Here's my new year's "tradition".
I've decided to coin a new word at the start of every year–something helpful that captures an emerging concept in my space, with greater precision and weight than anything I can find out there. I might not technically be the first–there are many stirrings in the zeitgeist–but I promise to make it an original publication from me.
When I was writing my first book at the end of the last millenium, I was exploring an intriguing new idea but was struggling to find the word that captured the exact feeling I was trying to express. I didn't find it in my massive Oxford dictionary or my equally substantial thesaurus or anywhere in the vast space on-line. I finally had to invent a word out of thin air, but got lost in the nasty entanglement of imposter feelings. "Who am I to coin a word?" I wrote my mentor Jay Conrad Levinson (of Guerrilla Marketing fame) and asked if I was allowed to make up a word. Ever the loving champion of nacsent self-confidence, he affirmed jubilantly that: "Of course you are! You are a writer!"
So now, in tribute to JCL, this year's word is intentious.
I am using the word to describe the pursuit of a goal in a way that is unsustainable, self-aggrandizing, or somewhat desperate and ultimately likely to fail or cause significant collateral damage. (A certain despotic tyrant comes to mind at the extreme end of the spectrum of intentiousness, but the word contains a very practical caution during this, the resolution season.)
My guess is that most of us have some important goal that has remained stubbornly out of reach. Maybe it's that last ten (or more pounds), a lofty level of sales or networth , a score under 80 in golf or a best seller. We all have something that we want but we don't have. It's in our nature to want things and to strive for more. The Ancient Greeks (Aristotle specifically) called it telos, "the supreme end of man's endeavour", as distinct from techne, the method of it's production*. Our brains are goal-setting machines. All the grandeur of human creation and destruction is a result of this innate machinery.
When we get or achieve something we want, we experience satisfaction that is somewhere on the spectrum from brief and superficial to profound and enduring. If we don't get it we often feel dissappointed, as the setting of the goal invariably generated an unconscious expectation. Some of these expectations turn out to be unattainable; struggling to attain them can be frought with frustration and overwhelm. Then life sucks. Golf comes to mind for me.
The sports psychologist Bob Rotella wrote clearly about the futility of playing golf in order to achieve a score; Stephen Pressfield called it, "a game that can't be won, only played." There are far too many factors outside of a golfer's control to will an end result into submission (and many internal factors like physical capacity, temperament, cognitive biases and unconscious metabolic, hormonal and neurotransmittal processes). For Rotella, a better way to express such will is to redirect intention away from the end goal (the telos) and onto "process goals" (the techne) that are more under the golfer's direct control (such as developing and sticking to a workable set-up routine).**
Intensity in the execution of a compelling objective can be fabulously effective. Intentious behavior is the brute force of self-determination applied to a grandiose end result rather than on a more sustainable flow of workable steps in the service of some worthy purpose. I, and most of the people we serve, have the gift and curse of massive self-determination, which is the root of all things great and terrible. The difference between those two poles is something counterintuitive and certainly unconventional. As my good friend Susanne Clark declares, the secret ingredient in any worthwhile enterprise is Love!
So as we all take daily action on worthy personal and business goals this year, let's remember to do it with love: healthy love for ourselves and each other and a commitment to give our "brute force of will" to the service of others.
What choice best serves your purpose in this moment?
Resolutions aren't just for January. Your answer to that question is a great place to express your resolve today and then everyday this year.
My Bride and I exercizing our resolve on New Year's day.
*The wikipedia entry on these two concepts is super interesting...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telos