If meaning is what you and I construct as we process information and “hold an idea” in mind, one of the additional mysteries and wonders of human meaning-making is that behind every meaning is an intention. Intending to do something is both another aspect of meaning as well as another hidden aspect of consciousness. In fact, we often use these two words, meaning and intention, as synonyms. We say, “What do you mean by doing that?” when we are actually asking, “What’s your intention in doing that?”
In Neuro-Semantics, one of the ways that we work with intention is to contrast it to attention. That’s because these are two aspects of consciousness. To be consciously aware is to have something on your mind (your attentions) and to have something in the back of your mind about it (your intentions). One is what you are mostly aware of. It is your focus. Your attention goes out to some object in the world and that’s what you focus on. When you do that, we say that you are concentrating. You are centering your attention on one thing. How are your concentration powers? Your ability to focus your attention?
To bring this up is to bring up a subject that is mis-named, Attention Deficit. Typically, when a child or adult is diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD, or ADHD, the H for hyperactive), the suggestion is that the person cannot focus or concentrate. In the few cases where this is actually true (only about 4% of those diagnosed) there is a leison in the brain or a disturbance of brain chemistry. The great majority of the time, the deficit is caused by the person not caring about the object of attention that he needs to attend to. He doesn’t want to do mathematics. She doesn’t care about the grammar lesson.
Most of the time the problem is not at the level of attention. In fact, when you talk with the person the problem is that there are too many attentions. He doesn’t focus because his attention keeps shifting and changing from all of the things distracting him. He doesn’t have a deficit of attention, but an over-abundance of attentions. The real problem is at the level of intention— he does not want to focus on that particular item. She doesn’t care about it. Neither of them have any intention, interest, purpose, or motive to do so. The problem is actually Intention Deficit Disorder.
Your intention is that area of your mind where you set the meaning of your purpose. Start with a wish, “I wish I could…” then develop it into a want, “I want to be able to…” From there cultivate a greater understanding about it so that you really, really want it. Now you are setting an intention, a goal, a purpose, a direction, a focus. “I want to become a tennis pro.” “I want to get to the Olympics in 2020.” “I intend to start my own Coaching business.”
Now in NLP we often say that “energy goes where attention goes.” In Neuro-Semantics our focus on intentionality has led us to add another line. “Energy goes where attention goes as directed by intention.” That’s because there is greater power in intention than in attention. Accordingly, we developed the Intentionality Pattern as a way to find, discover, and/or create higher and higher intentions. By doing that, you can then take an intentional stance in life about what you value and consider highly significant. From there, you can begin to align your attentions to your higher intentions. Do that and you will become a man or woman on purpose.
Now you are not merely creating accurate and precise meanings, you are developing a much higher level—meaningfulness. This enriches your meanings so that they are rich, exciting, and inspirational.
Intentionality is also one of the key ingredients in the flow state. In Neuro-Semantics we call the flow experience “the genius state” and see intentionality as one of the prerequisites for being able to access that state. With a focused intentionality, you can now turn that flow experience on and off at your will. Ah, “will” that’s the old word for what we’re talking about. Rollo May noted this in his book, Love and Will (1969). So today, when we align attention to intention, that generates a gestalt state that we call “will” or “will power.” After all, what is will power but the ability to get yourself to do what you say you want to do and do it when you want to do it?
That’s it, isn’t it? And how valuable is that? This is not the old Victorian “will power” of forcing or making yourself do what you don’t want to do. That’s no fun. And, you don’t have to develop “will power” in that way. Rather, by establishing your intentions, and then your intentions-of-your-intentions by meta-stating yourself up through the levels of intentions, you can step into some of your higher states (meta-states) and then align your attentions to your intentions. Do that and then you can get yourself to do what you want to do—you’ll establish a never-ending motivation.
You will then have a vision that will drive you forward and create a robust motivation. Ah, “motivation,” another big bugaboo in today’s world. People are always complaining about this, “I just don’t have any motivation.” “He has a motivation problem, he just doesn’t feel like doing that.” “We have a motivation problem in that department.” The good news is that all of that is non-sense, unuseful framing, and a cognitive fallacy. With us humans there is no such thing as lack of motivation, what we have is a lack of intentionality. We lack vision, direction, and purpose—the key aspects of intention.
There is much, much more to say about the Intention Matrix, and I have said much more in various places. See The Matrix Model (2016) or see chapter 12, “Unleashing Your Intentional Self” in Get Real (2016).