How To Set Intentions, For Intentional Success
Q: ‘Hey, Rodney, what do I need to do to have an awesome boxing game like you?’
A: ‘Simply dedicate yourself to the craft for four hours a day for the next 10 years, and you will!”
People usually get quite quiet after this or more often than not, it’s common to have a barrage of excuses come flying at me.
Here’s the thing, do you want to be successful?
The truth: success doesn’t happen by accident. You must become intentional about creating the right behaviors to ensure that it happens. Intention means taking action. Yet as obvious as this sounds, this is the biggest stumbling block for most people: taking action.
Just the other day, I downloaded a free ebook about achieving success in the inner game. The whole book was filled with affirmations. Really?! Give me a break. How is memorizing a bunch of ‘fake it ’til you make it’ affirmations going to help you succeed? It won’t, for two reasons. One: you’re likely lying to yourself anyway. If you don’t have the right skills, knowledge, motivation, etc. — or you aren’t doing anything to get them — lying to yourself won’t magically create them either. Secondly, these kinds of so-called success affirmations lack action. Repeating positive mantras to yourself won’t make you get your ass up off the couch and make shit happen.
You want to make stuff happen? Want to achieve your goals and live your dreams? Then start by setting an intention every single morning when you wake up. An intention isn’t an affirmation; it’s a plan. As I always tell my students, ‘Luck is for people who don’t have a plan.’
When I started boxing at the age of 16, everyone was far more skilled at it than I was. I was training at a boxing gym in the midst of the city, and everyone there was hungry to succeed as a way to get out of their impoverished neighborhoods. My coach, Willie Toweel, didn’t take kindly to slackers either, so I knew right away that in order to not only survive the training but also the sparring matches in the ring, I had to develop a plan to improve.
I didn’t leave my success to chance. I got to the gym earlier than anyone else and when I didn’t have to be at school, I was the last one to leave. To be truthful, I often skipped school just to stay at the gym. I broke the game down as best as I could and kept a journal, writing down not only what I learned but what I needed to work on. I then set an intention to develop specific parts of my game each and every single day, no exceptions. This plan meant catching the first bus to town at 5:30 AM. It meant arriving late to school every day (when I actually went) to face the wrath of the principal. But excelling at boxing and martial arts was what I wanted more than air itself.
When you want to achieve success in a specific area of your life, it can be overwhelming. What you see as the pinnacle of success can seem so far away. You’re left asking yourself, ‘How am I ever going to get there?’ That kind of thinking can make you believe that the endeavor is simply impossible. As badly as you want to achieve your goal, it seems completely unattainable. What I learned about setting intentions for boxing is this: although you have an end goal in sight, you want to focus your attention on the process. The destination is important as it keeps you focused on the end result, but the journey is far more important.
As simple as this may sound, what allowed me to succeed was focusing on the journey, the process. I knew that I had zero talent for the boxing game. Hey, I was the kid who was never chosen for a sports team in school. I had two left feet. I also knew that as insurmountable as it seemed to become good at boxing, I was able to break the process down as best I could and start with the things easiest to succeed in.
This is the secret to succeeding at anything at life. Decide what you want most, be completely pragmatic about it, and break it down — as best as you can — into steps that lead up to the end goal. The first steps you create shouldn’t focus on the things you know you can do. Following this strategy in my boxing training, I knew that I could start with the jab and cross, move to my footwork next, then learn to defensively block punches thrown at me, and focus on evading punches later on. I didn’t begin by targeting my evasiveness on day one. Why? Because that’s a skill that can only be developed once you know how to move, aren’t afraid to hit back, and have the confidence to deal with oncoming strikes.
Most people fall short of success because they want to start either where success happens or one step away from where success is certain. That would be like me going into a boxing gym at age 16, something I had never done before in my life, turning to the coach, and saying, ‘Who’s the champion here? Put me in the ring with him.’ What do you think would’ve happened? I probably would’ve gotten seriously hurt, beat up, quit that very day, and abandoned my dream of mastering the sweet science of boxing.
The opposite is also true. Unlike those of us who jump in the deep end too quickly, too many people wait for perfection. They spend so much time trying to make everything perfect before they launch into the unknown that they never achieve anything because they never actually go out and try to. This is why I’m a huge proponent of deciding on a goal, breaking it down into logical steps, and starting with things you know you can achieve. And yes, it will take work, but focus on getting those steps down and then move on to the next step. This is nothing like waiting for perfection before you make a move. It is setting an intention each and every day, an action plan, to work on things you know you can achieve, and then as soon as you feel yourself getting it (even if it’s not 100% perfect yet), you move to the next step. When you add up all those small steps, before you know it, you’ve achieved your goal.
Most importantly, setting an intention requires accountability. When I set an intention for the following day and decide to focus on specific first moves or steps to reach my goal, I complete them the following day — no excuses. I achieve my goals, whether it takes me 30 minutes or 3 hours. This is the kind of tenacity that success requires. Crucially, though, as I said before, your steps must focus on the areas in which you can achieve success. You begin each successive step with the confidence of knowing that you completed and achieved all the steps that came before. Each progressive step should address what you consider to be harder, further up the ladder, closer to your goal, kind of steps. This won’t make achieving your goals any less challenging, but because you’ve set the intention with a step-by-step manageable game plan from the onset, you WILL be able to reach them.
So, what you waiting for? Pull out a piece of paper, write down your end goal, and begin reverse engineering the process. If you don’t know what that would look like, ask someone or, better yet, ask a bunch of people who’ve already achieved the goal you’re striving for. What steps did they take, from the easiest, most attainable ones to the most complex. Then, set an intention each and every day to work though that list, starting at the bottom and progressively moving up, week by week, until (before you even realize it) you’ve arrived at your goal. Once you’ve achieved it, choose your next goal and repeat the process.