Intention and Being (Intention, #10)

The following is from one of my book study participants.  We are studying the book, The Art of Possibility, Zander and Zander, in which we talk a lot about who to BE in order to get what you want.  Keri illustrates this brilliantly in the following blog post.

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Coaching has profoundly changed my life in so many ways, and has opened my eyes to the power of intention and possibility. Currently, I’m exploring the question “who do I need to be in order to be fulfilled?” When I have an intention in mind, instead of immediately jumping to “what do I need to DO?” I now ask, “who do I need to BE?” This mindset shift and decision on who to be has assisted me in achieving and reaching my intentions. Recently, I was able to use this paradigm shift on a friend. I wanted to share Tom’s story:

My husband recently reconnected with a friend from college, Tom. Tom had just found himself at a crossroads in his life when he separated from his wife and wasn’t sure where his path was leading him. One thing seemed to be certain: the anxiety from the recent changes in his life meant he turned to his old comfort – cigarettes. Each time I spent time with Tom, he would comment about wanting to finally kick his smoking habit for good. He had all the reasons in the world – his 5-year-old son, desire to get back in the dating world and his overall health. Despite the desire to quit smoking, Tom was never without his pack and would adjourn from our events to light up frequently. He would even receive packs of cigarettes from his coworkers and even his parents as “gifts” because “everyone” knew him to be a smoker.cigarettes

One day while barbecuing at my home, Tom and I had a moment alone outside. I watched him flick his lighter to ignite a cigarette as he said, “Today I intended to smoke my last cigarette, but here I am, smoking another one.” I remarked, “Well, then it wasn’t really your intention to stop smoking today.” He looked at me, puzzled, and insisted that was precisely his intention. I continued “Well, then you would not be smoking right now.” He scoffed and said he only had two cigarettes left in the pack so he figured he may as well finish it. I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes. That momentary judgment of mine gave way to my realization that this was a great learning opportunity on intention. Then I asked Tom, “Who would you need to be to quit smoking?” There was a long pause. Tom stood with his arms drooped, cigarette ember waning and letting off a light smoke. He finally said, “Someone who actually cares about his son, his health and his life.” This idea of “who do I need to be?” feels extremely foreign to most people – it certainly felt foreign to me upon introducing it to my life. I was surprised Tom answered, instead of asking me what I meant. I pressed him further, asking, “Who is that person? What are his characteristics?” Tom paused again, flicking some white ash off the tip of his cigarette. “That me,” he said, “does not go out of his way to stop and buy a pack. That me is strong-willed, determined, caring, thoughtful, healthy, smells good, breathes easily and manages my anxiety in a different way. That me is a non-smoker.”

I decided from then on to consider Tom a non-smoker. I would honor that he was who he wanted to be in order to stop smoking. I would empower him and see if that aided him in his intention to quit smoking. Knowing that he felt “everyone” else in his life labeled him as a smoker, I refused to continue seeing him in that way. So I repeated back to him, “You are a non-smoker.” He thanked me and reluctantly chuckled, “Yeah, I’m a non-smoker…tomorrow.” I told Tom I wasn’t intending to give him a lesson on quitting smoking. I wanted him to see that it was his choice who to be, that he had the power. He smiled and squished his nearly smoked cigarette into the ashtray and followed me inside.quit smoking

About a week after my conversation with Tom during the barbecue, he came over after playing a round of golf with my husband. He had a half pack of cigarettes in his pocket. Without hesitation, he took them out and handed them to me. He said, “These were in my car. Rip them up.” Without hesitation, I tore the pack and its contents in half. “You are a non-smoker!” I exclaimed. “I am a non-smoker,” he repeated. We high-fived. Something in his voice was different than last time.

I last saw Tom at a celebration for another friend who is entering the Air Force. As soon as he arrived at the event, he made a beeline for me and proudly announced that he had not brought any cigarettes with him to the event nor had he smoked any earlier that day. “That’s because you’re a non-smoker,” I said. He winked. We high-fived. I don’t know if Tom will stop smoking for good. But I know that he can always come to me for a reminder on who he is anytime he has the urge to light up.

–Keri Heaton


What do you notice in this blog post?  For me what stands out is the bold assertion Keri makes to Tom, “If that was your intention, you would have done it.”  Most people do not want to hear this, but it is true.  Our definition of intention is not the strict dictionary definition which sees intention as a “plan”.  A plan is worth very little.  An intention is a commitment; no other conversation; I am saying I will and I will.  This is the challenge that Keri set out for Tom.  It is a stand she took.  She believed him when he said he wanted to stop smoking.  So many times we let people off the hook when they tell us what they want.  We don’t take a stand for them when we see that their actions are different from what they told us they want.  What would it be like to treat people as having powerful intention?  What would it be like to assume that when a person sets an intention – I will quite smoking – he means it, even if he does not quit smoking right away?  What would it be like to see him as that person?  To believe in him more than he believes in himself?  Keri believed Tom’s intention more than Tom did.  And her believing it gave him the ability to believe it as well.

About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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