I have two dogs who insist on daily workouts of ball fetching. My childhood athletic reach never included ball games, and as a result, I never developed much of a throwing arm. We live in a wooded place, and our ball workouts have often felt more like a game of tree-billiards, with my workout involving chasing crazily bounced balls. Recently, out of self-preservation, I’ve started taking a moment before the throw to focus very clearly and specifically on where I want the ball to go. Sometimes I even call it out loud to the dogs—Big Pine over there! I’ve noticed something interesting: when I make the focused effort to aim, the ball frequently gets to the right neighborhood, and I chase far fewer bounced balls. It’s as though when my mind intends the ball to a certain spot, my body says ‘OK boss if you say so’ and marshals its resources (the ones I didn’t know about) to make it happen.
I realized during a recent workout that this is a good metaphor for the work we do in health coaching. What is it we want? We need to get very clear on where we are headed and why. Is it worth the effort?
What’s the difference between wanting and intending? Wanting takes little effort. It’s what we humans do. I can want the ball to go a certain place, but when I build on that wanting with the effort required of intending, it’s more likely to go there. Intention suggests an effort of will that translates wanting into positive action.
It happens that people are not ready to move from wanting to intend. In some ways wanting is safer. Most of us have some experience not getting what we want so we’re familiar with that feeling. No accountability involved. Just live with the same-old. But if we move into intention, there’s a chance we’ll fail, and we’ll have to answer for that. So there’s risk involved. Can you take the chance to see yourself differently? This is where social support is so key to our success. Our significant others (friends, spouse, health coach) can uphold us and help us see ourselves in new, braver ways. It then happens that the inner resources we didn’t know we had are marshaled to enact the intended change. Then we are emboldened to act in fidelity with our intention.
Intending opens up new learnings, no matter how the intention turns out. I never figured I could hit the broad side of a barn with a ball. I haven’t turned into a sharp-shooter, but am surprised to find that if I take careful aim I usually hit within the neighborhood. That’s a lot more than I once could do.
Think for a moment on the things you want to change about your health in its broadest sense. Have you taken aim, or are you just wanting?