None of us is the product of the moment. Right now you’re reading this because the title of the piece resonated with something you feel. Perhaps a sense that your life is not your own. Maybe, you think that your emotions get the better of you. And we all would love to know better what the future has in store for us.
That last bit is the crazy part. Our brain is a predictive machine that’s evolved to safeguard us by trying to predict “what happens next”. To do that it has created specific circuitry that social, sociable, engaged with the world and engaging in society. Because its task is really hard to achieve it also makes us insecure, paranoid, prone to biases and assumptions that are not based on factual reality.
Squaring that circle, better understanding what lies under the hood, how it affects us and how we can better direct it and control it is what Intentional is all about. In many ways it is the natural successor to The Sniper Mind The idea grew, in the first instance, from interview material and research findings that couldn’t comfortably fit into that book.
Then, as it usually happens, things got out of hand. The research material expanded. The long hours spent talking to researchers and the massively long chain emails with those whose work is at the cutting edge of neuroscience got even longer. Things became complicated because we are.
In truth, Intentional could have been five times the length but that’s only because the research behind it is fascinating and ongoing, the findings are mind-blowing at times and the field of self-direction through better understanding of the components that turn a biological being into a unique person is inherently addictive. With each freshly published peer-reviewed paper we hope that we’ll round a bend, reach a new plateau of insights and be able to say: “There, this is what truly makes us tick.”
It’s a hope that motivates everyone working in this field. Those who believe that nature plays a deeper role than nurture hope the accumulating body of research findings will make for better conditions and environments at every point in our lives, to help us be better versions of ourselves. Those who say nurture is key expect us to be smarter in how we treat each other and our self. They want us to implement behavioral strategies that will make our path through life smoother and our success inevitable.
From my perspective neither camp has the answers. Inevitably we are the product of our environment, and that includes our earliest memories and experiences, because they lay the foundations that form the initial structures in our brain. The past is ever present inside us because of that. But we are not statues made of stone. The brain changes every moment of the day. A fresh insight, a word of encouragement, a single, positive and unexpected experience, have the ability to act as catalysts, triggering a cascade of transformative changes inside us that are then manifested without.
Intentional is focused on that. How can we best understand how to guide ourselves so that things begin to go right after they’ve gone wrong? How can we understand our weaknesses better so that we can develop the strengths we need? If it were possible to step outside our own skin and gain the perspective necessary to become our own coach what would we do? How would we encourage our self and coach us so that we succeed at our goals? What would we say to our self to pick us up after we’ve experienced failure and feel dispirited and ready to give up?
These are the questions I set out to answer. There is no easy formula to apply that will help you instantly transform yourself. That much is clear. Our complexity is so complete and inevitable that even the best of us will, at some point, feel low for no particular reason. Even the smartest amongst us will make stupid mistakes and wrong decisions. Even the most robust will feel, at some point, that giving up is an attractive option. But there is a road map to a better self and a plan. Specific sections of the book deal with concepts such as attitude, motivation, the way we form our core identity, how beliefs affect our values, how values determine our action and how emotions control our behavior.
Being intentional in our business, our decisions and our relationships, is not easy. There is a fine balance in trusting your own judgement and second-guessing yourself to the point that you can’t get anything done because you suspect the motivation of your own actions. I’ve worked hard to simplify not just the concepts involved but also the way you can apply them so that you don’t fall into that trap. Your life is your own. None of us is perfect. But we can all become better, achieve more, feel happier and be stronger versions of who we are. Intentional will help you do just that.