Best of JN: Finding Time To Set Your Intentions

Are you working toward intent or just muddling through? 

Although I rarely (but sometimes reluctantly) admit it, life is filled with constant uncertainty as interests change, doors are closed, and new opportunities emerge. While this has always been the case, I’ve felt this pressure of change more recently than I have previously. In order to prevent feeling too overwhelmed, I’ve sought out ways to set my intentions for my work to strengthen my focus and drive.

“Setting intentions is the act of stating what you intend to accomplish through your actions,” Coralie Sawruk writes. “It’s a commitment to what you want the journey to be about as you move on or move up… When you are intentional about something, your focus is in the moment: who you are, what you do, why you do it. And it requires presence along the way, checking inside as you work on the outside.”

After I graduated from college in May, I quickly moved multiple states away to start a new job. I left behind friends, family, and (temporarily) my mare and my dog. Of course, leaving my relationships and work at home were difficult aspects within the transition. However, I’m thrilled to be in my new job, working as the riding director for a camp for the summer. Not only do I have the opportunity to introduce horses to kids, molding many soon-to-be horse-crazy young riders, but also I have the chance to manage a barn and create a curriculum I’m excited about.

Enjoying long summer days at camp. Photo by Gillian Warner.

There are so many factors to consider in this new position, including getting to know the horses, program, location, and riders while developing a barn management plan, curriculum, and overall goals and objectives. Between thinking through these logistics and relocating, I’ve felt as though I’ve been running at a million miles a minute. I soon noticed myself feeling overwhelmed and starting to shut down – without understanding the who, what, or why of the work I was involved in, my presence and focus were scattered and unproductive. 

To begin with, I wanted to pinpoint why I was feeling overwhelmed. Breaking it down, I’ve realized many fears and insecurities rose to the surface: 

Will I be able to meet expectations? 

Do I have the potential to be a clear and consistent instructor to help lay a foundation for these students?

How can I show up every day fully present? 

How can I prevent burn out? 

Am I fully appreciating and enjoying this opportunity? 

Realizing that many of the thoughts making me feel overwhelmed and stuck were coming from a place of worry was eye-opening, particularly since they were fears about not being or giving enough to my work and my students. Recognizing that the fears I’ve created are a result of me caring about the success of the community strengthened my resolve to work as hard as I can for an opportunity I care so much about. 

Next, I needed to push past my insecurities to understand the bigger perspective, questioning, what am I hoping to gain from the process?

How do I want to show up in this position? 

I want to approach the next few months with clear intent, confidence, and flexibility. I want to show up every day as open and welcoming as I can be to encourage new riders, staff, and families to feel comfortable approaching me. I want to build upon my confidence in the skills I have and the skills I’m developing. I want to remain empathetic and considerate of the horses, students, equipment, and space in which we work. And I want to remain present each day, pushing beyond the natural stress of the move and adjustment, showing up to a particularly busy day with a smile, and diving into the moment without worrying about the future or being burdened by the past. 

Stepping into my new role has been exciting, nerve-wracking, incredible, and overwhelming. Taking a minute to take a breath and set intentions for myself in this position has allowed me the space to show up to my work with increased focus and determination to create the barn, program, and community I’ve imagined. Recognizing that it’s possible for me to lose clarity in my intent as the summer goes on, I have committed to checking in with myself to maintain my direction as I continue in this opportunity. 

I plan to continue this practice as I move beyond the summer into new experiences. To ease into the process, I’ve broken it down into manageable steps:

  1. Set aside time to think through your experience and feelings.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself difficult questions, or confront challenging emotions.
  3. Write down your thoughts.
  4. Revisit your intentions periodically as a way to remind yourself of your why and your approach. 

I hope you will join me in trying this in your own practice!