Goal setting Intention Perspective

10 Ways to Live with Intention

In a world where we spend most of our time making a living and juggling our basic needs, sometimes we get stuck on auto-pilot, going about our daily lives, and miss opportunities to live with intention.  To enhance feelings of connectedness, joy, and accomplishment, consider these 10 ideas: 

“Do the hardest thing first” to increase feelings of accomplishment. We tend to procrastinate on the hard stuff. This can ultimately leave with us feelings of dread. By doing the hardest thing first, we create a space to feel good about ourselves, and other tasks become easier and feel less burdensome. Try it and see!

Make a decision” to do something instead of staying stuck. Procrastinators often struggle with this and end up not accomplishing necessary tasks. This can lead to negative emotions. Even if our decision needs to be revised later, just making a decision and taking a small action creates momentum in your life.

Acting as if” is a skill that can affect self-esteem in a positive way because instead of ruminating on negative thoughts, we improve brain chemistry. Instead of worrying (“Can I do this?”), act as if you can do it, then at least try. See if the outcome isn’t more positive. You might surprise yourself!

“Make a to-do list and start at the bottom.” Just mix it up. Sometimes our brain needs that!

“Do something for another person.” Getting out of our own head and seeing the needs of others can help us to find more balance and gratitude in our life.

“Make gratitude lists.”  Every day. It’s easy to forget who and what we are grateful for in our lives. Gratitude generates positive emotions that act as a buffer for depression.

“Send a thank you card.” Or any kind of card. Who hasn’t gotten a card from the mail and been especially delighted? Studies show that written communication has a powerful effect on the brain. We feel better because someone cares.

“Asking for help” can be hard but everyone needs help at some time or another. While the answer may not always be yes, when we can enlist the help of others, we feel cared for, problems get solved, and burdens are lifted.

“Create a budget.”  Having command of our finances gives us a sense of competency and creates order and structure in our lives. 

“Organize a space in your home.” This idea has taken on more meaning since Marie Kondo showed us how to rid ourselves of things that do not “spark joy” in our lives. Really, we feel more in control of our lives when we can find our stuff.

Perception Perspective Point of View

“Perhaps the Truth Depends on a Walk Around the Lake”

Lake View

I first read the words of Wallace Stevens, quoted in the title of this article, in 2012 and they gave me pause. Was he being literal or metaphorical? Was he encouraging a journey through our minds or a literal walk around a lake?  Either way, his words are thought provoking. Imagining a walk around the lake, we would see things differently, a different landscape as it were. We would get space from our original starting point or initial thoughts. We might see something or hear something that changes us or changes our mind. We would have time to think our thoughts in a peaceful environment or perhaps enjoy being distracted by new surroundings. Instead of looking down, we might look up. We might experience a change of perspective.

Perspective is the difference between a positive attitude and a negative one.  It is our point of view on life. Is the glass half full or half empty? Perspective is also the difference in being an optimist or a pessimist.  We are influenced by things all around us and by taking a moment for reflection, we may experience life lessons that can challenge and change us. Since life itself can change our perspective, we can use these experiences to assist our own growth and change how we view ourselves and the world.

Author Stephen R. Covey stated “to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” Today we have a constant stream of information coming at us. We are changed by new experiences and significant life events.  New ideas can change our perspective and sometimes it comes in the form of friends, family, or even strangers. For me, observing nature and our universe creates new perspectives.  

I can change my perceptions with formal education, life education, spiritual education, and even by what some refer to as the “school of hard knocks.” I may tell myself that I cannot cook, yet I can have a change of perspective by learning the skills necessary to do so. In time, I might become, not just a good cook, but a gourmet chef.

I can try something new by resolving to do so and creating a plan of action. I might need help. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask. I often tell clients that if we don’t ask, the answer is always no.

A conversation with a trusted friend or a spiritual mentor may open a window of thought that changes the interior of our soul. We may walk away from the conversation much richer, ‘I understand myself much more deeply than I did before; I understand you in a way I did not before and now you make sense to me; this makes sense; I make sense.’ 

Witnessing someone accomplish great things or go through hard times changes our perspective. We may see that hard work pays off, or that sometimes even the best efforts do not result in the intended reward. Even as we experience disappointments or other negative things, we can work towards choosing a more positive perspective. This builds resiliency.  

