Setting an intention is a real thing. I mean, it actually works.
I was dubious.
In the past, while sitting in a yoga class, the instructor might say, “Set an intention for class today,” and she might even rattle off a few suggestions. Immediately, I would dive into spin cycle, trying to find the “right” intention, worrying whether it’s the best one for how I’m feeling that day. No matter what I choose, self-doubt inevitably challenges whatever choice I made, and while I’m still sorting my options in my head, the instructor has moved on. Class has barely begun, and already, I’ve used it to induce stress instead of calming down. #yogafailure
So much for being mindful and present! It took me years to realize that I am not the only one who gets wound up when asked to decide on something as simple as an intention during a yoga class.
When someone asks me to “set an intention,” my first reaction is to panic. What if I don’t get it right? If that’s you, too, then this article is for you.
The other day I was working with a client who has a tendency to put the kibosh on every idea he has before it has a chance to see the light of day. Seriously. Every bright idea gets a swift smackdown from his left brain. That’ll never work. That’s a stupid idea. I’d never make money doing that. He has a very well-developed safety sensor that has kept him very stuck in his career.
We had been talking about a job he’d really liked as a studio manager in the photography business. Ten years ago. As he described the job and what he did, he became more animated and excited, and then, ka-boom.
But that was ten years ago. I don’t have any recent experience. No one would hire me now. And I don’t want to be in the fashion industry anymore.
Before we could even explore what aspects of the job he liked, he squashed it. Luckily, a stroke of insight came to me and I suggested, vaguely, “You know, what if you were just aware of photography opportunities that show up in the next week?”
Obedient head bob nod from my client.
I realized this suggestion would dissipate into vapor as soon as he left the room. So I urged him to write down this question: “Where are there opportunities to do some photography work locally?”
He complied, obediently typing it into his computer as part of his homework to “just be aware.”
I completely forgot about it until he showed up for his next appointment. I asked him how his homework went and he told me that a friend had called him in a panic and asked if he could help out as a photography retouching tech the following week for a few days.
And then after that, he also heard through some old friends where his wife had been part of a moms’ group that a company had just acquired a failing photography studio and fired all the staff. Maybe there would be an opportunity for someone with his skill set, e.g., creating processes and streamlining systems and or being a studio manager.
Holy crap! It worked!
That’s all it took.
I think was more excited than he was, simply because the act of writing down what he was looking for actually worked. Like magic.
Except, it’s not magic.
Why Intention Setting Works, e.g. “the science behind it.”
Have you heard of confirmation bias? According to Psychology Today, “Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively.”
Scientifically speaking, he simply told his brain what to focus on, and his brain followed orders.
Two months ago those same opportunities might have presented themselves, but he wouldn’t have paid attention. They would have seemed like pointless distractions from his real job, rather than opportunities. He would have dismissed them and not thought about them again.
But our conversation about what jobs he had enjoyed and why, followed by writing down an intention, led to him seeing opportunities. Of course, I can’t guarantee that these opportunities will lead to anything he wants. Perhaps as he gets more specific, “Where are the photography opportunities 2 miles from home?” other things will pop up. Who knows?
What I do know, is that when you point your brain in the direction of finding what you want, it’s more likely to find it. Here are links to a couple articles that describe how to set intentions:
Pitfalls to Avoid
I know some of you are thinking, What about all those times I was looking for love in all the wrong places? It wasn’t until I stopped looking that I found it? Huh? What do you have to say about that? What about all the times I’ve really, really wanted something and it didn’t happen?
Which brings me to a few caveats.
Notice that the “intention” my client set was more of an open-ended question, “Where are there opportunities?” I asked him to write down a question on purpose because it would generate the feeling of curiosity, not desperation.
I don’t know about you, but it seems like whenever I am desperately looking for something, it eludes my grasp. The point is, you want your intention to feel good. If, when you say an intention to yourself, it sounds or feels judgy, shaming, guilty, angry, etc., then choose a different one. What works for one person may not work for another.
Try It, You'll Like It
Do you want to give it a go? Just as a teeny experiment, right now, try this. Read each intention below and notice what comes to mind immediately. Jot it down if it’s handy to do so:
Today, I look for what is good in my life.
I am curious.
I am learning something new everyday.
I am confident in my skills and apply them when new challenges arise.
I am finding a job I love.
What did you notice? Did you feel your mind open or start to focus on something more positive? Did you feel your perspective shift, even a little? If so, then it’s a good intention for you. If the intention directs your attention to something you want, that is all you need. If the intention shuts you down, forget it!
Now, if you really, really want to try it, choose an intention, just one, and write it down every day and see what happens! Then tell me about it. I’d love to know how this works for you.
And, as always, if you or someone you know is stuck in a job you/they can’t stand, I’d be happy to talk with them. To schedule a complimentary coaching session, just email me.