Intentional vs. Invitational

This is another entry in my ever-increasing collection of "therapeutic distinctions", pairs of words that relate to each other while containing subtle but important differences in meaning. Since I pay very close attention to words I'm constantly on the alert for distinctions that can open up new choices in how to think about a situation. More choices equal more possibilities, and that's where the greatest fun is . (If you want proof of that statement just get a 64-color box of crayons.)

Today I'm reflecting on the distinction between "intentional" and "invitational". To be intentional is to have a definite goal in mind. This ability to be very deliberate allows a person to form a plan and take the conscious steps necessary to bring it to fruition. To be intentional is to think or do something for a specific purpose. It's safe to say that being intentional is a better way to achieve a goal than to just wander around from one thing to another without vision or purpose.

But one obvious limitation of an intent is that it is self-determined. By its very definition an intention starts from within a person and leads toward a certain consciously chosen conclusion. However, if history teaches us anything it's that humans often do a lousy job deciding on an appropriate intention.  I know enough about life in general and myself in particular to be cautious of my own conclusions about my problems and what to do about them.  Sometimes the wisest statement to make is "save me from what I think I want!"

I'm much more likely to trust whatever decision I make if I invite some trustworthy sources of guidance into the process. My optimal state of being is to be intentional about inviting direction into my life while at the same time inviting my best intentions to guide me. Like the breath that flows into and out of me, this mutually supportive cycle sustains, supports and guides me as I reach for the next crayon.


Bill Herring is an individual and couples therapist with decades of experience helping people live fuller, happier, more meaningful lives.  He is also a well-known certified sex addictions therapist (CSAT).  His practice is in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.