The Power of Intention: Is There Any (Power)?


(Physics Majors Forewarned. This Is An Analogy, Not Science.)

In physics, power is essentially how fast or how efficient you work (work divided by time). The more powerful you are the more work you can do and the less time it takes you to do it.

If that’s true though, how come, in our relationships in particular, when we intend to do something, and when both time and work are put in, there often seems to be no power in the end result?

In other words, our intentions, regardless of how much time and work we seem to put into them, often fall short of our expectations.

The answer to all that is pretty simple, intentions have no power in them because it doesn’t matter how much time and work you put into something if you have nothing to show for it.

Producing something undesirable is even worse than producing nothing in my opinion. Thus, this is why they are coined intentions, not actualizations.

The bigger question is, how do we do to fix that? How do we make what we intend to make, do what we intend to do, and have our intentions be truly powerful? (If you can even understand that)

I propose this question because I always hear people talking about the power of intention. That it’s the thought that counts, or that you get points for trying. In reality though, I don’t see power in not being able to do what you intend to do. If you try to cook bacon and burn it does it still taste as good as you were hoping for? No. If you smack your girlfriend on the ass and she slaps you in the face are you still giving her what you think she wants? No. If a water pipe busts while you’re doing a home repair was it still a good idea to forgo professional help? No.

I think “having good intentions”, and similar phrases we use, are nothing short of excuses that distract us from actually gaining any real, tangible power in our life, or in our relationships.

Relationships are the perfect examples of this vacuum of power. Whereby, they generally revolve around people frequently working very hard to accomplish things within them – their intentions: to do good, to help others, to display affection, to give or gain support, to uncover a smile, etc. – and the efficiency or inefficiency in getting these things accomplished.

The worst part is that when we are doing the actual work in these instances, and even upon reflecting on our time spent in that work, we are always so sure we are doing the right thing and that we are well on our way to fulfilling our intentions. But, for some reason it just doesn’t work out the way we intended. We can almost see the other person’s smile as we reveal the fruits of our labor to them in our mind. But, then, SPLAT!

So what the hell happens?

Where along the line does the power of our intention cease to realize its power? What’s missing from our equation that makes us so powerless?

Answering this question may very well be the difference between success and failure in life, or at the very least contentment in your relationships. If you can figure out how to fulfill the power of your intentions, and do the actual work you seek to do, then, theoretically, you will always be satisfied. (Assuming your intentions are virtuous of course, but that’s a totally different problem.)

To dissect this quandary, and solve the equation, lets operate under the assumption that the greatest power we have is love, and that in order for love to be successful it cannot be a power that is reserved for oneself. Therefore, to be truly powerful you have to give love to others. And, others have to feel your love in return.

Now, that being said, personal relationships supply the perfect barometer to examine this equation; in that, the feedback within them is generally immediate. If you are successful, the person with which you are trying to affect will usually display a reaction coinciding with your desired intention. If you are unsuccessful, then neither the affected nor the affectee will generally be satisfied with the results. Thus, Houston, we have a problem.

The latter is something that happens far too often in unsuccessful relationships, or relationships in general, and can be quite frustrating. In these instances, not only does the work and time put in become fruitless, but whomever the work was envisioned for usually doesn’t see the intentions (thoughts, plans, time spent, etc.) behind the work as well. So you don’t even have that to salvage the situation. This is an important factor to point out, because those thoughts and plans, or that effort and time put in, otherwise could have possibly had the potential to remedy some of the misunderstandings or unintended results we often find ourselves dealing with in these moments. Yet, they are usually trapped behind the veil of our own conscious, and are totally irrelevant. No one sees them but us, because we want those moments to be special, for it to be a surprise, and for the other person in our relationship to feel as though we truly care about them without them telling us what to do all the time. But, when it all goes wrong, all that people actually see is the body of work presented to them. Work, which by its nature resembles one thing to the producer and something entirely different to whom it’s intended for.

You see, part of the problem we need to recognize is that even if two people are looking at the exact same thing that is produced, at the exact same moment, they can never have the exact same experience. I say this as a point of fact, because we are all born ignorant. We ‘see’ something based on what our experiences in life up to that moment have taught us to see, and the meaning it has for us is based upon our own understandings of those experiences. So, two people could be looking at the exact same dog for instance, and one may see a cute cuddly pet like the one they grew up with; whereas, another may see a threat to their safety, something that reminds them of a terrible moment from their childhood. Yet, it is the same dog.

Pause here for a second, and allow yourself some time to think about that. Because what this conundrum provides us with is a clue to solve this incredibly complex problem. What this should tell you is that in order for you to be efficient with your time and your work and create powerful relationships and fulfill the power of our intentions: you need to spend your time working from a perspective that is not your own. If you want to affect someone in other words, you need to think about what that someone would think, feel, or want, not about how what you intend to do should make them think, feel, or want. And, definitely not what you would think, feel, or want in the same instance. The answer to how you do that is quite simple.

Many accomplished thinkers say that in order to learn something new we need to approach it with a ‘beginners mind’. What this means is that too often in life we make assumptions about things based on existing knowledge that we have; which in turn resists the acceptance of new knowledge. Not allowing us to see things clearly, as it is, without false pretenses. Therefore, if you want to learn how to do something new, you need to approach things as if you know nothing at all. In other words, the more you can accept your own ignorance of the world; quite likely, the more you will gain from your interactions with it.

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” – Confucius 

How that pertains to relationships; is that, we must understand that we only know what we know, and even that is incredibly arbitrary. We don’t know what another person knows, or wants, or feels, or thinks regardless of what we believe. So, in order for us to act positively and produce the results we desire (to have others feel our love), we must first realize that we have to have an external variable to show us how. Otherwise, we are just giving conditionally.

Therefore, in order for a positive intention to become a positive piece of work, a person not only has to have the intention to do something positive, but they also have to have had something to show them how to.

For example, your partner says, “Thank You” to reinforce good deeds, or mentions what they like when window shopping, or your partner simply asks you to do something, etc. And, in turn, you impart all this input with a beginners mind. You don’t assume that they mean something else by what they said. You don’t insert your own ‘they don’t know what’s best for them’ ideas. You keep it simple, and listen or ask for what they want, think, or feel. And, then you see what you can do with that information.

Therefore, to bring it all together, If you are in a relationship that is unsuccessful or if you are trying to have a successful one, and want to do things as you intend to do, you need to accept two things. First, we must agree that a successful relationship means both parties gain something positive from that relationship – love. Second, we have to acknowledge our own ignorance, or at least remind ourselves of it, and take any answers we have currently with a grain of salt. If you want to make sure your intentions are successful, you need to first seek feedback from that which you want to affect. In other words, both parties have to take ownership and active, wanted roles within that relationship. That is, don’t pretend the other person is a fucking minder reader. Ask questions, give feedback, and for God’s sake tell the other person what you want. That is the only way to get what you want. The rest is a crap shoot.

Of course, all this sounded really good in my head. Sometimes, lots of times, it’s all easier said than done. So, keep trying. Collect the input you receive after each experiment and improve your methods as you go.

Now, que the Travis Tritt music!



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