Have you chosen the work you do? Or does it hang around your neck, like an albatross? A good, hard look at your situation is a step in the right direction. But then you have to approach your true intention. What are you all about? What do you want to be doing? Why? Since our intentions impact and may even invent the world, it behooves us to get them right.
If there’s a common theme in self-help literature, including the world of coaching and the pages of LifeTrek Provisions, it’s the power of positive intentions. There’s no way to dispute the connection between intention and outcome.
Want to conduct your own intention experiment? Look around and focus on something you can pick up that’s within reach. Now pick it up. Look at it carefully, even appreciatively, and notice one thing you may not have noticed before; then put it back down.
What determined the outcome of your picking up and studying that object? In part, it had to do with your physical and mental capacity to conduct the experiment. But it also had to do with your intention. For whatever reason, you focused on one particular object. And that focus • your intention — combined with your capacity and action, produced an outcome.
Throughout the ages, this simple formula (Intention + Capacity + Action = Outcome) has generated countless words of wisdom from cultures around the world. Consider the following examples:
“You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5, c. 500 BCE)
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (Paul of Tarsus, Romans 12:2, 50 CE)
“If you can change your mind, you can change your life. What you believe creates the actual fact. The greatest revolution of my generation is the discovery that individuals, by changing their inner attitudes of mind, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” (Williams James, The Will to Believe, 1897)
“Truly, ‘thoughts are things,’ and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for their realization in the material world. Our brains become magnetized with the dominating thoughts which we hold in our minds and, once magnetized, these ‘magnets’ attract to us the forces, the people, the circumstances of life which harmonize with the nature of our dominating thoughts. Success comes to those who become success conscious. Failure comes to those who indifferently allow themselves to become failure conscious.” (Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich, 1937)
“Dr. Karl Menninger once said, ‘Attitudes are more important than facts.’ That is worth repeating until its truth grips you. Any fact facing us, however difficult, even seemingly hopeless, is not so important as our attitude toward that fact. How you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. On the other hand, a confident and optimistic thought pattern can modify or overcome the fact altogether.” (Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, 1952)
“It is comfortable and natural to say, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it, and not a moment before!’ But the universal principle works the other way around: ‘You’ll see it when you believe it, and not a moment before!’ If, for example, you believe strongly in scarcity, think about it regularly, and make it the focus of your conversations, then I am confident you will see a great deal of it in your life. On the other hand, if you believe in happiness and abundance, think only about them, talk about them with others, and act on your belief in them, then it is a very good bet that you are seeing what you believe.” (Wayne Dyer, You’ll See It When You Believe It, 1989)
“The First Principle of Creativity simply states that your thought creates. Therefore if you want to create an experience, you must begin by having a clear, focused thought of that experience. The First Principle also states that whatever you clearly focus on, you do create, whether or not you want to. Clear focus is the mind’s magic wand. It points your creativity in a particular direction and channels your experience behind it. Wherever you clearly focus, you create.” (Sonia Choquette, Your Heart’s Desire, 1997)
“Every successful endeavor first begins in the mind as an idea, a thought, a dream, a conviction. As any great athlete, entrepreneur, or performer will tell you, ‘You can’t do it, if your head’s not in it.’ You also can’t do it if you don’t know where you’re going, or why, or how you’re going to get there.” (Gayle Reichler, Active Wellness, 1998)
“It’s all invented. No matter how objective we try to be, it is still through the structure of the brain that we perceive the world. The mind constructs a map of reality that has to do with our very survival. It also strings together events into story lines, using dreams and reasons, whether or not there is any connection between the parts. Since it’s all invented anyway, we might as well invent a story or framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.” (Rosamund & Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility, 2000)
Perhaps this sheds new light on Margaret Meade’s famous comment: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” This quote has served as the rallying cry for many a fledgling movement. But it speaks not only to the power of small groups; it also speaks to the power of thoughtful commitment without which no small group has ever changed the world. Without intention there is nothing.
That’s why Tim Gallwey suggests that once we approach the situation we find ourselves in, whether at work, home, or anywhere else, we need to approach the intention of what we want to happen with that situation. If there’s any way to love the work we do, it’s to feel as though we have chosen our work rather than to have it forced upon us.
But shifting into the mode of being at choice can be a daunting task. Many of us feel stuck, constrained, and victimized by a wide variety of factors, ranging from the almighty paycheck to office politics to entrenched life positions. “Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know” is a mantra that has kept many people in check with their old, tired ruts long after a change was indicated.
At times like these, Gallwey encourages a “conversation for choice.” It may be awkward, fearful, and otherwise intimidating to honestly face the questions of what we want out of life in general and a situation in particular, but there is no better way to move forward than to discover and clarify your true intentions through the power of conversation.
Fundamentally, this is what the coaching profession is all about. We assist people to get clear about where they want to go and how they want to get there, including all the details of when and why. The coaching conversation is all about choice. Sometimes that choice works within the bounds of existing commitments and circumstances. Other times it moves us in totally new directions. But in every instance it seeks to honor and express our true intentions.
I have written before about Victor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist who conditioned his circumstances in a Nazi concentration camp by choosing the attitude he would take in relationship to his oppressors and the lessons he would learn from his terrible losses, including the extermination of his wife. Frankl could not change his circumstances, but it was his intention to survive with dignity and grace. And his choices enabled him to do that.
Choices are always made in the context of commitments and constraints. For two years, for example, my wife and I maintained a commuting household, across 600 miles, so that we could honor the commitment to our son who was in his junior and senior years of high school. We could have viewed that time as a necessary evil, limiting our options as well as our outcomes. Instead, we chose to make the most of that time, developing new communication patterns, relationships, and opportunities for both life and work.
You too can make the most of your situation. Gallwey suggests the following starter questions in the conversation for choice:
- What do you really want?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What are the benefits of x? What would be the costs of not pursuing x?
- What would it look like in y weeks, months, years, from now? What don’t you like about those ends?
- What would be a fulfilling means of getting there?
- What changes would you like to make?
- What do you feel most strongly about in this situation?
- Who or what are you doing this for? How does this fit in with your current priorities?
- Do you have any conflicts about this course of action?
- What would success in this endeavor mean to you?
- What alternative possibilities can you consider?”
The conversation for choice, Gallwey notes, boils down to one, overarching question: “Why would you want do that?” When you get clear about your true intention, it becomes second nature to develop the resources and reduce the interference in order to take effective action and achieve desired results. When that happens, it’s only a matter a time before you too experience the promise of all those words of wisdom.
Coaching Inquiries: Are you clear about your true intentions? What changes would you have to make in life and work in order to honor those intentions? Are you willing and able to make those changes? Who could you talk with to explore this on a deep level?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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