When I was 17 and finishing high school, I wanted a career in property. So I wrote to the CEO’s of every major property investment firm in Sydney. Most of them sent back form letters thanking me for my interest but declining an interview, but a few kindly invited me to call and schedule an interview. I had to scramble as I had no suitable clothes, no resume and no experience beyond my paper route, although in my defense I had visited a lot of properties delivering papers. When the day arrived for my first interview, I thought I had thought of everything. I had researched the way business people dressed and what they carried. My intention was to turn up looking and sounding like I was already a business person. Half an hour before I was due to leave home, I realized that I had forgotten to buy one crucial piece of my outfit- a pair of black socks to match my gray suit. There was nothing even close in my closet. Not to be put off, I had what to this day may remain my craziest idea. I took a black marker and scribbled some socks on my ankles. I put my shoes right on top of my bare painted feet and went off to my first job interview. During the interview I looked down and noticed that the marker was smudging. Holes were growing in my fake socks right before my eyes. I kept both feet planted on the floor and no one seemed to notice.
By the time I left the interview, I had my first job offer. 3 weeks later I turned up for my first day at work….with REAL black socks on. Within one year in this job, another altogether different passion took hold of me and I left that job to set out on a path towards my calling as a spiritual leader. I learnt something profound from my brief foray into the corporate world, something that I intuited before the interview, about the power of impressions. The spiritual truth is that the first person you need to convince is yourself. The third big life lesson was that sometimes you have to improvise to reach your dreams. If you have a dream to be someone, the place to begin is to live as if you are already that person. Live as the person you aspire to be and start now. In the words of the 18th century German writer Goethe,
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Attracting Your Intentions
Over the past few weeks I have been writing about the power of intentions. First I wrote about imagining the end point and working backwards. In this my last article about intentions for the time being, I want to focus on the potential to be who you want to be right now and work forwards. In between the first article and this one, I wrote about the power of perseverance, creative inspiration and relationships in setting intentions.
My intention here is to inspire you with examples, from my own life and others, ordinary stories about fake socks and cocktail napkins, of people who have embodied their dreams. No matter how old you are, you are too young to give up on your ideals. No matter how overwhelmed you feel, you have more resources than you imagine. No matter what obstacles you see in your path, this is the time to get clarity on your dreams and begin making them a reality by living them, walking them, dressing in them, thinking them, talking them and breathing them with every breath.
I know someone who took this advice to extremes. She had a deep desire to be in a relationship with a man but there was no one in her life at the time who rocked her boat. Before she met her future partner, she bought him birthday cards and anniversary cards, and even went so far as to buy two tickets to some upcoming concerts. Sure enough, she met him within weeks. Now I’m not saying this always works out so neatly. We can’t always explain why and in whose timing things do or don’t turn up in our lives. There is power in living AS IF things are already true. If at some point, you change your path or alter your course, then clarify your new dreams and make your new dreams a reality.
I love the story about a man with a passion for singing. He was good, but couldn’t land a singing job that paid the bills. So he improvised. He found a job that paid the rent, where he could sing all day long to his heart’s content. He became a bus driver, in fact quite a famous bus driver in Chicago. People would time their trips in the hopes of catching his bus. He said in an interview, “I drive the bus to get a captive audience every single day”, and no one seems to mind one little bit.
Do the best you can to align your intentions with your reality. Let your intentions and who you are become hand and glove, and you will find a way to manifest all that you want to be in the world. Your life will sing and people around you will enjoy your authenticity.
Try it out. When you get up in the morning, after brushing your pearly whites, get dressed as the person you want to be, the person you know yourself to be beyond all the self doubting voices and negative talk. Walk as that person. Be that person. Live that person’s life.
Intentions Overcome Obstacles
Very often when you live AS IF something is already true, you turn “as if” into I AM and I CAN. During the week I was trying to write and it just wasn’t flowing. So I decided to take a break and turned on the TV in perfect time to see part of the memorial service for Betty Ford. I received the inspiration I needed. I caught a clip from Presidential Historian Richard Norton Smith. He spoke movingly about Betty as someone who broke the mould of what you expect from a First Lady. In one nice turn of phrase he described her as “The feminist next door, a free spirit with a dress code.” She overcame her own obstacles to create the possibility of recovery for many. Smith told the story of a time before the Betty Ford Treatment Center had opened. She was on Frank Sinatra’s private jet and conversation turned to funding for the new center. She had no pledge cards on hand, so she improvised and took the first pledges for the Betty Ford Center on Frank Sinatra’s cocktail napkins.
