The power of setting intentions

I’m quite sure there will be people reading this for whom the words in here will be simplistic beyond belief. People who habitually set an intention to do something, and then go and do it, and don’t think the slightest more about it.

If that has become your habit, I commend you for it.

It was not mine, not for a long time. Even now, two years after the start of my journey of self-exploration, two years into a commitment to self-analysis and personal development, even now there are many days when my intention is set and fails, or does not get set at all.

But I have managed it on enough days now to know that the power of intention is massive and vital.

Perhaps there are readers who have had similar struggles, or who have not yet become aware of intention and its power.

Setting an intention, and delivering on it, is a singularly powerful thing.

Confidence comes less, I think, from big victories, and more from minuscule self-affirming moments, a multitude of tiny wins repeated often over time.

Integrity comes from doing what you said you were going to do, even if you said it to no-one but yourself.

Confidence and integrity are intangibles, but when you don’t have them, not having them can affect everything.

Setting an intention, then, and delivering on it, builds confidence and integrity, and allows us to be the best version of ourselves on any given day.

Some recent intentions I’ve set:

  • To be present with my kids (it’s been surprisingly difficult, but very rewarding…)
  • To enjoy November (it feels like a bit of a forgotten month, increasingly taken over by the creep of Christmas commercialism)
  • To deliver the most important work for my best clients in the first three hours of each day (because my clients make everything else possible, and the work I do for them is probably my best marketing investment)
  • To write every day (hence, this post and all others in this 100-day daily blog experiment)
  • To spend less time on social media (Facebook and Twitter apps are now gone from my phone, which was an instant balm for the mind)

Confidence is growing and integrity is building.

If you’ve struggled with intention-setting, or you’re still not convinced, it. Try it. Set a small intention for today, and commit to deliver it, and see how it feels.

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The Outcome vs The Process: Hal Elrod and Padraig Harrington Have Something in Common

I have to confess – I’m a podcast addict.

I listen to perhaps 15-20 podcasts a week. When I’m walking the dog, driving the car, sitting on a bus or a plane – chances are, I’ll be listening to a podcast.

I have my podcast app filled with categories, from Business to Personal Development to Digital Marketing to Sport.

Something struck me when listening to two podcasts from very different sources on the first weekend of 2018 – two people, from completely different backgrounds, talking about completely different things, but they each said something that was so close to the mark.

Call it part of the recipe for success.

Perhaps one of the most important ingredients in the recipe for success.

The people:

  • Irish golfer and three times Major winner, Padraig Harrington
  • Motivational speaker and Miracle Morning author, Hal Elrod

Now, on the face of it, Padraig Harrington and Hal Elrod don’t have a huge amount in common. There is perhaps almost no overlap in their spheres of influence – apart from the fact that I subscribe to Hal Elrod’s Achieve Your Goals podcast and Irish radio station Newstalk’s Sunday Paper Review podcast, a weekly round-up of the sports pages in the company of guests from sport and media.

On Sunday, on the long weekend walk required to take the edge off my half-cocked Irish Terrior Mrs Dalloway, I listened to two episodes back to back: Hal Elrod and co-host Jon Berghoff talking listeners through their top tips for achieving your goals in 2018; and Padraig Harrington joining campaigning Irish sports journalist Paul Kimmage and host Joe Molloy to discuss the Sunday back pages.

The interesting common ground in this particular podcast Venn diagram surrounded the outcome and the process – and both Elrod and Harrington had interesting things to say.

I listened to Elrod first, and as he spoke I found myself making a mental note (since my paper and pencil were about three miles and four fields away…) to remind myself to jot this down for future recall.

He said:

This is what I would personally call the secret to success – to commit to your process without being emotionally attached to the results.

So what does that mean? It means that every goal that we set this year and anytime was always preceded by a process. So, whatever goal we’re trying to achieve, there’s a process that is required to achieve that goal. I’ll give you an example. This is how I’ve been achieving my goals every year for the last 18, 19 years. It was 1999 or 2000 actually, spring 2000. I was making sales calls one day and I had a terrible day on the phone where no one scheduled with me, some people were rude, and I got off the phone just feeling not great.

