In today’s world of ample obligations, abundant workloads, and little time and energy for self-care, we can be excused for not paying attention to what we think, feel, and do. Or can we? Current literature suggests that we spend up to 95% of our days on autopilot, responding to rather than intentionally moving through our days. Therefore, we often lie in the wake of undesirable emotions and behaviors at the end of a long day. Sometimes the consequences of our behaviors are dire, occasionally they are simply regrettable, but often they are positive when we take the time to act with intention. So, how do we do that? Every thought and emotion has an indelible impact on our lives. With a thorough understanding of what guides our thoughts and behaviors, we can stop the endless loops of suffering and unease in our lives, and create a mind that is the driving force behind a well-intended, worthwhile, life.
Intentional Living by Linda Abbott Trapp is a detailed guide to the origins of thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and the consequences they ensue - a globally attractive subject. Throughout the book, she demonstrates the relationship between each element and how positive change can take place. By learning to control and influence our impulsive thoughts and the emotions they produce, we can guide our behaviors and actions towards our own goals and desires, positively influencing others along the way.
The Ceiba tree, celebrated by the Mayans as The Tree of Life, is used as a metaphorical model to demonstrate how our thoughts, emotions, behaviors and their consequences are connected throughout every aspect of life. The crown of the tree is our thoughts, the high trunk is emotions, the main trunk is behavior, where the trunk meets the ground are consequences, and the tree’s root system is our stability, support, and nourishment. “Thoughts cause emotions, which cause behaviors, which cause consequences that we may or may not like,” Abbott Trapp says. Change your thoughts, change your emotions, and change your life. Sound familiar?
Abbott Trapp sees our thoughts as a reflection of how we see the world (our worldview or perception). She suggests that “unless we understand their origins, influence, and limits, we are victims of them all.” Abbott Trapp explains, in detail, where emotions come from, how to spot them, and why it is important to analyze and change the behaviors based on those emotions. In explaining the many influences that create individual thought, from gender, religion, and race, to culture, work experience, and education, Abbott Trapp arms readers with the tools to figure out why we are the way we are, and ways to free ourselves from the unattractive thoughts that rule our lives.
She cites ignorance and laziness as reasons for rejecting the work. It’s too hard:
“Making changes in behavior requires analyzing the underlying emotion, and the thought that causes that emotion to have such a firm grip on us, and then consciously working to alter that thought pattern.” Quite simply, we’re not willing to do the work to get the desired result. Abbott Trapp’s tough sell is appreciated. She doesn’t dwell on this point, but it is an important one. In too many areas of life, we take the position that it’s easier to stay put than to put in the effort to make change. We want instant gratification with little effort. But change doesn’t have to be difficult. A little at a time goes a long way.
Intentional Living is a thorough read, and Abbott Trapp outlines many ways to work through the process of change. Each episode builds on previous work, and eventually the process of analyzing thoughts and behaviors becomes habit. She covers the necessary topics of stress, getting organized, how to adapt when things go wrong, and how to set goals for success. Before your know it, you are living an intentional life.
Because this is difficult work, she suggests that you need a strong support system (the roots of the tree) built of family, faith, and friends. Change is unfamiliar and stressful. A support system gives you an outlet, someone to talk to instead of getting angry and repeating cycles of blame and judgment.
Many currents texts on the subject of intentional living and conscious awareness explain that our thoughts create the suffering in our lives, They suggest ways in which we can look inside ourselves, become aware our thoughts and the reactions to those thoughts, and therefore change our behaviors and beliefs about our world. I find most of them lack the detail and depth that true intentional living demands.
Linda Abbott Trapp’s book provides a thorough understanding and orientation for the thoughts and worldviews that we hold. Intentional Living is detailed and academic - and therefore complicated at times. But with deeper understanding, we can begin to comprehend the magnitude of our minds. The depth of knowledge that Abbott Trapp provides will serve anyone wishing to study these concepts further.
Our quality of life is a consequence of how we see the world. If we can change that view, magnificent possibilities will emerge.
“A life unexamined is a life is not worth living.”