Research on the power of intention in physics, sports, business, psychology, and other fields suggests that getting clear on exactly what you want and “putting it out there” helps you create it.
From a Notre Dame football coach having players visualize a win, to a manager having salespeople post logos of their desired accounts on a bulletin board, when you imagine just how you want things to go, they are more likely to happen that way.
Focusing on exactly what you’d like to see happen—whether by talking about what you want, writing it down, visualizing it, or even thinking about it—helps move you directly toward it. Intentions are more effective when they are specific (e.g. “I want to eat three pieces of fruit per day” and strong (e.g. “I strongly intend to be in bed by 10 p.m.!”) (Gollwitzer, 1999).
In chaotic everyday life, parents can harness the power of intention to ensure that, in addition to loading the dishwasher three times in a day or cleaning up yet another broken plate, they also fit in the actions most important to them - the moments of fun, connection, and closeness with their kids and partners.
Here are 3 types of intention parents can use to bond with family members:
1.) Set Ritual Intentions
Pinpoint the consistent, repetitive actions that you most want to make a part of family life. Setting ritual intentions ensures that the “good stuff,” like playing catch with your kid or going on a monthly date night with your partner, doesn’t always get edged out by trips to Target or vacuuming the stairs. Here are a few examples:
2.) Set Implementation Intentions
Researcher Peter Gollwitzer (1999) found that “implementation intentions,” which spell out “When x happens, I will engage in y!” are especially effective because they help you anticipate “situational cues” that elicit a more automatic desired response. They identify where, and how you will implement goals so it will be more likely that you’ll attain them. Implementation intentions can set you up you bring more compassion and connection to specific moments with kids, especially trying moments (like skipping naps or almost being late for school).
3.) Use Visualization
Another way parents can use intention is through visualization, or seeing the best possible scenario play out in their mind’s eye, before an activity occurs. If you picture things going well, they are more likely to go that way. A few examples:
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD is a counselor in Chicago’s western suburbs. www.erinleyba.com. She is the author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents: 101 Ideas for Overcoming Fatigue, Stress, and Guilt - and Building a Life You Love (New World Library), available on Amazon. Join her on Facebook or sign up to get free articles on parenting with mindfulness and joy.