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Science Links Intention With Wellbeing

By David Penglase

It might seem like a blinding flash of the obvious, but one of the most reported findings of research in the field of positive psychology is that the majority of people would rather be flourishing than languishing in their life.
It just makes sense doesn’t it?
It’s a reality that not everyone in the world has the same amount of freedom to choose what they do in their lives, to help them flourish rather than languish. However, if you believe you do have at least some level of freedom to choose what you do, the really big question of life I believe then is “What Do You Intend To Do?
The subtitle of my book Intentionomics is the impact of your intentions on living a happy, flourishing and prosperous life. In this post I want to explore and share with you what is really meant by Intention.
Your intention is not just ‘what’ you intend to do. It is also not just an awareness of the motive that drives an intentional decision or action. While being aware of what you intend to do, and having an awareness of why you’re going to do what you intend to do are important, what’s even more important is that when you intend to do something you ought to have a mindful awareness of the impact your decision or action will have on others.
At a recent catch up with a friend this week, he made a comment about my definition of intention, saying that he believed that very few people would define intention in the way that I do. This is something I’m very aware of and also the reason why I’m so passionate about sharing my philosophy about intention with the world.
During a TEDx talk in September 2009, Simon Sinek introduced the world to his version of the importance of WHY, which he describes as “the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do”. What Sinek has been so masterfully able to do is create a simple three circle model to explain that while many people know what to do, some know how, even fewer know why.
While Sinek certainly captured significant attention with his philosophy on the importance of us knowing why we do what we do, it wasn’t a new idea… it was a very old idea, first positioned by Aristotle. However, it was Sinek’s way that he positioned the importance of WHY that was brilliantly simple and readily applicable.
I first started forming my philosophy about intention eight years before Sinek gave his TEDx talk. In 2001, I undertook a literature search as part of the major research project I completed in my Master degree in Professional Ethics.
One book that influenced my thinking was Elizabeth Anscombe’s book ‘Intention’, which was first published back in 1957, and is described by renowned American Philosopher Donald Davidson as “possibly the most important treatment of action since Aristotle”.
In reading the book, it became very clear to me that my basic understanding of intention was limited. Anscombe’s book is very academic, and not an easy read, however, one of the key points raised is that when we think of our intentions, we need to give significant consideration as to why we do what we do – the motive or intention that drives the choice of action.
However, as I continued my research and now as I complete my dissertation in a Master degree in Applied Positive Psychology, I am convinced that just being aware of what we intend to do and why we intend to do it, is not enough.
What’s missing is the impact of what we intend to do on ourselves and on others, and this is where the real power of intention can be found. Science validates that having compassion for others and having a sense that we are doing things to improve the situation for others and not just ourselves, is associated with a higher sense of meaning in life. What science also validates is that having a deep sense of meaning in life is one of the most highly associated indicators of human flourishing.
This is why having a clear sense of your intention for others – what you want for them and not just what you want from them, is a direct link to you being able to flourish in your professional and personal life. This is the connection between intention and your capacity to flourish.
Intentionomics is about your intentions, the impact of your intentions on living a happy, flourishing and prosperous life. For more information on how you can personally harness the power of intention in your professional and personal life, you can learn more by clicking here.
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