I’ve become obsessed with an Indian man named Deepak Chopra.
I leave my husband’s bed each morning to go and spend quality time with my darling Deepak before anyone wakes up. I tiptoe downstairs in my pajamas, stare out the living room window and listen to his podcast about finding calm in the chaos of daily life.
Yesterday, my man had a particularly interesting mantra to share. He said it’s your intentions that lead to your sense of fulfillment, not your accomplishments.
Do tell, wise one.
Deepak explained that it’s not what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it that holds the key to your fulfillment and happiness. In some instances, what you’re doing doesn’t even matter — are you trying to climb a mountain, the corporate ladder or a tree? Who cares. It doesn’t matter.
In this case, they’re practically interchangeable.
The key question isn’t what are you’re climbing, but why are you climbing it in the first place? Are you climbing the mountain because you’re trying to see life from a different vantage point or because you’re attempting to prove something to someone else?
The devil is in the details – and the details that matter are why, not what.
It’s not an idea I’d thought about before, but it hit me hard in all the right places. Nice work, Deepak.
And after it hit me, things got real. Real fast.
Three examples immediately leaped to mind when my intentions may or may not (emphasis on the latter) have been in the right place:
- Trying to prove myself. When I look back at my previous career in advertising, I don’t see the success and trophies that everyone else sees: I see a woman who was desperate to prove she was worthy of success and a woman who worked herself to the bone night and day because she felt like a fraud. When it came to my career, my intention was not to produce groundbreaking advertising or to drive positive business results for my clients; my intention was to prove I was worthy of the title and the trophies I was collecting. And it’s that very intention that kept me from feeling whole – from feeling worthy. I never felt fulfilled in that role because my intention was not born out of my true self; it was born out of my self-conscious self. There’s a difference — a big one.
- Looking for love in all the wrong places. Much to my parents’ dismay, I had a lot of boyfriends in high school. When I look back at that time in my life, I don’t see a popular cheerleader who usually had a date on Friday night: I see a young girl who was so desperate for the approval of other people that she went out with a lot of guys who she knew weren’t right for her. It wasn’t my intention to have fun and meet lots of new people; my intention was to feel worthy by winning people’s affection. Apparently it doesn’t work that way. Because even when I earned the approval of other people, I never earned it from myself, so it became a vicious cycle of trial and error — and a whole lot of bad dates.
- Looking to make a name for myself. When I was asked to be the 2015 Richmond Christmas Mother, my first instinct (old habits die hard) was to set a ridiculously high fundraising goal so I could prove I was worthy of the honor. My intention wasn’t to help as many needy families as possible; my intention was to feel validated. But thanks to my morning meditation by Deepak Chopra, I caught myself in the act before I ruined the experience.
When I look at these three examples, there’s clearly a theme:
In order to find fulfillment, your intentions must come from your true self, not your self-conscious self.
As soon as Deepak taught me this valuable life lesson, I changed my ways – that very day.
Maybe you can teach old dogs new tricks.
Instead of asking myself “How are you going to prove that you’re a good Christmas Mother?” I started asking myself “Why are you dedicating your time to being the Christmas Mother?” And everything changed. I immediately set aside the overly ambitious fundraising goal and decided my new intention would be to positively change and impact as many lives as I could.
And deeply fulfilled, I became.
Here’s what I learned through this experience: Your self-conscious self will lead you astray every single time.
If you’re feeling unfulfilled in any area of your life, take a step back and ask yourself, What’s my intention here? Why am I doing this in the first place?
If you’re trying to be the perfect room mother at your daughter’s school, try changing your intention to just giving the teacher a helping hand. If you’re jamming vegetables down your children’s throats every night because it makes you feel like a better mother, try shifting your intention to slowly expanding their palate so they’ll be better eaters in the long run.
That last one may or may not be a particular pain point of mine right now.
My next challenge is figuring out my intentions behind playing tennis. I’m taking this particular form of recreation way too seriously, and it’s frustrating the hell out of me. I think it’s a clue that my intentions are coming from the wrong place.
Hopefully, I’ll get them sorted out soon.
Day by day, my friends.
Day by day.