Always Question Your Intent

Always Question Your Intent — the best way to figure out where you are going, and what you can do next, is to question your own focus.

Far too often, we allow the dramas in our heads, the “I know what you are intending” thoughts, to dominate. We then go off half cocked, missing clues to the contrary, digging holes for ourselves. Remember: our dramas are just that — plays we invent for our own amusement.

Being truly alive means shutting the inner TV off once in a while, and simply enacting our intent.

Below are several illustrations and suggestions designed to help you question your intent!

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questioning your intent
I love client stories.

One thing that’s happened on our trip to Costa Rica is that I’ve heard from a few people who were clients, saying thanks. I’m appreciative of their words, and often they remind me of some significant event from our dialogue times.

Here’s an example: It was some years ago, in December. “Sally” and I had been discussing “Intent,” as in:

What are you intending to accomplish, and is the way you are choosing to act right now aiding or hindering your stated intent?”

Good timing, as the following happened a couple of days after our session. Sally was writing out the ubiquitous Xmas letter, and because it was some years ago, intended to mail it. So, she printed out a test version. She next decided to ask her husband to read it over before printing out enough for the teeming masses. Her husband read the letter, agreed it was OK, and even congratulated her for a job well done.

Then, the fun began.

sitting waiting

He thought of himself as the “man of the house,” and assumed that technology was subject to his deft touch. So, off he went to the computer, where he attempted to print a bunch. The program opened, sent the letter to the printer, and then…

Nothing. Nada.

He tried to get the printer to work by repeatedly clicking “Print” on the computer screen. Nada, again.

Sally suggested that maybe the printer was out of ink.

He loudly and ‘colourfully’ assured her that she hadn’t the least clue about computers — and that she couldn’t possibly be right about what was happening. He fiddled some more. Failing, he swore and jumped up and down, blamed her for breaking the printer, wiggled some wires, failed miserably at getting the thing to print, and then, because really, what else could he do, 😉 he ended the evening by stomping off to his room.

Now you know one reason she was doing therapy

I asked her what she would have done in the past.

Sally described what her “normal” behaviour would have been, as she reacted to her husband’s behaviour — to get really small, to try to disappear, to agree that she, indeed, had broken the printer, and to do anything to get him to stop being mad at her. She added,

That’s what I learned to do when my dad got mad.”

Well, yes. We do learn behaviours at our parents’ knees, and we learn from our tribes, and we build and build on what we learned. In a situation like this, it does feel “normal” to want to do what I’ve always done.

Until we “question our intent.”

This is the part my client really understood from the prior session. As she felt herself shrinking, she thought, “What’s my intent here?” She realized that she had two intentions, and because they were her intentions, both could be fulfilled by her, without anyone else doing anything different.

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  • First, she wanted to print her Xmas letter.
  • Second, she was curious about her husband’s anger.
  • She also realized that, in the past, she would have done anything to get him to stop his behaviour — she would have followed him to his room, begged his forgiveness, endured his silence while blaming herself.

    She saw that this would have been an intent to change someone else — an impossible task.

    So this time, as he stomped out of the room, she wished him a “Good night,” and decided not to take his anger personally. The next morning, she went to an office supply place, bought a new ink cartridge, inserted it, and printed out her Xmas letter.

    First intention met. When her husband got home, she said, “Guess what! I fixed the computer!” He asked her how that was possible. She replied, “I replaced the ink cartridge, and printed off the letter.”

    Now, I know. You probably thought that she “should” have said, “See. I told you so.” But by simply stating the “I replaced the ink cartridge” part, she didn’t escalate the episode from the night before.

    Without an escalation, she was able to take the opportunity to invite her husband to talk about his anger. He did, haltingly, and that began their eventual dialogue about all matters emotional. Second intention met.

    It is simple to become aware of my own intent. I am also clear that, without asking, I am ignorant of the intent of others. On the other hand, I can pretend not to know my own intentions, while imagining I have others all figured out. But when I do that, I am lying to myself.

