I've been know to dole out a number of repeat phrases throughout my years of coaching. These include "you need hard days to appreciate the easy ones", "wait until the day after you feel better to start training again", and "no, you don't need to buy that widget to help you get faster".
I've also been continually reminded that intentions come before execution and are the basis for any desired outcome.
And recently, during my Mindful Self-Compassion course, I completely forgot about intentions. So while I was focusing on learning outcomes, I received a (virtual and gentle*) smack in the face with the reminder that I was missing the point. (*This was a course focused on self-compassion after all!)
The point: Don't skip a focus on intentions.
Michael, my meditation teacher, reminded the class that positive intentions are the basis for a successful environment. Not the doing. Not the striving. Nor the pushing. I was then asked to consider my intentions at the start of every class during a meditative practice. I was, and am now, continually reminded how my intentions can and will set the stage for any possible success.
During this course it became abundantly clear to me that the majority of my life has been focused around striving for something. I would set expectations, goals, and action plans, but without thoughtful intention. And due to my lack of thoughtful intention I can, almost exclusively, characterize the majority of my emotions around my previous accomplishments in life as disappointing.
That is to say, in the moment, no matter how excited or happy I was, there was always a big piece of disappointment in my heart.
I was disappointed when I earned my license to race triathlon professionally, when I got a raise at a job, and when I finished a major project. While I would not consider myself a perfectionist I would regularly utter a phrase such as "well, it's not perfect, but it'll do". And then start the personal-lashing and disappointment cycle.
I was set up for "personal failure" at every single turn. My lack of thoughtful intention and my relentless drive for excellent execution left me filling empty, time and time again.
If you can be even remotely intentional about something it's likely that the eventual outcomes of an effort will become secondary (and actually quite enjoyable anyway). This is regardless of whether or not the outcomes align with what you would have typically perceive as a desired outcome.
To set an intention is to focus on the internal, not the external. A positive intention provides a basis for applying yourself to something in the best possible way. If you intend to do the best job you can, then the positive outcome is the best job you could do. If you intend to run a marathon as fast as you can (and hopefully set a personal record in the process), where ever you land in reference to you current personal best is what you were capable of this time around. That is success.
Intentions are floating goal posts that should become afterthoughts on the playing field of process. Because if you don't have a process, you'll likely not get to a desired outcome, no matter how hard you work.
But that's a lot of high-level fluffy talk.
I would like my intentions to be closely associated with my identity.
Here are a few examples of what I mean (not necessarily personal examples):
Each of these intentions has broad implications for process and success.
If I intend to become a fast athlete it might mean that I miss very few workouts, I'm always on-time for practice, I eat better to help my recovery, I train for months and years at a time, and I structure much of my life around exercise. By doing all of these things I put myself in a position earn new personal records, to possibly win my age group, to possibly qualify for Ironman World Championships, and to beat my friends at the local race.
Yes your genetics have a lot to do with your athletic potential. But if your intention is to be a fast athlete and the process of becoming a fast athlete is wrapped up in your identity then many of the outcomes you would have previously desired can happen. And when they happen you feel better about them. You build on them. The outcomes become a byproduct that builds into your identity.
And I almost missed my own point. I intended to become a fast athlete. Fast can be all sorts of things including prestigious qualifications. But the qualification doesn't create the basis for enjoyment, being fast does.
This is my advice (to myself). Set intentions to be the kind of person you want to be. Don't strive for a specific outcome. Make a statement you want to own about yourself and slowly start doing the things that make that statement a truism for your life.
I intend to be the healthiest I've ever been in 2021. To live out this intention I need to work on keeping physical therapy a regular thing, I'll keep eating the way I have for most of my life, meditation will definitely be something I work on regularly, and I need plenty of connection with other people.
Each of these pieces in my 2021 Healthy Intention Puzzle are things I would strive toward in the past. The striving would lead to straining when I couldn't meet my expectations. Then I'd start losing any semblance of the original outcomes I wanted.
Being intentional about my health, I have options.
Options that can come and go in a way that fit with different schedules, new habits formed, and potential projects. The process is fluid. And helpful.
So what are your intentions for the person you want to be in 2021?
Do you have intentions for the habits you want to create this year to be the person you want to be?
I intend to be someone who shares a lot in 2021. That intention is going to work out MUCH BETTER for me than saying I need to write a blog 2x a month or post a photo on Instagram every day. Every single time I've set that expectation I've failed and then I quit writing and posting for months at a time. Intending to share means I can write and post whatever and whenever I want to!
What are your intentions for 2021?
Today is a good day to intend on having good days! :)
March 7, 2021