Everything in life is so complexly inter-connected and wrapped up in circular processes. Intentions and attentions are a case in point.
When you examine the energy flow of ideas and actions, you will notice that there is a self-organising and self-perpetuating process that glues one’s ideas, actions, feelings, assumptions, beliefs, needs and aspirations into a tightly contained ‘package’ that we then engage life with. This ‘package’ can be described as your worldview. Your intentions emanate from your worldview. Intention is the primary energy flow. It ‘drives’ and determines what you intend doing with your energy (via actions and thoughts).
Attention relates to ‘the where’ you direct your energy. And your intention will ‘tell’ your attention where to look. But you can decide to turn your attention inwards and observe what is driving your thoughts and actions (your intention). In other words, you can ask your attention to look at your intention. As you do this, you may notice that your intention may try to mask itself, it may not want to reveal its truth, even to you. However, by just observing it, it will in time reveal its truth to you.
Let me share an example to illustrate this.
I recently consulted with a young professional golfer whose main intention is to ‘be somebody special’. This emerged in how he spoke of his goals and his dreams and how he viewed himself living life. He stated that he did not want to live an ordinary life. In ‘being somebody special’ he had images and fantasies of being very rich, of being very successful on the golf course. However, this intention was ‘back-firing’. The reality of his situation was that he was finding it difficult to make cuts and earn a reasonable income playing golf (he was fading into obscurity). The reality that he was experiencing was ‘opposite’ to what his intention was wanting and driving for. And this was very painful for him to deal with. In further conversation, he attempted to mask his true intention of wanting to be rich, special and famous by enveloping it with a strong need (and intention) to use this fame to help disadvantaged people (he spoke about building a large hospital with the money he could win while playing successful golf). I felt that he did this to give his intention to ‘be somebody special’ more credibility and acceptance, maybe in the hope to then achieve his ultimate goal.
Life is sensitive to your intentions. Life is co-operative and responsive and picks up your energy flow (intention). Life will ‘mirror’ and reflect back your intentions. This reflection (and feedback loop) is life’s message or response to the intention. And this feedback loop may block the intention that is driving you. If your reality does not ‘match’ the intention that you are coating every action and thought with, then you basically are faced with two choices: 1) intensify your intention (push harder in the same direction) or 2) accept your life situation and look at re-orientating your intention (accept ‘what is’ and gently shift the direction of your intention). In my experience, we usually default into intensifying the intention and try and ‘force’ life to comply to our will and needs.
Elite athletes always tell me that their intention is ‘to win’. While I do not disagree with this, I ask: ‘so if this is your intention, where will you put your attention when you are losing?’ This usually unsettles and challenges them, since the intention of ‘to win’ is being exposed as a one-sided process that has not embraced the uncertainty of sport in which there is always the possibility of losing. So for me, the intention of ‘to win’ is not a meaningful intention that will help create possibilities for the athlete when there is intense pressure in a match.
When talking to my clients about their life stories I usually mention that in writing your life story you have only half a pen, life has the other half. Our intentions are only half the story. How life interprets them and accepts or rejects them, is the other half.