Getting ‘Out and About’ with Intention

June 18, 2021



Those in-person moments we’ve all been waiting for are finally beginning to resume. There’s weirdness, for sure, as event organizers and participants navigate ever-changing health guidelines and emerging social norms (if they can be called “norms”).


While the overriding feel of the business events I’ve attended in recent weeks has been enthusiasm, attendance has seemed a bit on the low side. I suppose that’s to be expected, given the number of X-factors that must be considered before choosing to reengage in the physical environment.


I wonder, too, if a collective social anxiety is to blame for the smaller numbers. So many of us have interacted largely via screen for more than a year. We’re out of practice. Are the prospects of matching our socks and mastering small talk too overwhelming for the perceived payoff of attending a conference, fundraiser or meetup? Could be.


There’s also the prospect of running into an individual who is experiencing the state’s reopening differently than you. You want to be respectful, of course. But what does that look like? If you come unmasked, do you mask up if someone wearing a face covering approaches?


No doubt these concerns merely scratch the surface of what’s going on in the minds of our fellow Iowans. And we’re not out of the woods yet. Who knows what the next phase of the pandemic will bring?


For me, traveling through this chapter of the COVID-19 epic is easier with crystal clear intention. To say yes to in-person invitations more confidently, I must first map out my “why.” Why do I want to attend and what do I hope to come away with? This may not work for everyone, but it certainly has helped me decide which occasions are worth confronting the uncomfortable, albeit temporary, oddities of the current environment.


As it turns out, mapping my intention eases decision making in many different work and personal pursuits. Why it took a global virus outbreak for me to learn this, I’ll probably never know. But I’m grateful to have discovered the technique. Among other benefits, it’s a really great way to ensure you’re living a genuine life.


At it’s core, mapping intention helps avoid drift, a well-studied and documented happiness killer. Drift describes circumstances that come from people making decisions by not deciding. An example may be going to a golf outing this year because you’ve done it every other year (even though you hate golf). Or declaring a pre-law major because your mother was a lawyer and her mother was a lawyer (even though you aspire to be an artist).


One of the great silver linings of the pandemic was that, for many, it stopped drift right in its lumbering tracks. We have been given the blessing of a cease-and-desist order on all things habitual. That’s not to say all habits are bad. Some are really good, and for people who derive success or joy from connecting with others in-person, getting out and about is not only a good habit, it’s a life-affirming one. The trick now is making sure you are out and about with intention, so that everywhere you go is a place you really want to be.


SPECIAL NOTE: Over the next few months, you’ll see some new faces in Bank Iowa’s DSM Wealth column. This is part of a bank-wide effort to amplify more voices from within our ranks.


Mark K. Phillips is vice president of treasury management services for Bank Iowa, Iowa’s second largest family-owned financial institution. He can be reached at To learn more, visit Member FDIC.]