    Darbella and I pull off all kinds of stuff, because of our intent to work well together. Just ahead of coming to Costa Rica, we moved all of our “stuff” into two storage lockers. (OK, we paid two guys to move the washer… we’re old, after all!) We emptied our townhouse, filled a truck, and emptied it, all in 6 hours.

    As we were struggling with the small chest freezer — getting it out of the basement and into the truck — we remembered another time, and another chest freezer. We gave that one to a friend.

    We moved some furniture, hauled in the freezer, and carried it down a staircase with a bend in the middle, and deposited the freezer in the basement. Our friend commented that she’d never seen two people move something like we did. No yelling, blaming, fighting. Just teamwork.

    Dar said, “We’ve had a lot of practice.” Indeed, that’s true. But I also know we’ve never squabbled over moving something. I said, “Yeah, and we hang wallpaper together, too.”

    The reason we do this so well is all about our intent. Our intent, always, is to communicate clearly, let the other know where we are, and to come to a place of agreed upon resolution. In this case, then, our intent was to get the freezer to the basement without hurting ourselves, the walls, or the freezer.

    Our intent was not to:

    • be in charge
    • be right
    • be short tempered
    • have a fight.

    It really is this simple. And we “do” life in the same way.

    Prior to moving the freezer off of the porch, we walked through the house, moving things out of the way. We looked at the stairs, realized they were slippery, and therefore left our boots on. Interestingly, there was a point, trying to get the freezer around the 90 degree bend, where I rested it on the steel toe of my boot.

    After picking the freezer up, Dar said, “I’m going to put both hands underneath.” She had one hand under, one hand on the back of the freezer. She let me know this so I could compensate for the weight shift when she briefly let go with one hand to move it. I had to stick my head out around the freezer, to see her hand and watch — then I could compensate precisely when she let go. I then decided to do the same with my hands, so she watched me.

    As we moved the freezer, we checked with each other as to our “tiredness.” On the stairs, we got jammed up a bit on the turn. We found a way to rest the weight evenly, while having a discussion about what to do. One of us would suggest, then we’d try it to see if it worked. Three tries, and around the bend she went.

    Now, we could have gone to anger or frustration or whining, but this wouldn’t have accomplished our intent — to get the freezer into the basement.

    Life, as I said, is the same.

    • If my intent is to deepen a relationship, then I need to evaluate my actions and choices and words on the basis of that intent.
    • If my intent is to be intimate, I need to discipline myself to move closer, not back up.
    • If my intent is to implement a project, then everything I “do” will lead to the completion of the project. Therefore, it is also my responsibility to translate my project into language others can understand.
    • If my intent is good communication, I will be aware of what works and what doesn’t — with each person I’m trying to communicate with. I will choose to communicate, for example, in “Darbella-speak,” which means that I know which ways of saying things work with her — and which ways she chooses to annoy herself with. I need to get over myself and any thinking that she should just “put up with me” when I misspeak myself. I’m an adult, and if I’m aware of my intent, I can choose not to provoke when my goal is good communication.

    Far too often, we allow the dramas in our heads, the “I know what you are intending” thoughts, to dominate. We then go off half cocked, missing clues to the contrary, digging holes for ourselves. Remember: our dramas are just that — plays we invent for our own amusement.

    Being truly alive means shutting the inner TV off once in a while, and simply enacting our intent.

    If you are always in your head, imagining what you don’t have and think you really want, you tend to miss what you already have. By staying present, being in the moment — I have the best chance of being real. I can celebrate this moment in my life — and why not? It’s all that exists.

    What do you want for your life? In all of that wanting, what are you missing that you already have? In your wish to be right, are you living a fulfilling life? In your quest for perfection, or wisdom, or enlightenment, are you failing to notice your wholeness — the good, the bad, the indifferent? What would happen in your life if you chose wholeness, presence, and clarity as your clear intent — and lived each moment in the moment, living and breathing your intent?

    Hmm. Maybe living your intent and celebrating your intent would be… enough.

    At the very least, the freezer would get to the basement — and elegantly at that.


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    About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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