The Power of Intent

In my last blog, I promised to share a super-powerful model for quickly understanding why athletes (and entrepreneurs) sometimes struggle to perform at their best (and how to use this model to shift up the gears and get in the flow).

Total Commitment

Like me, I'm guessing you know what it’s like when you need to perform at your best, but have nothing left to give.

For many years I was heavily involved in both practicing and teaching jiu-jitsu. It was totally my thing! You can think of jiu-jitsu (in fact every sport) consisting of 3 integrated components: 

  • Movement (posture, balance, mobility, strength)
  • Technique (blocks, strikes, throws and holds)
  • Psychology (thoughts, feelings, purpose, intentions, awareness, reactions, rules)

In jiu-jitsu this psychological approach is often called ‘Spirit’.

Photo credit Tony Finding

One of the key principles of this spirit is intent. Intent is your committed outcome. Anyone who studies Japanese martial arts founded in feudal Japan will know this intent is binary. On or off. It has to be to survive.

Your intent gives context to everything you do. It informs how you spend your day, your unconscious decision making, your energy, your vibe and your every movement in the moment.  It applies equally to your immediate and long term goals.

After many years of teaching jiu-jitsu, I confess I was feeling a bit flat. Uninspired. Maybe even a little bored of the same old routine. I needed to make a change and reconnect with my enthusiasm, excitement and enjoyment. I needed to find a greater purpose in my teaching. But what would it have to be to get me engaged again and really excited?

I wanted my students to appreciate the importance of intent. I decided it was time to demonstrate intent in action and set my sights on conveying this message in the best way I could.... Walk the talk.

Jumping in with both feet, I set my sights on a huge personal goal (see Golden Rule #1 Set Massively Compelling Goals). I would achieve a top level result in the British National Championships.

I gave myself two years to train for it. The return to competing was an exciting journey of discovery, camaraderie and seeking out new opportunities to learn and grow. Of course, there were injuries, challenges, humbling defeats and moments of self-doubt, BUT...  my intent (the burning vision for delivering my message) fired me up and powered me forward….

Then, the big day arrived. Two years of training with this one big event in mind. Could I perform under pressure when it mattered most? As the competition got under way the atmosphere in the arena was electrifying! In the face of so many talented and tough competitors, could I get my message across? I gave everything I had to give... But would it be enough?...

I can still vividly picture the judges preparing to announce the final results - the whole arena eagerly awaiting the results. If you've ever had a feeling of anticipation so intense that you literally hold your breath... you can imagine how I was feeling!

They announced bronze medal... Not me.

Silver medal... Not me.

Could I have missed the medals completely?... The anticipation was almost unbearable!...

Even now, as I recall the moment they announced the gold medal winner, realising I’d achieved the exact intention I'd set 2 years earlier, I can still feel the relief, elation and pride washing over me…. It still gives me goosebumps!....

Even though that moment was quite some time ago now, the feeling of achievement will always be with me, as will the lessons learnt and the many good friendships forged on the way. In fact, in so many ways, the journey outshines the achievement.

I share this with you not just because it was a special time for me, but because I want you to see the power of committing to a compelling vision of success. The power of intent.

The model below shows you how this works:

  • Our thoughts (including our vision for success, or you might say intent) give rise to our emotions (how we feel about our thoughts).
  • How we feel about our thoughts (i.e. our emotions) drives our actions.
  • Our actions (and only our actions) determine our results.

So what does this mean for you?

Simple. If you want to take control of your emotions and achieve more, go back to the source of all achievement - your intent.

Speak soon,

Sports Success & Performance Coach