She had clear intentions and nothing was going to stop her. That’s the way with clear intentions. You find a way and often improvise on the details. Betty Ford also believed through her own recovery that she was serving a Higher Power. She held her intentions accountable to this higher purpose. This is part of what makes it possible to overcome obstacles. When you are fully committed to a worthy cause, some higher energy moves with you. Doors open that you couldn’t have imagined, hurdles turn into spring boards to make giant leaps and gains. You can call this higher energy any number of things, including God, but whatever you call it, it is a conspiracy of coincidences that colludes to make your intentions inevitable.
Talking Up Your Intentions
Do you ever catch yourself, saying things that sabotage your intentions? “It’s never worked before”, “Others have tried”, “I don’t expect this to work but….” If you are truly serious about making your intentions a reality, then align your language with your intentions.
There is a You Tube video that recently went viral about a blind guy who was sitting on a street corner asking for money. He had a sign that said, “I’m blind. Please help.” A woman stops at his mat and writes something on his sign. He doesn’t know what it is, but quickly people begin leaving more and more money in his jar. Later the woman comes back and says to him, “I wrote the same message with different words. Finally the sign is revealed, “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.”
Frame your intentions in the most positive, empowering, optimistic language. Take the same three sabotaging sentences and turn them around.
It’s never worked before becomes, “I will now do something new and exciting.”
Others have tried becomes, “I will continue what others have started and do it in my own unique way that no one else has ever tried before.”
I don’t expect this to work becomes, “I’m going to give this every chance of success.”
Find Your Authentic Swing
When it comes to setting intentions, you have to be willing to try, swing, miss, change, try alternatives, try again, and make choices. You need to see various paths unfolding in front of you, and choose the one that is most authentic. Let me end with an example from golf. I’m no great golfer, but the times I have played golf I never could understand the practice swing. I have the sort of golf swing that you don’t want to practice. The less I repeat that swing the better……
When I saw the movie based on the novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, I came to appreciate the practice swing. A great golfer, Ranolph Junuh, is left traumatized from fighting in WW1. After the war, Bagger Vance becomes the voice of his Higher Power, the voice of intention, as he overcomes his demons to play golf again. There is a description in the novel of a conversation between Vance and Junuh about the swing of another golfer, Jones.
Around Jones, encompassing his body in vibrating concentric fields, spread an aurora of energy. It seemed to be his body, but expanded, augmented. It was a field itself. Then there were other fields, an infinitude of them. You could see his will, as Bagger Vance said, his intention select the field he chose, which was the fairway and the target line. Lines of force, which were chromatic not just visually but aurally as well, vibrating like music, extended from Jones' intentionality down the fairway to the target area. But there were at least two exceptional aspects to this will and to the force lines it apprehended.
First, the force lines seemed to exist outside time, independent of it. And second, they seemed to exert an intentionality of their own. Let me try to be precise, for this is exceptionally important.
Jones waggled now and set himself over the ball. I saw his swing before he swung it. But it was not a single swing, as if predetermined; rather it was a number of swings, I would guess a hundred, two hundred, all vibrating simultaneously in Jones' field, as if in alternative futures. Possible futures. They were all recognizably Jones' swing. But some were duffs, tops, skulls, and so on. Bad swings. I could see Jones' will search among those swings, like you or I would hunt through a file drawer for a patient's chart. Jones seemed to settle. To still himself. The auroras surrounding him consolidated. The bad swings fell away, evaporating like a dream; colors intensified around the swings he had intentioned, until there were only half a dozen very closely arrayed swings remaining. As Vance had said, intelligence seemed to pour from Jones' grip, from his hands ("educated hands" no doubt). Receptive intelligence, searching the Field, drawing from it and upon it. Then Jones swung. In actuality. You could see his motion in the physical dimension track along the motions he had intentioned, not perfectly, but very close to those pre-swings that existed outside of time. I was numb, dumbstruck; I couldn't absorb it. The ball rocketed away down lines of force, with everything humming and glowing and vibrating in some keen cosmic harmony.
I must remember that the next time I play mini golf, as I try to plan for the ball to ricochet off a windmill before going down a shute, across a bridge and into the hole in one shot.
Setting intentions is like preparing for a golf swing, rehearsing a speech or making a pro and con list. There are a number of paths your intentions could take, and they are all possible. Few, if any, of them would be a mistake. But one of them is your most authentic path. Finding that path is the gold. When you find your authentic path, nothing can stop you. It will be true in that case that you can do your work and step back, letting go of the outcomes because you have already succeeded.
In that sense it is true that if you follow your heart and build what fills you with passion, the right people will come at the right time and for the right reasons.
The Sufi poet Hafiz once said, “I should not make any promises, but I know that if you pray, somewhere in this world -- something good will happen.”
If you set intentions that come from your highest self, align your life with those intentions, live and breathe them with perseverance, then something amazing will happen, somewhere and sometime.