Setting Intentions

blue compass

Caring With Intention

Are you an intention setter? Intentions are guiding principles for how you want to live. Different from goals, intentions define how you want to be vs. what you want to do. What if you set an intention related to caregiving? What might change for you and the person you care for? That’s our focus this month as we move into a new year.

A powerful intention can act as your guiding principle as you balance care and life and as you navigate the roller coaster that is caring for another. It can help you make decisions when you’re not sure what to do. It can motivate you to find the positive when things feel hopeless and inspire you when things feel possible.

What you’ll find in this guide:

How To Set An Intention

Choosing Caregiving

Write a Letter to Yourself

In order to step into the most powerful version of yourself, you need to have clarity of intention. You need to know not just what you want, but why you want it.

Oprah Winfrey

How To Set An Intention

So you want to set an intention? Here are 3 simple steps to follow:

  1. Be still for 15 minutes. Focus on your breath and let your thoughts flow freely. Finding stillness is helpful in finding your true intent.
  2. Next, consider these questions:
    1. What kind of person do you want to be? 
    1. What matters most to you?
    1. What would you like to create in your life?
    1. What would you like to let go of?
    1. What makes you proud?
    1. What word(s) inspire(s) you?
  3. Identify your intention and write it down.

Why You Need To Choose Caregiving

Do you know what kind of caregiver you want to be?

“Seriously?! I never wanted to be a caregiver!”

I know eldercare isn’t something most of us ever aspired to do. I played with baby dolls as a young girl, imagining I would someday be a mother; I never dreamed of caring for an elderly parent. Who did? Caregiving usually happens to us – we don’t plan it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t choose what kind of caregiver we want to be.

Life is nothing if not a series of choices. Hit snooze or get up? Muffin or yogurt? Walk or drive? Pay attention or daydream? Stay angry or forgive? Whether we are aware of it or not, we make choices every waking hour. And even though it might not feel like it, caregiving is a choice too. We made a choice to care for our parents, spouses, neighbors, relatives.

Oooooh, I can hear the resistance from here! “You think I chose this?! You think I choose to miss all of that time at work? You think I choose to watch my social life go to hell? You think I choose trips to the podiatrist, urologist, rheumatologist instead of the gym? You think I choose to deal with adult toileting issues!?! Yes, I do.

You may not prefer your choice. You may not embrace your choice. You may not like your choice, but yes, you choose to do it. Maybe it feels like a false choice  – if I don’t do it, who will? I’ll give you that: women, as the default caregivers in society, often face false choices. So, I’m not saying it’s an easy choice, but still, you stepped into the role.

Why does acknowledging your choice matter? Because when you acknowledge that you have a choice, you gain more control over a situation. And once you own the choice to care, you can make choices about what kind of  caregiver you want to be.

Do you want to be a caregiver who continues to lean in at work? Do you want to be a healthy caregiver who prioritizes her own health as well as the health of the person she cares for? Do you want to be a caregiver with a social life? A happy caregiver? A long distance caregiver? The choice is yours.

And here’s the thing about choices: one leads to another. First you choose to care or not. Then you choose what kind of caregiver you want to be. That leads you to choosing how to care. Hands-on or hiring help? Live in or drop in? With siblings or solo? With love or with resentment? (Or both…because the one choice we don’t have is to be human.) All of these choices may sound overwhelming, but they are actually empowering. We may not love, or even like, all of our choices. We may not be able to fully implement what we want (like hiring help), but we can be conscious of our decisions, and realistic about our options, and then we can take control. And it always feels better to be in control than to be put upon.

So, what kind of caregiver do you choose to be?

Our intention creates our reality.

Wayne Dyer

Write It Down

Years ago, I was a guest on the podcast Advice to My Younger Self.   The interview got me thinking about,  what I would have told my younger self about caregiving.

More than the tactical advice I’d share, (like always book the first appointment after lunch with your parent’s doctor (your elderly parent is more likely to be ready on time in the afternoon than in the morning plus the doctor is less likely to be behind schedule at that time), I think it would be valuable to urge my younger self to think about her caregiving legacy.

Dear Liz,

 How will you want to feel when your caregiving experience is behind you? What do you want to remember? What would you want your parents to say about you as a caregiver? More importantly, what will you want to say? I hope you will be able to say you operated with integrity and grace; that you were a fierce advocate and a capable caregiver.

Why not write your own letter to your future self? These caregiving years are intense and busy and it’s hard to have perspective or appreciation for all we are doing and managing and handling. A letter might reveal for you some of the positive aspects of the situation.

Here are some ideas for starting:

  • Send yourself a thank you note. Fill it with appreciation for all you do.
  • Send yourself a note of encouragement. It’s been tough and it’s still tough. But you’ve got this!
  • Write it as a progress report. Benchmark where you are today so you can see how far you’ve come.
  • Set your intentions as a caregiver. Write your future and then see how you made it happen. Tell yourself you will get through this Working Daughter phase and then reflect and celebrate that in fact you did.

So go ahead, write yourself, and then send it! This website allows you to send your letter to your future self via email! What’s stopping you?