Intentional thinking is the conscious, willful control of your own thought processes so that you can actively direct your own life toward success. By thinking intentionally, you determine your own place in the world and gain control of your daily life.
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Who is in control of your life?
This isn’t a trick question. Think of all the things you have already done today, before sitting down to read these words in front of you. Why did you do any of them?
Intentional thinking is something that’s easy to understand on an intellectual level, but harder to grasp when it comes to your actual lived experience, moment by moment, day by day. When we talk about intentional thinking, we’re discussing an attitude, a way of being, a mindset and an approach to life that is characterized by control, focus, deliberation and will.
We could spend our time trying to control the events in our lives indirectly, but the real challenge is in reaching more deeply inside to control ourselves at a more fundamental level. When you change the way that you think, you also change the things you are thinking about. When you change the cognitive and attitudinal tools you’re working with, you open up a whole new world of possibilities. Success, then, is a matter of perception and attitude before anything else.
Intentional thinking is easier to understand when we consider what it isn’t. When we are not intentional, we act in passive, reactive ways, i.e. on “autopilot.” We bounce around according to this or that whim, following every random distraction, never really aware of what we’re doing any more than a leaf blowing in the wind. Or worse, we are at the mercy of our fears and weaknesses, or blindly following along with someone else’s vision for our lives.
Often, the biggest insights in life, the most dramatic changes and the most lasting improvements come when we have the courage to act with intention and deliberation, actively steering our lives to where we want them to go. With conscious awareness, we use intention to focus our will like a laser, so that we can achieve the things we want.
Thinking with intention and deliberation is, almost by definition, not easy. It’s certainly not obvious or automatic. But if you’re reading this book, it’s likely that you want to find ways to become better at it. Habit, old mental ruts, fears, assumptions and ego games all act to keep us where we are. We need discipline, honesty, awareness and a little self-compassion to challenge ourselves into reaching for something better—a life we deliberately and intentionally create for ourselves.
In the chapters that follow, we’re going to be taking a close look at this most brilliant of all tools—the mind—and how to essentially program it for success. The contours of your world are determined by your attitude and mindset—and your conscious will can decide what attitude and mindset to cultivate. Intentional thinking is all about recognizing this power: to use your mind to control and optimize not only yourself, but the world you live in.
So, who is in control of your life?
Events happen to us. Accidents happen, random occurrences come our way. But our lived experience, the meaning we make for ourselves, our purpose and values—these things don’t just happen to us. We make them happen. We decide how we respond to the events in our world. We decide who we are, what we want, and what we’re going to do. We control our thoughts.
Right now, using nothing but the power of your conscious intention, you can decide to think positively, to focus on new possibilities, to face your fears, to pursue what really matters, to do the right thing, to create, to be successful… You can decide that tomorrow gets to be better than today. Isn’t that the most mind-blowing privilege?
Identify mental blocks and work to remove them.
Set a goal.
Then do it all over again!
Whatever you choose to do with this unbelievable gift called your life, understand that it starts with something simple: your conscious awareness of your inborn right to think deliberately and with intention.
Luck certainly has something to do with success. And we’d be lying to ourselves if we said that privilege didn’t have something to do with it, too. But no matter what happens, nothing can take away your ability to choose your response, to any of it. You are always in complete control of what goes on in your own head; always a sovereign, active agent—if you choose to be, that is!