To move our intentions forward, we need to let go of our limiting assumptions and to believe in our extraordinary ability to act on our choices. When you engage someone or yourself in what Tim Gallwey calls “the conversation for trust,” watch out! The power that stands ready to be unleashed really can change the world.
Writing about the power of intention, as we did in last week’s Provision Click, can be dangerous. It’s easy to leave the impression, given the power of intention to recreate the world around us, that we’re talking about a genie in the lamp. Rub the lamp, make three wishes, sit back, and let the good times roll.
But that understanding is far from the truth. Intentions, like gardens, require constant weeding, feeding, and watching before they stand ready for the harvest.
Failing to recognize this important, critical dynamic undermines the ability of many people to love the work they do. They may know all about the situation at hand, and they may also know what they would like to change about their relationship to that situation, but they doubt their ability to make it so. As a result, they fail to move from intention to completion.
Self doubt expresses itself in many guises. One common disguise is confusion about our gifts and talents. By staying in the dark about who we are, we frustrate our ability to put intention into action. “I’m not sure I can do that” is a great excuse for doing nothing at all.
Claiming our gifts and talents has the opposite effect. Teachers teach. Entertainers entertain. Runners run. And plumbers plumb. Politicians politic. Singers sing. Weavers weave. And thinkers think. Writers write. Bakers bake. Coaches coach. And parents parent. Knowing our gifts and talents is an irresistible draw to live out the full measure of our calling.
Another common disguise is confusion about our core values. By staying in the dark about whose we are, and about what we are charged to do by virtue of our core values, we avoid the responsibility of our intentions. “I’m not sure I want to do that” is another way to sit on our hands.
Claiming our core values once again has the opposite effect. When quality time with our loved ones is a core value, it becomes easier to see that intention through to completion. When making peace in the world is a core value, it becomes easier to take the risks that peacemaking inevitably entails. When a healthy body, mind, and spirit is a core value, it becomes easier to establish habits and boundaries for personal wellness.
A third common disguise is confusion about our feelings. By staying in the dark about how we feel, we end up tolerating situations and conditions that work against our best intentions. “I’m not sure I care about that” is a prescription for maintaining the status quo, even when it’s not that great.
Claiming our feelings will often jumpstart the opposite effect. Until we get sick and tired of being sick and tired, chances are we won’t do much about it. But once we claim our feelings, watch out. We may have tolerated a messy office for months, or even years, for example, saying, “It’s not that bad. I know where everything is. I can work with it.” But when we claim our feelings of disgust, over tolerations large and small, watch out. There’s no telling the action it can propel.
For intentions to become reality, our confusion must give way to clear, focused thought which leads to clear, focused action. Doubts about our ability to see our intentions through to completion fade away as we become clear about our gifts and talents, our core values, and our feelings.
Tim Gallwey refers to this process of minimizing doubt and mustering courage as the conversation for trust. After the conversation for awareness, which generates a clear picture of the situation at hand, and after the conversation for choice, which generates a clear picture of our intention, the conversation for trust generates a clear picture of our ability to move forward and get things done.
If ever there was an archetypal illustration of the conversation for trust, it was the conversation Moses had, some 4,000 years ago, before the burning bush in the desert of the Sinai peninsula. For those who don’t know the story, Moses was living in exile after he killed a slave holder who was beating one of his relatives.
So Moses knew that his people were suffering terribly. And I’m sure, if he had that genie in the lamp, he would have wished for their liberation. But Moses had no confidence that he or anyone else could do anything about the situation. So instead of seeing the intention through to completion, he fled to the desert to take up with the shepherds.
It was there, in the desert, while keeping watch over the flock, that a burning bush caught his attention. Before that bush, he heard a voice that reminded him of two things: (a.) that he was standing on holy ground, and (b.) that his people were suffering greatly.
In other words, the voice began with a conversation for awareness. What’s happening? Moses had tried to forget and ignore. What’s happening? My people are in great misery, crying for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. What’s happening? I stand now, and have always stood, in the presence of the Holy One.
This conversation for awareness led immediately to a conversation for choice. Given what’s happening, what do you want to do? Do you want to emancipate your people from their condition? Or do you want to go back to tending your sheep? Moses was torn. He wanted his people to be free, but it was an impossible dream. And it was so much safer and easier just to be a shepherd.
So the voice began a conversation for trust. “It’s time for you to go back, Moses. I want you to bring my people out of slavery.” “But why me? What makes you think that I could face the king and all his armies?” “I will be with you.” “And who are you?” “I am who I am. I intend what I intend. Trust me.” “How can I be sure?” “Signs and wonders will make you and others trust the power of this intention.” “But I’m no good at public speaking. I don’t believe I can do it.” “The one who made your mouth will make your words.” “I beg you, please send someone else.” “No. I want You to do this. Now go.”
Do you see how the conversation for trust deals with our gifts and talents, our core values, and our feelings? Moses had to deal with all three before the intention move through to completion. He had to believe, in his heart of hearts, not only that this thing was possible but also that he could somehow be a catalyst for change. Until that happened, Moses was destined to remain in the desert and his people were destined to remain in slavery.
After the conversation for trust, there was no stopping the man. He left everything behind, including family and friends, in order to move this intention forward. And it wasn’t easy. There was plenty of risk and lots of hard work. But the in the end, Moses set in motion a movement that has not stopped to this very day, thousands of years later.
That’s quite a shift: from a shepherd in hiding to a champion in the making. But this is precisely the shift that happens through the conversation for trust. It’s not enough to know what’s happening and what changes you would make if you could make them. We must also trust our ability to be the catalyst for change. We must have a strong sense of efficacy in the face of obstacles and opportunities.
Gallwey makes the observation that the conversation for trust turns us, once again, into little children. Trust is a natural attribute of children. They know no bounds. Their options are limitless. They have closed no doors. They dream the impossible into being.
The conversation for trust returns us to such a position. “The job of the coach,” writes Gallwey, “is to help the client unlearn the doubts, fears, and limiting assumptions that inevitably accumulate over time.” It is to minimize self-interference and to maximize the recognition of and confidence in the client’s own capabilities.
Gallwey suggests the following questions as useful in the conversation for trust.
- If you could do it any way you wanted, how would you go about accomplishing this task?
- When have you succeeded in a challenge similar to this one?
- At your best, what qualities, attributes, and capabilities do you bring to the situation?
- Where could you find the help you need to accomplish this task?
- What’s the most difficult aspect of this task?
- What is your understanding of this situation?
- What first steps do you see?
- How comfortable (confident) do you feel about doing x?
- What did you like most about the way you accomplished this task?”
Some of these questions come straight from Moses and the desert! Applied to our life and work today, they have the potential to unleash the same measure of power.
If you want to see your intentions through to completion, then it’s time to start weeding and feeding your garden with the conversation for trust. Eliminate confusion and equivocation. Get clear about your gifts and talents, your core values, and your feelings. Once that happens, the rest will follow.
Coaching Inquiries: Do you believe in your ability to make dreams come true? Are there things you have been putting off that would make life better? How could your intentions get legs and move through to completion?
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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.
Your Provision on the power of intention, with all the references, was a truly super LifeTrek Provision…..life is good! Thanks.
I noticed that your Amazon link for Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Work was a dead link. (Ed. Note: The link has been fixed. Thanks for noticing! See the bookstore below.)
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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