The importance of intention, intuition, and action.
By Bob Edelstein, LMFT, MFT
This blog was originally posted in Psychology Today on May 17, 2022
- Self-actualization is not a one-time event, but goes on throughout life as one is faced with opportunities.
- Intention, intuition, and action are all required to move toward an actualized life, and that process is not linear.
- While navigating toward actualizing an intention, one needs to continuously do a gut check.
- As human beings, we want to live an actualized life, both personally and in our contributions to society. Actualization is the process of making something become real. That is easy enough to say, but how do we achieve an actualized life?
First, understand that actualization is not a one-time event. It goes on throughout your life as you are faced with opportunities to make a change.
I believe there are three key processes in moving towards an actualized life—intention, intuition, and action. They are woven together. Each is integral to the other. Each is necessary for actualization to happen.
These three processes can be used to discover what an actualized life means to you. What calls to you? What are you passionate about? This will be different for everyone, but the discovery process will be the same.
One process is intention. James Bugental, PhD., a noted existential psychotherapist, defines intention as both conceiving a purpose and desiring to bring it into realization. The clearer you are about your intention, the more likely you are to realize it.
For example, you are a sophomore in college who is concerned about the climate crisis. It is time to choose a major. There are many careers that are available in the field of climate science. You are uncertain about which would be best for you. You want to set an intention to have a career where you will actively work towards a solution for the climate crisis. To consciously set the best intention requires another process. This process is intuition.
Intuition is the ability to understand instinctively, without conscious reasoning, the rightness or wrongness of something. It’s your right brain function.
How do you access your intuition? How do you access your right brain to point you in the direction of the most dynamic fit? It is allowing yourself some quiet time. After a few calming breaths, allow yourself to go inward and ask yourself the question: Which major would be the best fit for you? Be aware of any thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and imagery that emerge. Ask yourself what feels most alive to you? Is it a degree in environmental science? In eco-psychology? Sustainable urban planning? Something else? Stay with the question and see what comes.
As you explore your options, when you land on one that resonates, you will feel a bodily felt sense of rightness. Eugene Gendlin, PhD., an existential philosopher, described this as a “felt sense.” It includes emotion, awareness, and embodiment. Getting to resonance may require patience and repetition. Once you get in touch with which major best fits your desired intention, imagine getting your diploma in this major. Does this still resonate? If so, you are ready for another process. This process is action.
Action is taking what you have intuited and intended and committing to do concretely what is needed to bring your intention into reality.
For example, envisioning a degree in sustainable urban planning made your heart sing. Great. Now what? An action plan is needed. What are the class requirements? What are the job opportunities? Can you break this down into specific steps? What do you need to do today?
Your will is essential to the action process. Using your will includes focus, determination, persistence, and discipline. Obtaining a degree is a challenging endeavor. It will require your will to achieve your degree. How can you support yourself in this? What self-care do you need? What support network would help you along the way?
While navigating your way to actualizing your intention, you need to continuously do a gut check. On a regular basis, take time to go inward again. Check in to see if your actions are still in alignment with your intention and intuition. Are you moving in the right direction to actualize your intention of getting your degree?
As this alignment continues, eventually you will actualize your intention. You will have obtained your degree. You set your intention (have a career where you will actively work towards a climate crisis solution), accessed your intuition (sustainable urban planning will make your heart sing), and took action (did what was required to get that degree). You have experienced actualization. Enjoy your success.
Although the example I’ve given is straightforward, the three processes can be challenging and unique to everyone. It is not linear. It involves giving yourself the space to explore your innermost thoughts and feelings, discovering a clear intention, and then having the courage to act.
Bugental, James F.T. (1987). The Art of the Psychotherapist. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Gendlin, Eugene T. (1998). Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy. New York: The Guilford Press