An unexpected life experience can challenge previously-held ideas and create more compassion for others. I often think of the support I received from family and friends when I had a critically ill son.  Until that time in my life, I never understood how much it means to go to the hospital and see the people we care about. My friends showed up for me in so many ways. They checked on me and my family, brought food to the hospital, offered prayers and consolation, and they sat in the waiting room, just in case I might need them. This changed everything I ever knew about caring for someone. That was 30 years ago and I learned that it matters so much to show up.  Even if we are saying to ourselves “What can I really do?” – Just show up. 

When I look at the stars in the night sky and I see order and constancy, my problems don’t seem as large. When I see and hear the power of the ocean, I feel both wonder and awe. When I am driving home from work and I witness the unparalleled beauty of an Oklahoma sunset, I am delighted, and for a moment I have no issues too large. In effect, I experience a change of perspective as I purposely choose to observe something bigger than myself.  

We are all changed by the experiences of our daily life. Can we challenge ourselves to use these experiences to create a positive view of life, of the gifts we receive, and especially the gifts we never saw coming, some of which are borne through our pain? Our happiness is linked to how we view the events in our life, our perspective.  Can we see that there are so many lessons to be learned? Is it possible that “a walk around the lake” can create an opening to change our perspective and live a more meaningful life?

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley


About the Author

Merrie Knox in Her Office

My journey to becoming a therapist began in 1994.  I was feeling overwhelmed and fearful about my life as well as all the barriers for a newly divorced, single mom with four children. I decided to find a therapist. What could it hurt? In all actuality, that experience was pivotal to coping with the challenges I was facing. In some ways that experience shaped me into the person I am today.  Every time I left my therapist’s office, I remember feeling competent and capable. My happiness increased and I was less worried…what a relief.

I am a person who likes to learn by observing my environment, so as I experienced therapy, I became fascinated with the skill set of a therapist who could allow me to feel good about myself without ever giving me advice. How did she do it? I learned my own truth, what my life experiences had taught me, both positive and negative, and how to create a plan for a different, more hopeful future for myself and my four children. I became more compassionate, loving, and spiritual. I am grateful for that life-changing experience.

Fast forward to 2002…in my work at that time, I enjoyed learning about people and one of the things I would do was create informal surveys to make conversation; the question I decided on one week was, “Are you happy with your life choices regarding your work?” I got many varied answers, but the thing that impacted me the most was hearing myself say, “If I could do what I really wanted to do, it would be to go to college and become a therapist.” I was 43 years old and thinking, “Could I actually do it?”

That old saying, “You can’t un-ring a bell” held true.  I said it, and I meant it. I went home that day and told my husband what I had said, how I surprised myself, my fears, and also my excitement at the prospect. He agreed that I should go to school and said, “I think you would make a great therapist!” He was then, and still is, my biggest fan. Today I often I tell people that “we” have a Master’s Degree because of the love and sacrifices he made to support me in my journey to become a therapist.

I began my college journey without even knowing how to use a computer. I struggled but soon learned that I could do it. My biggest academic challenge was college algebra. I wrote an essay on the topic and actually won a scholarship…but that’s a story for another day.  I met amazing people on my journey, some of whom I am still connected to today. I completed my “10-year plan” in just over 7 years and in 2009 I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Today, I work primarily with couples in private practice. My work at Stonebridge Couples Therapy is incredibly rewarding.  In addition to my time in private practice, I have also worked for 10 years at Family and Children’s Services as a therapist.  I have learned about trauma, PTSD, and substance abuse, how these affect the lives of my clients and their families, and how to treat them. I continue to work part-time for the Women in Recovery program where I facilitate therapy groups. I also teach classes on family, divorce, and co-parenting with Family and Children’s Services’ Family Life Education department.

My love of people and learning has allowed me to continually enhance my skills and become a highly qualified therapist. I am proficient in many models of therapy and have always enjoyed mentoring and supervising new therapists. One of the models I have advanced training in is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a proven, research-driven model for working with couples and families who are in distress and want to increase love and connection in their relationship.  I am also a certified national provider of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) which treats post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Besides the love of my family and my faith, the greatest reward I have experienced is being able to work with couples and individuals, and witnessing the transformations of increased love and connection, self-esteem, and competency in their lives and relationships.

Today, when clients express doubts about if therapy can really help them, I tell them ‘I get it, I understand, I am with you.’ I also tell them that, sometimes, therapy kind of sneaks up on you. You want to feel better, get relief sooner rather than later…and truly one day you realize you aren’t the same anymore; you are different and you feel differently about things. You have a new perspective, and that changes everything.