Intention Won't Get You There


I’m beginning to get that this year of the horse just isn’t going to quit. Full-gallop is the new pace, and it’s not letting up. 

In the first two months of the year I felt like I was flopping all over the place on this crazy horse, fists gripped, just wishing it would slow down. But in the last month I’ve gained a better grasp on the reins, a clearer sense of where I’d like to go and a newfound love for the feel of the wind in my hair. Yee-freaking-haw!

It struck me the other day just how flimsy an intention is in getting you to a destination in this kind of intensity. 

Yeah, I said it: intention is flimsy. 

Sacrilege for a yoga teacher, I know. I think of all the times I’ve asked students to set intentions at the beginning of class. All the years I hung my hat on the import of intention in everything one does.

But the reality is that intention is a product of the mind. And the mind on it’s own doesn’t tend to make very great products.

I’m not saying throw out intention. Knowing what you want to shift, create, move into, transform is great. I’m just saying that intention alone won’t get you there.

The good news is what will get you there is doable. And frankly, more fun and more practical. 

It’s called embodied commitment. Here’s the equation:

Embodied commitment= intention + love + action

I learned this equation from Mandy Blake in her stupendously awesome online class Body=Brain, which I’ve taken 3 times because I love it so much and always learn more each time. 

What’s so stupendously awesome about this class is that it’s the only class I know of that teaches the really geeky interesting tidbits from neuroscience about how we humans tick in a way that addresses the entire body. Which is kind of how it works. Because, as it turns out, our bodies aren’t just really complex carrying systems for our brains. Our bodies are a part of our brains. And we need to understand this if we’re going to be successful at the being human thing. 

So before I get back to this equation from above, I want to say that enrollment for Mandy’s Body=Brain class closes on Monday. Signing up this weekend would be one of the best last-minute decisions you’ve made.

Ok, so the equation. The reason why it’s different than simple intention is that it employs all of you. Intention is your mind. Love is your heart. Action is your body. Another way to write the same equation is:

Successful completion of a sustained goal= head + heart + body

Which makes me think of grit. A word I’m quite partial to. And a word which I’m thrilled is getting more attention, especially through the research of Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

She’s studied school children, West Point cadets, spelling bee competitors…all with the intention of answering the question, “Who is successful, and why?” And what she’s found is the greatest predictor of success is grit.

Duckworth defines grit as passion and perseverance over a long period of time. Stamina. Sticking with your future for years. Living your life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint. 

Duckworth’s research shows talent doesn’t make you gritty. Intelligence doesn’t make you gritty. Your ability to follow through on your commitments makes you gritty.

In her 2013 Ted Talk, Duckworth shares her data on grit. She closes her talk by saying that the work that stands before researchers is how to grow grit.

Well, talk to the embodiment folks. Because I would argue that if grit is the ability to be successful when a sustained commitment is necessary, then grit equals embodied commitment. And if grit equals embodied commitment, then you could also say that:

Grit = intention + love + action

So how do you grow grit? You learn how to hold a commitment in your body.

How do you do that?

Set the intention. I’m getting my PhD. I’m building the house. I’m getting married. I’m starting my own business. I’m being the best parent I can be, as often as I possibly can.

You feel the love. What is it about that intention that makes your heart swell? What is the passion that inspires you to persevere? Where does this commitment live in your heart? Let yourself feel it

You take action. Choose one embodied practice that invokes your intention and your love. What is themovement or shape that represents your commitment? Do it. Over and over and over again.  And then again.

When you learn to embody your commitments, you open up a whole new world of possibility.  And you go from a trot to a gallop. You get there.

Feel the wind in your hair…