Many of you will know my favourite pastime is retreats: running them, designing them, being in them. I have been very lucky to spend the last few days with some incredible people in the forest, a luxury lodge in the forest to be precise. We have taken full advantage of the new year and decade to work on intentions, vision and accountability for 2020 and beyond. The power of focus is an incredible gift and being able to take yourself out of the ‘busy’ even for a few hours – ideally for a few days, is a great way to become intentional about your life and your business.
I stand by what I said about New Year’s day last week, it is not an all or nothing, change or be doomed day – you can make change any time you choose. When you do choose to change, it has to be for yourself, – it might be a benefit to others, but the outcome has to matter to you, for you.
One of the hardest things about the change and growth you make on your journey is living up to your own expectations. It’s one thing to commit to an “improving” version of yourself or your life – whatever that looks like – it might be a habit, fitness, money management, weight loss, smoking, writing a book, starting a podcast, being kinder – whatever it is for you. It is another thing to live it every day, to progress every day – you will have off days, days where the best version of yourself stayed in bed and the cranky early version showed up – you are human, you are allowed.
The challenge is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start over. Kindness to yourself and perspective are needed here – if a thing is important enough to you, love yourself enough to start again. I believe that this is where great intention setting really helps – when you are clear about why you are doing something and the outcome is intrinsic to who you are or the contribution you see yourself making in the world, you will endure any setbacks and conquer any obstacles along your journey.
The real win from being intentional is a neurological one. You are quite literally priming your brain to help you succeed, you are focusing your Reticular Activating System (RAS) – the part of your brain that connects with external stimuli through your senses. Put simply, your RAS filters out the noise so the important stuff gets through, it focuses on, firstly, what might harm you and, secondly, on whatever you are consciously or even unconsciously thinking about or dwelling on. Once it has created this filter you will become more consciously aware of the opportunities, connections and activity around your focus.
Try it – think about a type of car, or a specific colour of car, then go about your day as normal and just see how many you notice. If you are not likely to see cars think about something you do come across on your daily travels – the principle will work the same.
When you spend the time to really connect with yourself, to reflect on what you want your life or business to be like, on how you want to show up, on what you want to make a difference to, you will become clear about what your intentions for 2020 or your next decade are. There is no right or wrong way to set intentions, but connection is key! It is not just a cognitive thinking process – you need to feel in to it too. This might be an emotion like excited or scared, it might be a physical sensation – goosebumps perhaps, or a change in physiology like temperature or breathing. This is your gut (or enteric nervous system), your instincts (limbic system) conspiring to ensure you are on the right path. You need to be able to trust yourself and value yourself enough to go with these instincts and use them to set your intentions.
They might be very specific and tied into goals, they might be thematic – like visibility, what you want to be known for – they are your intentions. Be sure of this, once you set them you will start to notice things linked to your intentions and opportunities around them. Be ready to act.
For me accountability is key for follow through, where ever there is greatness there is accountability – to a cause, a community, another human being. I believe the great antidotes to failed New Year’s resolutions – aside from not making them, is accountability. While we are all accountable to ourselves, often that is not enough, especially when we fall short of our own expectations.
Having trusted allies in your corner who will help you stay on track, check in with you around your intentions – and not let you make excuses, makes a big difference to your success. These people might be your family, they might be your friends or colleagues, you might have a coach or mentor, or an online community you share this with – use them.
Intention setting can be done at any time, it is a neurological activity. There is no time like the present if want a bit of a boost. Today (Friday 10th) is a lunar eclipse which makes it a great day for releasing what no longer serves you and setting intentions.
I am very lucky, I’m leaving the forest now for a weekend by the sea where I will be doing a day of business planning followed by a couple of days chilling, before returning to the office next week. It is intention setting and accountability that give me the freedom I have in my business, that make us open to the many opportunities around us and that help us to choose and pursue those which are most beneficial to our mission.
If you would like some help or have questions around intention setting, or you want someone in your corner holding you to account join me in the braver business group.