Skip to main content

Intention: A Solstice Leadership Tool

| December 5, 2023

by Jim Dezieck

Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Jim Dezeick, Leadership Coach at MOR Associates.  Jim may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

To the ancient pagan Norse community, each spark that flew from the yule log into the frozen solstice darkness promised another calf or piglet in the spring. In their celebration lies a leadership tool worthy of consideration this solstice season: intention.

Intention is orienting oneself in a desired direction, often through deeply felt feelings or declarations. The literature on intention, however, is eclectic and yet to be robustly synthesized. In the spiritual and wellness world, Deepak Chopra names the Law of Intention one of the seven spiritual laws of success wherein intention energizes and focuses attention towards its aims. ‘Mind intent’ – using the mind to move one’s life energy or qi – is the essence of Chinese internal martial arts and core to traditional Chinese medicine. On the scientific front, Stanford professor William Tiller asserts: “For the last 400 years, an unstated assumption of science is that human intention cannot affect what we call physical reality. Our experimental research of the past decade shows that, for today’s world and under the right conditions, this assumption is no longer correct.” Honestly, I think that somewhere deep inside, you already knew that.

So, intention is both a simply intuitive thing for all of us and yet a thing of curious possibility. It lies in the purview of the unconscious ancient Scandinavian community and, in the efforts McTaggert describes, of advanced meditators rendering precise outcomes. How can you distinguish it so you can weigh its promise? Look for something like this:

  1. Intention is a commitment you make towards some destination.
  2. It may be specific and tactical but is often general, far-reaching and unfolding.
  3. It is enacted mindfully, whether unconsciously in ritual or through considered choice.
  4. Its mechanism: intention triggers attention that focuses our seeing and acting its way.
  5. An intention is an act, not a plan; it activates energy that some have even measured.

And so the Yule Log brought folks together in the shared intention that their spring be abundant. As such, their attention, manifested in patience, endurance, and industry, led them to do the things they needed to do in winter such that spring’s chances brightened. It engaged both the individual and the collective. Moreover, that this energy was amplified by their livestock and surrounding nature, even a god, is something you can imagine and that some wise researchers believe to be core to the power of intention.

On the leadership journey, consider these “degrees of intention” as possibilities.

Light intention: during a couple-day workshop, record how you might employ each attractive idea. While it is true that you can only deliberately apply one or two, acknowledging an intention to move towards all helps each sprout in its time. Alternatively, a quiet moment in the morning can be the fertile soil for bringing gratitude to your day.

Middle-level intention: Don just lost his dad and is dealing with that, along with taking care of his mom and maintaining all of the rest of his life. His daily 6 a.m. 30-minute yoga workout that had been his health and spiritual mainstay disintegrated as this load disrupted his sleep. Rather than trying to force that practice, he stepped back and adopted an intention instead: to practice five times during the week, for however long and when, as life allowed. Like a tai chi artist, he acts responsively to each day’s currents, “be like water,” in the words of Bruce Lee.

Deep intention: in our depths lies our intention to realize the gifts of our true nature and manifest them in the life we intend for ourselves and those all around us. This is the story of the Yule Log that burned for days while folks remembered and recommitted to their survival and fulfillment in ways unbeknownst even to them. December, in its community and even more so in the quiet days just beyond, invites you to listen in the quiet and pick up the scent of new purpose in the year before you. And to intend it.

How do you do this? Again, answers vary far and wide, from solo morning affirmations to prayer circles, engaging in thoughtful reflection, and acquiring deep meditative concentration. Consider these broad distinctions that often appear:

  • Setting intention usually involves a bit of immersion into our depths. This immersion could range from being thoughtful to engaging in some shared experience.
  • Intention, as opposed to deliberate goal setting and structured practice, has a bit of a “set-it-and-forget-it” way, that once oriented, you settle into life such that your inner compass and surroundings can have some room to work in the when and how your intention manifests. (That doesn’t mean that intention can’t move you to establish some specific practices – you’re not getting off the hook on that one!)
  • Periodically rehearsing, even refining your intention, in the same thoughtful, calm, faithful way nourishes and sustains. Once again, you likely intuitively do this in the photos, notes, and timeouts surrounding you. The nudge here is that your revisit be mindful such that it touches deeply, grounding you once again in what truly matters.

Yes, the nature and the technology of intention are messy, but hey, you already use it, so might you look to see if you can add to your power and precision? Or be more intentional about applying intention? At MOR, we say ‘leaders act intentionally;” indeed, intentional action to make things better is leadership, full stop. You can apply intention in choosing the energy you engage in the meeting rather than letting it shape you. In a quiet moment at each week’s end, your balcony check invites you to remember, appreciate, and renew your intentions. And here is an invitation to the deep take: a night as this season’s log mellows to quietly honor yourself and renew your path. May you be rewarded with a piglet or two.

Last week we asked which way you tend to be most intentional:

  • 30% said strategic & cultural awareness
  • 27% said emotional intelligence
  • 25% said resource management
  • 18% said their image & presence

Regardless of how you are currently most intentional, in what ways do you want to become more intentional? What resonated with you most from today’s reading as you consider ways to be more intentional?