On intention

On intention

Interesting cutting-edge research carried out by prestigious institutions (Princeton University, University of Chicago, University of Arizona Biology Center, among others) has shown that thoughts cause significant effects in both simple and complex organisms. And in fact, that intentions and thoughts aren’t just one thing, but rather one thing that influences other things.

Which leads me to think that if all of us opted to have positive thoughts accompanied by good intentions, both toward ourselves and toward the world and everyone in it, we would create a reality more in keeping with our essentially invariable full and conscious nature.

It’s really a lot to think about, especially considering the responsibility we would have to accept ahead of our thoughts and of their capacity to influence our construction of reality.

In fact, a novel study by William Braud, director of the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Iowa, showed that sending messages of relaxation and well-being to a group of persons yielded results similar to those produced in the same individuals when they were induced into a state of relaxation through training. In both cases the results were measured using biofeedback, a tool used to simultaneously measure variations in certain physiological changes, such as electrical activity in the brain, skin conductance and heart rate, to determine how the relaxation process is progressing. This leads us to conclude that good intentions (in this case, relax or calm down) directed at you by others can be as powerful as your own intentions. As Dr. Gary Schwartz, of the University of Arizona Biology Center, said at the time, “every intention toward another person could have its own reaction that would be registered by the receiver as an evident effect”.

In fact, a self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as “the Pygmalion effect”, states that when we have a firm thought (a belief) about someone or something, it’s eventually fulfilled. Put another way, it explains how what we think ends up affecting what happens to us. When we’re convinced that a given situation has a specific significance, regardless of whether it does or not, we’ll adapt our behavior to that perception, with the ensuing consequences in the real world.

The Pygmalion effect is crucial to our personal and/or professional development. When trust is placed in us and we’re encouraged (with intention) based on trust in our ability, it’s very likely that we’ll give the best of ourselves. In contrast, if we’re not trusted and our behavior is called into question, it is equally likely that we will perform below our actual abilities as a result of other’s discouragement (intention) toward us.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association I read that psychological health and illness are as contagious as a smile and measles, as evidenced by the work conducted by Robert Jahn, dean of the Department of Engineering at Princeton University, and Brenda Dunne, director of the Anomalies Research Laboratory at the same university. Obviously it’s important to note that the contagion works both ways. We can be influenced by others both positively and negatively.

Something similar happens in the world of organizations. As the saying goes, “Treat me like a third-rate employee and I’ll act like one. Treat me like a first-rate employee and I’ll behave like one, or at least I’ll give my best, honestly and sincerely”. The same could be said about medicine, when the fatalistic view of healthcare professionals hampers the recovery when faced with the determinism of the diagnosis. Oftentimes the spoken word does more harm than the disease.

In contrast, we are free to wish, free to dream. But if our desire doesn’t turn into an intention, into a heartfelt conviction, from the freedom of “being”, my dream will never be realized and it will stay confined to what might have been and will never be. The desire restrains us to what we want but don’t have, while intention opens the doors for the will to act. And the same could be said of those who aim to support us in our dreams, of what they convey through their own intentions.

How and in what way we support or guide others can have a significant influence on the realization of a dream, paving or blocking the way toward a real personal realization, one that’s full of good intentions and capable of expressing the best of ourselves.

When I guide or counsel you, it is my intention for you to achieve your dream? Or is it to have you achieve my dream projected onto you?

And the list goes on:

  • Is it my intention to love you or do I desire to own you and satisfy my emotional longings?
  • Is it my intention to support you or do I desire to satisfy my selfish needs?
  • Is it my intention to steer you to freedom or do I wish to dominate you so you can fulfill my expectations?
  • It is my intention to pave your way or do I want to stop you because of my own fears?

What motivates our intentions is a question we should ask ourselves before making any choice in life.

It’s true that we can question the meaning of what’s good and what’s bad, as my good friend and colleague Sergio Blancafort says. Both terms are prone to subjectivity. But so as not to be lulled by linguistics, we could opt to refer to intentions by differentiating between unconscious intentions (those based on satisfying our most basic needs and on “anything goes” in response to our common whims), subconscious intentions (which depend on our emotional needs, conditioned by our personal history) and conscious intentions (which raise us above the superficial and apparent and let us achieve inner fullness through freedom of being).

What would happen in a world where we’re all guided by truly “conscious” intentions directed at freedom of being?

Can you imagine a world with “purity of intention” in every area of existence? (personal, family, organizational, political/social)

I’ll leave that question for you to ponder.