Impulses vs. Intentions: What Drives You?

How do you live your life? Are you driven by impulse or intention? Impulses are reactive. Intentions are proactive. Impulse is an immediate response. Intention is a calculated response. We tend to lean towards one or the other. There’s an ancient proverb, “as go the hours of our days, so goes our life.” So how do you change from an impulsive driven life to an intentional one?

Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions. Is my day-to-day life driven primarily by impulse or intention? By whim or wisdom? By want or need? Do my thoughts tend to be impulsive or intentional? Are my decisions typically impulsive or intentional?

If you want to change your life from impulse to intention focus on these five things:

  1. Slow Down: A busy, fast-paced, and chaotic lifestyle creates impulsive decisions because there is typically little to no time left to be reflective and intentional. When you move too quickly, you miss the little things. You tend to react rather than think through how to approach situations. The only way a speeding car can stop is to slam on the brakes or crash. If you feel like you can’t bring life to a halt, or at least slow down, maybe it’s time to ask yourself who actually has control of life’s gas pedal?
  2. Think for Yourself: Allowing external forces to make decisions for us today is actually quite simple to do. What someone texted, emailed, posted, called about, or personally delivered as your next crisis makes you feel you must respond now. Or at the very least, an expectation comes when you feel you now have to shift your focus? Ask yourself why? Why do I need to respond right away? Do I have to deal with this right away? Can it be put off until later? Think about these questions every time you feel the impulse to react and respond right away.
  3. Take Time to Reflect: Is anyone in your life thinking of you? Are you taking too many cues from social media, a certain person or group of people, or other external sources? Evaluate this seriously. You might be surprised what you discover when you stop and get honest with yourself. You’ll figure out what matters most. You’ll have greater clarity on your top priorities. You’ll be more likely to plan your days better. Do this at the start of your week. Set the objectives and stick to a schedule. Routines lead to habits. Habits leads to consistency. Consistency leads to a life of intention and purpose.
  4. Set Clear Goals & Objectives: Get crystal clear about what you’re trying to accomplish. What are your work priorities? Your home responsibilities? What do you need to focus on this year, this month, down to this week? When you have goals, things that will motivate behavior, your actions will be intentional. You’ll have a blueprint to follow. This will prevent you from getting a distracted and having your day being driven by impulse. Goals give us purpose. Purpose gives us a sense of mission and focus. Having a life that is mission driven leads to greater joy and fulfillment.
  5. Find an Accountability Partner: Surround yourself with people that care about you. They are the ones that are concerned with your well-being. These are the people that are honest and direct with you. The ones you can trust and go to for support. When we surround ourselves with trusted allies we accomplish more. It doesn’t have to be a large group. Get 2-3 people that you can rely on and build a small brain trust. Each of you can share your goals and desires and then you can hold one another accountable to reaching your key objectives.

Our lives are led by impulse or intention. Where you focus your attention dictates your day. It dictates your life. An impulsive life is an unhealthy one. It can damage and destroy things. It can keep you from accomplishing your goals. Keep you from leading a purpose driven life. Make sure you lead a life of intention. It will make you feel better about yourself. It will allow you to get more accomplished. Your self-esteem will grow. Others will be drawn to you. You’ll have greater job and personal satisfaction.

Adam C. Bandelli, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates, a boutique consulting firm focusing on leadership development and organizational effectiveness.

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