By Monica A. Ross, LPC
Remember one thing only: that it’s you—nobody else—who determines your destiny and decides your fate. Nobody else can be alive for you.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
―William Ernest Henley, Echoes of Life and Death;
This post is about setting intention—appropriate for the new year as people plan to make New Year’s resolutions that sometimes never manifest. That’s because it’s not just about setting intent; it’s about follow-through. The former Navy SEAL, Eric Greitens, put it best in his book on resilience—life isn’t as much about finding a purpose as it is about creating one.
Rudyard Kipling said it a different way in his poem “If”: “If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim.” Thinking is great, but thoughts beg to be followed by action. All the better for reaching our end goal if we meet the end goal in the present, as it were.
In other words, if our follow through on a daily basis incorporates the end goal we have in sight, then we are well on our way not only to setting intent but delivering results.
Gary Zukav is another figure who talks about intent. He pointed out that there is an energy behind our intentions and that often what happens in life is that we get a wake-up call in the form of pain and suffering of some sort.
Maybe we experience the loss of a job or a loved one.
We then act out of that place of pain and suffering with either love or fear. This becomes purpose in a way, or the reason for why we do the things we do in life. An intent with love as its base is the effort and endeavor to move away from pain and suffering. An intent that comes from a place of fear is an excuse to invite more pain and suffering in.
The type of intent with love behind it is a type of intent that comes from a place also of authentic desire. As Oprah notes in this video, having an intention that is based solely on gaining favor in someone else’s eyes, of fitting in with other people’s expectations—or intent with fear behind it—has no “stickiness” or staying power to it.
Operating from the values and belief systems of others instead of our own can drain us of our energy. That type of intent is experienced as inner struggle. It’s hard to give fully of oneself when acting out of fear, when there just isn’t a natural wanting behind our actions.
There is an intricate relationship then between cause and effect, Gary Zukav states. Intention is the cause that influences the effect that we have. There is no effect without intention. If we come from a place of love and authentic desire then we’ll very often meet the intended effect.
One of the things that can assist in our transition from intent to action is to act in the present as though that thing we have our intent set on is already here. Dr. Joe Dispenza, New York Times bestselling author, states that the hardest part of intention is “[t]each[ing] our body emotionally what the future will feel like ahead of the actual experience.”
What does he mean by that exactly? In a way he is pointing to neurobiology.
From a neurobiological perspective, “neurons that fire together wire together” as the famous phrase goes. As we continue to set our intent and change our thinking patterns those new neural pathways get reinforced and then assist, theoretically, in the manifestation of the change we want to bring about.
Those are the benefits of neuroplasticity.
Our bodies often do not know the difference between something that we are visualizing happening and what is actually happening. I remember in grade school when I participated in a lot of sports—learning then about the power of visualization.
My basketball coach told me to lie in bed and visualize making free throw baskets at night. This included not only visualizing as I was lying there, but making the hand motions and gestures of scoring points. I was the top-scoring member of the team.
Visualization is often used for other peak performance practices like mastering a new skill or relieving anxiety and stress--Melody Wilding states in this article on the power of using visualization.
So to sum things up, let’s set an intent for something this year that has a better chance of occurring because we are visualizing what it is we want to make manifest. Perhaps by visualizing that end goal, we’ll not only inch our way towards our destination, but our bodies will be experiencing the benefits of the future in the present.
Monica A. Ross, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Austin, Texas. Monica can help you to foster resilience. To schedule your appointment with Monica, you can reach her at (512) 572-0055 or request an appointment with her on the Empathic Psychotherapy Scheduling Calendar.