We frequently hear about the importance of meeting goals. On the job, many of must meet such a requirement on a weekly or even daily basis. Today, I am suggesting an alternate method to approach what we want to accomplish in our personal lives, a perspective on our hopes and ambitions. Actually, it involves two ideas: setting intentions and letting go of the outcome. These two concepts are closely related.
To illustrate my meaning, I would like to tell a brief story. Imagine a football player who intercepts a pass on his own three-yard line. Perhaps his team is losing by a few points. He turns and begins to run down the field. He sees the “goal” ahead of him: that line past which he needs to get the football in order to score points. As he runs, our player hears the thudding of footfalls behind him, the opposing team, he imagines, trying to bring him down. He passes his own ten-yard line, then the twenty-yard line, and goes on beyond the fifty-yard line, still sprinting hard. He continues hearing his pursuers behind him and also his teammates as they block tackles. Then, one of the opposing players reaches him, grabbing his waist. Our player is certain he will be brought down, yet, with his eyes still fixed downfield, he breaks the tackle and keeps moving. Our player continues running with the ball until at last a tackler gets a solid hold on him, and he falls on the three-yard line: almost, but not quite at the goal line.
Has our player failed? Well, he certainly did not reach his “goal” of crossing the line. To hear the cheers of the crowd and of his team though, you would not think them disappointed. While not actually getting to the goal line, he has put his team in a very favorable position. His intention, if not his goal, has been attained.
So here is my point: power derives from making a decision about a direction in which to take your life and then begin to vitalize it with your energy. The decision can be as simple as getting the lawn mowed or as long-term as earning a college degree while raising a family.
After making the decision, create an intention. Intention is a simple, present tense statement of your desire. For instance, our player’s intention might be, “I am running to score.” You trust that the images, talents, and knowledge that you require already exist within you or lie within your grasp through the resources you will encounter. As our football player trusts his strength, speed, and the help of his teammates, you rely upon the personal qualities you possess and the resources that become available to you.
For many, though not everyone, visualizing yourself as having achieved your intention often proves very powerful. Think of it as creating a mental image of yourself at the moment you fulfill what you intended to do. Our player might see himself standing in the end zone, holding the football above his head, for example.
Now, after setting your intention, let go of the outcome. That is, stop wondering what might happen or worrying about success. Keep your mind on the moment, making the consistent choice to move forward, mindful of your reason for doing so. Choose to continue on with your purpose, like our football player, who fixes his eyes on his intention even when he experiences what seems like a setback. With this frame of mind, there are no failures; the choice becomes the triumph. There are no setbacks, only instances to look at alternatives.
Letting go of the outcome of your efforts may seem counter-intuitive at first, perhaps even somewhat naïve. After all, you might say, bad things happen; we need to prepare for them. Indeed unpleasant experiences do occur. People who look for these occasions tend to find them, however, and how we frame our life experiences can predict how we experience our lives and ourselves. More danger lies in doubt and worry than in optimism.
Moreover, when we worry about the outcome, we are putting our mental and emotional efforts, not to mention our time, into something that has not yet happened. On the other hand, we could focus on the immediate step needed to achieve our desired end, thereby improving the odds that it will become reality.
With this perspective, problems become experiences with which to learn and deepen ourselves. You do not “have to” attain anything. Our fears, like unseen footfalls from our past, seeming to chase us with our memories, are, after all, only old beliefs that follow us. They can be ignored because we have already succeeded.
Begin to practice and discover how genuinely powerful these ideas can become in your life.
Make an intention and let go of the outcome!
Bernard J. Bonner, Ph.D.