I attended a virtual conference in June originally scheduled to be held in Los Angeles. It was the Mindfulness and Compassion Global Summit.

The opening keynote, “The Storm Makes You Stronger”, was presented by Jeremy Hunter, Founding Director, Executive Mind Leadership Institute, Claremont Graduate University.

It could not have been more fitting, given the times we are living.

The presentation included the following two quotes exploring the juxtaposition of, on the one hand, having an inner platform from which to lead; and, on the other, the importance in achieving the results we want to see in the world.

“You cannot manage other people unless you can manage yourself first.”
“... leadership is defined by results.” – Peter F. Drucker

In our current environment involving elevated levels of uncertainty, how we navigate our inner landscape can make the difference between sinking or swimming, holding back or transforming.

And when combined with our pursuit of achieving goals or specific outcomes, how we hold these goals as intentions in our inner landscape is critical. This is where mindfulness is an effective and trainable skill to help accomplish this.

What is the point of holding intentions in our inner landscape? 

We all know about the importance of being present to process. This involves putting our goals aside by no longer checking how we are doing or if we have arrived yet; and to trust and let go of our attachment to future outcomes.

Often easier said than done, this allows us to enjoy the journey. More importantly, it also allows us to “wake up” to our experiences along the way, including inner narratives/criticisms, ups and downs, successes and failures, providing valuable immediate feedback to then skillfully make the necessary course corrections and choices in real time.

When guided by our intentions in this way, being fully present to the experience, we are guaranteed to fulfill our intentions. And best of all, it does not mean that we have to give up our goals or desire to achieve. It also makes the important shift in our thinking from “We are defined by our results” or “We are our results”, and softening identification with our results.

To make this more tangible, let’s review the difference between goals and intentions.

Goals vs. Intentions:

1. Goals are focused on the future outcome. Intentions are grounded in the present moment.
2. Goals are a destination or specific accomplishment. Intentions are lived each day, independent of achieving the goal or destination.
3. Goals are external achievements. Intentions are an internal direction.
Ref: Pete Kirchmer, mPEAK, Mindfulness Based Health

When pursued mindfully, it is about enjoying both the journey, as well as the destination.

Ask yourself:

    • What place are you leading from?
    • How are you unintentionally limiting your effectiveness through lack of acceptance or awareness of conditioned reactions?
    • What does this feeling want from right now?
    • To what extent are you grounded in your priorities, or are you blowing in the wind by external variables?
    • How can you be more effective at making the “invisible” visible to yourself, and then by extension to the people around you?

Mindful Awareness (as described by Shinzen Young) builds the following skills that can help you in this process in noticing your unconscious beliefs and emotions (such as self-doubt, fear, shame, or regret etc … ):

  1. Capacity to direct attention: The ability to pay attention to what you deem relevant at any given moment
  2. Sensory clarity: The ability to track the detail and subtlety of sensory experience in real time
  3. Equanimity: The ability to accept your inner experience

Goals are an important component of any high performance culture that provide enhanced motivation, clarity and sense of direction.

When pursued mindfully, goal achievement becomes less of the point, making room for personal and team transformation to become the main purpose; paradoxically allowing us the greatest probability to achieve the very goal that we set out to achieve in the first place.