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Intention is the star rising in the Dark Night [of the Soul]

  • Fr. Michael Casey, OSB

Just about every contemplative tradition suggest we begin our practice by offering an intention. An intention is something that we are “tending toward,” a desired purpose or outcome.

But I’ve also found that intention is something deeper and more spiritual than the typical goal-setting that we do as leaders.  Goals – especially if you follow the usual SMART goals – are usually Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

SMART goals could be something like a sales goal, or bringing a new product or service to market. But intention goes even deeper toward the purpose behind those goals, and almost always involves some kind of service toward others.  Goals are all “head,” while intentions link your head with your “heart.”

In my work in healthcare, for example, we have all kinds goals or KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators); such as reducing the length of patient’s stay in the hospital, reducing readmissions, or focusing on community health initiatives that benefit everyone in the community and lower healthcare costs. But as a faith-based, mission driven healthcare company, our deeper intention is to bring healing to our patients and our communities and to reveal the healing presence of God.

The “sweet spot” for leaders and organizations is to have your intention and your goals as fully aligned as possible.  In fact, the most effective and inspiring leaders and the most successful organizations are the ones who have laser-like focus and clarity about their intentions.  Successful leaders are able to communicate that intention and purpose clearly, concisely, and consistently to their teams and across the organization.

In my coaching and consulting work, my goal for every single client is to help them reduce stress, eliminate overwhelm, and connect with their own higher purpose. I use the Centering for Wisdom™ Assessment and coaching sessions to measure progress on these goals.  At the same time, my deeper intention is to share the fruits of my contemplative practice with others in a way that brings healing, wellness, and a more intimate connection with God to the people I serve.

So having a clear intention is an incredibly powerful tool as a successful leader.  And there’s also a deeper spiritual side to holding your intention. Everyone who sets out with a big and lofty intention experiences setbacks and obstacles.

That’s where as highly successful, outcome-oriented people we can start to run into problems – because we get frustrated and impatient.  And that usually leads to making poor, quick decisions just to try to “make” the outcome happen.  (And guess what?  We usually “make” things worse in that scenario…)

But this is exactly where Centering for Wisdom offers a different approach. In centering you learn to let go and surrender into those difficult experiences, in order to discern a deeper calling, purpose, or intention that you’re being led toward.

This is truly the single most difficult part of leadership! On a spiritual level, it can be like the “dark night of the soul.”

You know you’re in this dark night when your resources are exhausted…your will is frustrated…and you genuinely don’t know what to do next.

You’re at an impasse, and your first inclination is to double-down on the old way of doing things.  Unfortunately, the old way isn’t working for this new problem, and that frustration drives overwhelm, exhaustion, and burnout.

This is an incredibly painful place to be as a leader, but it’s also where breakthroughs happen. It takes immense courage to be able to say “I don’t know,” and to open yourself to be guided by a Higher Wisdom toward a deeper insight. But that may be exactly where grace is guiding you to reveal a new idea, innovation, or insight… so that you can serve your clients or customers at an even higher level.

Sankulpa [Sanskrit for “Intention”]…is like the seed structure of intelligence around which time, space, and matter consolidate into a manifested event.
•        Deepak Chopra

Buddhists take the Boddhisattva vow.  They set their intention to work for the liberation from suffering and happiness of all beings.  Phil Jackson, the former coach of the Chicago Bulls, famously brought this kind of Zen intention into leading Michael Jordan and his team to 6 world championships in the 1990’s.

The other thing we learn to do in the confusion of the dark night is to set or offer our intention, but then let go of the outcomes.  It’s our inner detachment, and trust that we’re being guided by a higher, Divine Wisdom that ultimately frees us from the stress and anxiety that is the inevitable outcome of pursuing big, lofty goals.

With Centering for Wisdom, you can…

  • Identify your intention…
  • Refine it over time…
  • Set goals that are aligned with that intention
  • Take wise and inspiring actions toward that intention every single day…
  • And then relax as you surrender the outcome to God.

That’s the true beauty and freedom and Power of Centering for Wisdom!

So, if you find yourself struggling with the frustration and stress of the dark night and you’re not sure where to turn next, I would love to invite you to set up a call with me to see how I can help guide you through this process of Centering for Wisdom.

It’s not for everybody, and it takes a lot of courage to lean in and surrender in to these painful areas in your business or in your relationships.  But for those who get the help they need from a trusted teacher and a supportive community, and are able to get into that daily centering habit, the payoff is feeling more spiritually aligned and purposeful, getting better results with less effort and less stress.

If you’re ready for that kind of meaningful leadership challenge, then go ahead and click that link right now to book your free Breakthrough Session with me.  I’ll talk to you soon!

Apply – Thomas J. Bushlack

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