#63: How to Prioritize When You Have Competing Intentions

clarity decision confidence doubt goals overthinking regret stress taking action Aug 03, 2023
Kirsten Parker
#63: How to Prioritize When You Have Competing Intentions

This episode is all about how to get there ☝️ when it feels like you have “competing intentions.”

Sometimes, there really is no tidy, perfect solution where everyone’s happy and you get everything exactly how you wanted it...😬

BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t still feel totally in charge of your choices and be intentional about what you do.

You know what it's like to have competing intentions...you feel backed into a corner, like you can't have one thing without sacrificing another. You think you have to give up one possibility to pursue the other. There are lots of variations on this very crappy-feeling scenario. 

Read on (or listen) to find out how to handle them BETTER! 👍

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The first thing I’ma ask you to do is check: IS a way you could have everything you want?

Usually when we’re convinced we have competing intentions, we’re operating on that as a given fact. An absolute truth. It’s a conclusion we’ve drawn without double-checking that it’s even accurate.

And it can feel awkward to “back pedal” from that perspective — but if you can get yourself to do it, you’d be amazed at sometimes being able to see a way through this so-called problem that you didn’t before!

The way I ask clients to consider this is asking “How might I be able to get everything I want here?”

Remember: Your brain takes directions from YOU. If you’re walkin’ around saying “There’s no way any of this will work, I’m screwed, game over”...your brain will operate thusly. That colors the options you see and determines the way you act. 

If, instead, you walk around saying “It might be possible to get everything I want — What would that look like?” that’s where your brain will go!

Second, it’s suuuper helpful for me to separate out WHAT I want from HOW I want it to happen.

If you want to write a book and raise your kids, but you think both of those things require undivided full-time attention — they’re competing. 

If you want to be happier at work but you don’t think you can til you quit but you can’t find a new job til you’re happier, rock and hard place. 

If you want to visit Christmas Markets in the tiny towns of Tuscany and spend the holidays with your extended family, but you think those things can only happen in the same week — impossible, right?

The reason we see a lot of our goals and desires as “competing” is because they cannot, in fact, happen all together — the exact way we envision them in one particular moment.

Make it a habit to notice when you’ve backed yourself into a corner — when you feel stuck in one of these “circular problems” — and separate what you WANT (the book, happiness, delightful European Christmas Markets) and HOW you think it needs to happen. 98% of the time, there’s some wiggle room in the HOW. 

Third, if you really do have one of those bummer situations where you’re not gonna be entirely happy — or someone else isn’t — take a moment to accept that.

Focusing on how crappy your situation is will only stretch out your stress about it. And I know you don’t wanna spend a month agonizing in a pity party!

But you do at least have to validate if something is genuinely disappointing, frustrating, even heartbreaking. Say that out loud — let yourself be honest about that moment you’re moving through. 

THEN, decide the trade-off you’re willing to make.


In these kinds of situations, our loss aversion is on high alert — it’s very tempting to focus on what we’re giving up or missing out on. Even if that’s all made up in our imaginations. It feels real, which feels terrible.

So be aware of that. And guide your attention to what you’re GAINING. And what you’re willing to TRADE for it. 

Here are some questions that can help you figure out an answer you can trust:

  • What do I most WANT to do
  • What choice will my Future Self be happiest with
  • What’s most in alignment with my Vision / Goals / Values


I want to close with a personal example, so I can really demonstrate how these tools look "in action" (and since all the stories I tell about clients are actually amalgamations of several stories in order to protect identities, I'ma give you a real life TRUE story so we can get into some detail!)

I had a trip planned with my college girlfriends to celebrate the first 40th birthday in the group. This group goes back 20 years, we’re all spread out across the U.S. now, there have been weddings and babies and funerals in our collective history, and it’s very important we make the effort to make trips like this happen because we know how easy it would be for 5/10 years to accidentally go by without one.

I also had a friend pass away last year, and his inner circle organized a camping trip in his honor (lovingly dubbed "Bummer Camp" 'cause that was 100% his humor). It was to happen the same week as the girls' trip.

 I felt conflicted about this  I had thoughts about what I "should" do, what the "right" thing to do would be, what I might regret the most (or least)...I tried figuring out how I could do both but that was a logistical non-starter. So I had to choose.

Here's what helped:

  • First, I had some conversations with myself where I just named what I wanted. I wanted to do both. I wanted to go do yoga at Red Rocks and have a life check-in update moment with my college gals  and I wanted to go celebrate and remember my other friend, and reconnect with those people I’d more lost touch with.
  • Ultimately, the question that helped me was asking what I most WANTED to do. And I let my answer be ok. I’m not a camper. I’d want my husband there. We just got a puppy. That would be complicated. I wasn’t pulled to that experience. 
  • I realized I was willing to trade off that opportunity to create memories in honor of my friend who’s gone for this other experience that I was more drawn to, that felt more comfortable, that felt more fun. And, as part of that trade, I made sure to reach out to a few of the people I knew I wouldn’t be seeing  to have some connection. To get SOME of what I’d wanted out of that other option. 

I hope these strategies help you move through any moments of competing intentions  either to see that they’re NOT competing after all, or that they’re more FLEXIBLE than you thought & you can still get what you want, or some version of it. OR, when it comes to those times you have to choose, I hope this helps you make a clear-headed, authentic decision you can stand behind.

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