The Importance of Inclusive Intentions


Did you grow up with Casey Kasem's weekly Top 40 radio show? It was a Saturday morning staple for me, and I always waited for his catch-phrase at the end of every show: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.” While Casey’s words might sound trite, they’re relevant to setting inclusive intentions ~ a key aspect of cultivating self-compassion. 

Self-compassion means that you “keep your feet on the ground” by acknowledging how you’re feeling at any given moment ~ (whether it’s critical, sad, tired, joyful, open, discouraged, inspired, etc.). Rather than turning away from your feelings, or becoming overwhelmed by them, you choose to stay kindly present with them, recognizing that what you're feeling is part of being human.

Relating to yourself with self-compassion also means that you “keep reaching for the stars” by acknowledging where you aspire to be. Perhaps that means you'd like to feel more content, accepting, loving, compassionate, confident, or expansive. An inclusive intention has room for your fullest understanding of yourself: who you’ve been, who you are and who you’re becoming; it honors all of you: past, present and future.

Intention-setting is a powerful way to remind you of your priorities when you notice that you’ve gotten off track. At the same time, there’s an important difference between an inclusive intention and a resolution. With most resolutions, it’s very easy to get caught up in the fantasy of who you can become, while abandoning who you are right now. Self-improvement projects and ideas of who you’re supposed to be can make you lose sight of the dignity and wisdom in who you are right now, as is. When you forget your value as you are in this very moment, you become ungrounded and disconnected from yourself. Inclusive intentions honor the dignity of who you are right now, while also recognizing that you aspire to grow in a more compassionate direction.

How to Set an Inclusive Intention

Would you like to set an inclusive intention to be more self-compassionate? Try these three steps:

1. Recognize and acknowledge how you feel right now, and that it’s challenging. For example: “I feel discouraged by how harshly I criticize myself, and that’s really challenging.” or “It’s painful to feel powerless over my self-judgment.”

2. Clarify and name the way that you are growing; how you would like to be responding to your suffering. For example: “I am learning to relate to myself with more compassion.” or “I am experimenting with being more kind and curious with myself.” 

3. Set your intention by including both your acknowledgment of where you are and your aspiration for where you’d like to be. For example: “I feel discouraged by how harshly I criticize myself, and that’s really challenging. At the same time, I know that I’m learning to relate to myself with more compassion.” or “It’s painful to feel powerless over my self-judgment. And, I am experimenting with being more kind and curious with myself.”

Once you set your inclusive intention, you might write it down or type it into your phone or tablet, so you have a reminder near at hand. It’s natural to lapse into well-worn, self-critical habit patterns. Having the support of an inclusive intention can help you change the way you relate to your experience, without abandoning parts of yourself in the process.

Here’s a poem I wrote eight summers ago that speaks to the importance of making room for different ways of growing as you cultivate self-compassion. I hope you find it supportive in setting inclusive intentions.

A tree knows how by Lea Seigen Shinraku

I think I am air. I think I am dirt. When I am both. When I am neither – like a tree.

Only, a tree knows how to be solid trunk and strong, flexible limbs.

To silently speak, with thousands of tongues, that reach for both sunlight and rain.

To be fed by roots that thread between rocks and find their place in the earth. To grow in two directions at once.

To touch clouds without floating in them.

To be grounded, not buried.

To never know what a tree is.

To simply be one.