Setting an Intention

Have you ever found yourself faced with a task so daunting and seemingly insurmountable that you procrastinate to the point where the task keeps mounting? Maybe it's a garage that needs cleaned out, a checkbook that needs reconciled, a mountain of incomplete medical records waiting for your finishing touch, a stack of CME articles that need to be read, a case review that needs written for submission for publication, a shelf exam requiring dedicated study? Me too.

Where do you begin? You KNOW you have to get it done. You know there will be ramifications if you do not complete the chore. Sometimes there is a deadline involved (which may give you some motivation), but often, with no deadline, the longer time goes, the greater the task and less likely you will be enthusiastic to start.

In Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog, he discusses prioritizing your tasks using the ABCDE method, with “A” being tasks that you Absolutely must do or there will be big consequences, “B” being things that you Better do otherwise there will be consequences, “C” being things you would like to do, but if not done there are little to no consequences, “D” are things you should Delegate and “E” are things that should be Eliminated. Based on the quote by Mark Twain, “If it is your job to eat a frog, you best eat it first thing in the morning. And, if you have to eat two frogs, eat the bigger one first.” That is all fine and good advice, but how does one get started eating that big, ugly frog?

BrushOne way I have found to motivate myself for those huge challenges is by “setting my intention”. In other words, rather than doing the task for the sake of getting it done (because I HAVE to), I intend the task for some purpose much bigger than the task at hand or myself, something that I truly want to do my best work for. For example, I had very thick brush surrounding a garage that if it continued to grow, the roots would damage the garage flooring. The steepness of the bank around the garage, the thickness of the brush and the other essential tasks that I had to do around my home caused me to continue to delay the chore. I couldn’t even get started! One day, I woke up and decided that I was going to conquer that task with the help of dedicating my efforts to an intention. My intention for that particular day was for the kindness and comfort for the person and the family of the person who currently serves as home for the lungs which my brother will some day receive. You see, my brother is on the lung transplant list. I love him very much and want only the best for him, but waiting for lungs is emotional. Facing the reality someone must die in order for the transplant recipient to live feels a little selfish and morbid. We chose, however, to intend only the best for the current caretaker of the lungs with the assurance that when that kind person no longer has use for his or her lungs, if given the opportunity, my brother will take excellent care of them.

Setting this most important intention motivated me to be efficient, effective and diligent in completing my task. Projecting it would take a couple Shed with no brushweekends to complete, I was able to accomplish it in a single weekend. Yes, I was sore afterwards, and a few bunnies and a bird or two was displaced. I did uncover a “mole issue” I would need to address soon, but I finished the job.

In a recent conversation with a medical student who was having a rough time focusing on studying for his step 2 exam, particularly, tackling neurology, I suggested he set his intention for all the patients he would treat in the future with neurological concerns. At first, he questioned the concept, but after I explained how setting an intention worked for me, he did report to me that knowing that his future patients are worthy of his best work, it was an effective motivator for him to conquer the task.

So, what is your big challenge? What purpose can you dedicate the work to? What intention can you set to allow you to find meaning and satisfaction for something or someone much greater than the task or yourself? What do you have to DO and how are you DOing it?
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