Using your intentions as a compass for life

February 6, 2018 | By More

In this insightful and very practical blog, Lead Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Róisín Joyce walks us through a really useful exercise that can help us move towards the life that we want.

Do you every struggle with staying on track with your goals and intentions?

Staying on track with goals and intentions can be tough.  Oftentimes this is because there are so many conflicting values on the go and it can be hard to know which one to follow. So for example, on the one hand you want to have a healthy body and mind and that might lead you to consider drinking less alcohol, but on the other, you want to have fun with your friends and let your hair down, and that will lead you to having more. 


I have always struggled with saying yes to too many things.  At the time of being asked I feel really enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity and I don’t want to miss out but later when I look in my diary, I can feel overwhelmed and anxious about where I am going to fit it all in. in the past, this has led to a cycle of building up my diary to the point of panic and then emptying it to the point of complete boredom!


So how to manage this tricky situation where there are conflicting values?


An exercise I use regularly in therapy and also in my own life is to consider myself in five years’ time.  Not in an abstract thinking way, but in a real, emotionally connected way.  Choose a time to do this when you won’t be disturbed and you can give yourself the opportunity to really connect with yourself and the exercise.


The exercise:


Sit in a comfortable position.


Bring your awareness to your breath.


See if you can deepen your inhales and exhales and allow your breath to get into a slow steady pattern.


Breathe like this for 2 minutes or so.


Then imagine yourself walking through a park.


In the distance you can see yourself as you would be in five years


Consider the following:

  • How do you want this version of you to look? What is their facial expression like?
  • How do you want this version of you to feel?
  • Where do you want this version of you to be going?
  • How do you want a typical day to look for this version of you?
  • Who are the people you want in this version’s life?
  • What type of relationship do you want this version of you to have with others? And with themselves?
  • How do you want this version to respond when things are tough for other people? And for you?

Now imagine that this version of you walks over to you.  What if anything would this version of you say?  Would this version have any suggestions regarding the way forward?


Once you have finished the exercise, write down what you saw, noticed and heard in the image.


Read this regularly over the next few days.  In the coming days, get into the habit of checking whether your current behavior is in keeping with your intentions for yourself in five years. Use your guide like a compass. If not, that’s fine, you can ask yourself if it’s helpful to continue or not.  If you reflect on behavior that is not in keeping with this version, you can notice this and recommit again to move towards these ideals. 


If you are not happy with the direction you are going in, you can always redo the exercise and change course.  Changing your mind is fine, it’s about doing this with whole-hearted awareness.


By doing this, I have identified the key areas I want to develop in my personal and professional life and now when I am asked to do something, I quickly check through my list and see if it’s a current priority.  It doesn’t mean I have to say no to whatever has come up if it’s not on the list, but it does mean that I can think about it carefully and make an informed decision to put effort in something that is not in keeping with the version of me I want to be in five years.  That certainly helps me and I hope you find it useful too!

Best wishes,


Dr Róisín Joyce is Lead Clinical Psychologist at Evidence-Based Therapy Centre. If you would like to book an appointment with Róisín or any of the psychology team then you can call the clinic on 091 727777 or get in touch via the contact page.

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