September in the southern hemisphere symbolises the start of spring. Mother Nature guides us in our inner journey by Her marvellous and profound outward displays. It is an invitation to us to slow down in our busyness to notice and reflect. “Spring” as the title suggests, implies springing into action, cultivating and nurturing our growth, just as nature all around us is doing. Winter is a time of shedding and letting go of old habits and limiting beliefs and thought patterns. This can feel tiring which is why winter is associated with hibernation. Now well-pruned, it is time to allow for new growth in ourselves: spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. How do we consciously use the start of this season to stay in tune with Nature and grow too?
Oscar Wilde once said: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all”. One of the things that evokes us to “live” versus coasting unconsciously along on the waves of life, is to consciously set our goals. One of the gifts of being human and not a member of the animal or plant kingdom is our ability to do just that. There are a number of ways to approach goal-setting but two things in particular that I work with my clients on when we do this, is to know your values and your overall purpose in life. To enable inner harmony and happiness, congruence between our goals, values and purpose is imperative. If we set goals that are not truthful to our values, we compromise our inner peace and contentment. For example, a person who highly values having time to reflect and renew but who sets as a goal, the ambition to take a promotion to a highly stressful role which involves long hours and constant business travel based on an inner ego-based motivation of looking good to others, is inadvertently inviting suffering by not being true to themselves. How many examples of this do we see around us and even more importantly, in ourselves? This is different to someone who values challenge and contribution and therefore covets the promotion because it is in harmony with those inner values. And that is where the power of intention comes in.
In Sanskrit, there is a term sankalpa which means that all thoughts should be united in one intention, i.e. congruence between our different endeavours with an overall purpose. Setting a clear, pure and congruent intention does for us what sunlight does for a little seedling, which turns itself to grow toward the light. It consciously directs our goals in the direction of our higher purpose. Setting goals can risk us becoming solely focussed on reaching the outcome, sometimes forgetting why we even set the goal to start with and robbing the entire experience of sheer joy. There is wisdom in the ancient Vedic verse “Be not attached to the fruit of your actions”. Rather reflect on what your overall intention is behind your goals. For example, if one of your goals is to start eating more healthily and take up an exercise regime, link this goal to your strategic intention. If that intention is based on what everyone else thinks of you and a feeling of insecurity, this goal is being driven by an impetus that may result in you seeing the goal as a burden. If your intention is to take care of this body and keep it healthy out of gratitude for the service that it provides to you and others on your journey, this may result in a healthier, lighter approach to the goal.
Conversations with God author Neale Donald Walsch points out that there are two underlying emotional motives behind everything we do: love or fear. I could extend that based on Eastern teachings to read: ego or soul. Bear in mind that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ intention. The point is to become conscious of the link between our intention, goals and the consequences. This consciousness helps us to explore self-knowledge at a deeper level and select an intention that is congruent with who we really are, rather than being driven along by motives that we are not even conscious of. This consciousness enables us to “find the gap” between stimulus and response that leadership expert Stephen Covey refers to, which enables us to use our discernment and inner power of choice.
Having values is one thing. Consciously honouring them in our goals and actions is what brings those values to life. And why do we want to do that? To answer that I make a few assumptions based on observations of the world around us:
- Firstly, we as humans wish to be happy.
- Secondly, integrity is when who we are, what we say, what we think and what we do are all in alignment.
- Thirdly, integrity brings inner harmony.
- Fourth, inner harmony brings happiness.
Test this using your own personal experience. From this, we may glimpse the link between purity of intention, goal-setting and happiness. It is not an easy journey to set goals in a way that involves exploring our intentions truthfully and consciously. My clients are a real inspiration in this regard, living examples that inner evolution and courage go ‘heart in hand’. May you be aware of your overall life intention and may your goals bring you contentment.