capacity to stay in touch with core values that you wish to live by as you pursue your life's goals and engage with others...Knowing what is essential to you allows you to respond to life's ups and downs with a clear mind and an open heart. Your intentions also support you in making choices and decisions, help you endure anxiety and stress, and enable you to bear disappointment and difficulty with equanimity."  Sounds great to me! So this morning I made a list of my primary and secondary core values. 

My primary core values are the things I spend time doing every day, that I want or need to focus on as top priorities. (I have always liked Mary Kay's values of God first, family second, and career third.)

1. Time with God -- This includes prayer and meditation; Bible reading; attending Mass; Catholic studies; and I plan to do a religious pilgrimage to the Our Lady of Consolation basilica in Carey, Ohio this summer.
I bookend my days with prayer. In the morning I light a candle, say a Hail Mary, and ask for guidance, support, and God's blessings upon my day. As I lie in bed at night, I pray a Rosary. We also say a prayer before eating dinner and at our daughter's bed time.

2. Family Time -- This involves spending time daily together as a family, as well as one-on-one husband and wife time, and parent and child time. We eat at least one meal as a family daily, and watch a movie together, walk the dog, or go on excursions together. My husband and I each spend time every day reading to our child and running errands, playing games, dancing, or other activities done individually with our daughter.

3. Home Education -- I am the primary person responsible for educating my child, and we spend about two hours a day in formal homeschooling, plus additional time with informal learning experiences. Our community provides many educational opportunities as well, from homeschooling co-ops to the library and Parks and Recreation programs.

4. Homemaking -- This includes meal preparation; de-cluttering, organizing and paring down; housekeeping chores; caring for pets; and decorating. I am hoping to spend less time daily with housekeeping once I have it caught up!

Secondary core values are those things that I may not do every day, but that I do regularly during the week or the month and that are important to my happiness and well-being.

1. Time with extended family and friends -- family gatherings, play dates (where I am friends with the other child's mother), visiting grandparents and other relatives, talking to friends on the phone who don't live nearby (or communicating via email, letter, or Facebook), getting together with other families for a picnic, barbeque, or dinner, etc...

2. Belly dance practice and troupe leadership -- This is my primary form of exercise and also provides a supplemental income for my family. My student troupe performs at local festivals and functions. I teach classes in sessions of 4 or 6 weeks for most of the year.

3. Time in nature -- This is so important for health and balance and does not have to be complicated. A walk in your neighborhood or in the woods, gardening, watching your children and animals play in the yard, visiting a farm, or going to a lake or park will give you the fresh air and contact with the natural world that humans are designed for and desperately need.

4. Extra-curricular activities -- Blogging, club membership, occasional travel, movies, and going on a belly dance retreat (only once a year, but a highlight and significant priority) are some of the things that round out my life with both responsibilities and recreation.

Everyone's core values are different, and they should be re-evaluated monthly. It takes about 21 to 28 days to form a habit, so if you focus on your core values for that long, they will become the reality of your life. They may change according to your needs, interests, or the time of year. If you find you do not have the time or energy to devote to your core values, then you need to honestly look at and document how you are spending your time. Anything that you do for at least an hour on a daily basis strongly reflects your values. So if you watch TV or spend time online for more than an hour every day, and you find yourself not having time to exercise, for example, then you know what you have to do! With a little planning and structuring of your days to fulfill the intentions you set, your ordinary life can become extraordinary and eventually resemble your fondest dreams.

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