I was like, ‘This sucks!’. I started thinking, ‘I’m going to get a different job that doesn’t have to do with the way I feel right now. I feel hurt and rejected and it doesn’t feel good and I don’t like it and I want to get a regular job where I just clock in and clock out and it’s easy.’

So, that’s what I was thinking. And then I had a realization that night falling asleep. I realize I’m focused on my results. I’m so focused on my results that all of my emotions are invested in my results.

So, if I have good results, I feel good, and if I have bad results, I feel bad.

And I thought, ‘That’s not a winning game,’ because I’m not in control of my results, not directly. I couldn’t control that no one scheduled in that day. I could do my best, but I can’t control if nobody wants to schedule that day. I can’t control how many will pick up the phone when I call. I can’t control their attitude or their mood on the phone. I can’t control what they decide to do. I can’t control if they show up to the appointment. I can’t control if they buy from me.

And so, I had this realization [that] my goals this year are really dependent on how many times I pick up the phone and dial the number.

If I make 20 calls a day and make X amount, if I were to double that and make 40 calls a day, well then I would double my sales.

On average I double. So, I just started to realize, ‘Wait a minute, why don’t I just commit to the process and just make the conscious decision that I’m not going to be emotionally attached to the results anymore?’

This applies to every area of life. This is what you have to do. You have to define your process first. Before you commit to it, you have to know what it is.

So, I decided I’m going to make 20 calls a day, five days a week and that should get me to my goal. And if I’m not at the end of five days, if I’m behind on my results, I’ll make an extra day or two of phone calls, but that was it. 20 calls a day.

Here’s how this shows up for you in your life. It just minimizes stress and it allows you to be really focused on what matters most. Here’s what happened. I made 20 calls a day, five days a week and at the end of my 20 calls, I didn’t care if anyone set with me. I didn’t care who showed up in appointments that day. I didn’t care if they bought or not.

I was never attached emotionally to my results because I knew that the process over the long-term, over the next 12 months, it would work itself out.”

It’s easy for us to get emotionally attached to results.

It’s not easy for us to define a process that will likely get us results.

And if we do manage to define the process, it’s not easy for us to commit to that process.

And if we do manage to commit to the process, it’s definitely not easy to divest ourselves emotionally from the results.

But if we can focus on that, if we can commit to the process, then it’s very likely that the results will take care of themselves, as Hal Elrod outlined in his “I make calls, not sales” approach.

Put another way, committing to the process is a way of intentionally focusing our energies on the present moment.

When we’re in the process, we’re in the moment. We’re not dwelling on what we’ve done in the past that didn’t go as well as we would have liked. And we’re not worrying about what we might do in the future.

I think, when it comes to succeeding in any area of life, that maxim – commit to the process, not the outcome – is well worth paying attention to. It’s a vital part of success, and I believe it’s a vital part of happiness too – which is arguably even more important.

Which brings us back to Harrington.

Speaking on the Off The Ball Sunday Paper Review on Newstalk, he said,

I hit a shot in Spain last year, beautiful shot, little fade. Then someone asked me to hit a draw, and I hit a magnificent draw, 20 yards further, down the fairway, everything great about it.

The two people who were watching, and they were golfers, they were saying, ‘Look at that! Harrington’s in good form’.

I walked off the tee and I was pissed off. I was annoyed. Because I had hit a great shot, but I hadn’t made a great swing.

And I knew the difference. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have known the difference. I would have just hit a good shot and that’s all that counts.

The process.

Not the result.

There’s a difference.

Do you find yourself getting emotionally invested in results?

Is your process defined?

Or do you think it doesn’t matter – once you achieve the outcome, it doesn’t matter how? Is hitting a good shot all that counts, or does it matter how you hit it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below, or message me on Twitter.