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Sherlock Holmes, Boomers, and the Power of Intention

Holmes and Watson Wax MuseumSherlock Holmes and the Power of Intention

Mr. Holmes and Doctor Watson have always been favorites for me. I didn’t particularly think Mr. Holmes was that much smarter than anyone else. Oh, he had a command of detail and was able to make connections and such. But under the double-brimmed hat,  he always seemed arrogant, short tempered, sometimes even savant-like.

What he did well was notice. And he noticed because he was able to filter out the BS and pay attention to what mattered. But he didn’t do anything you or I couldn’t do, notwithstanding the fact that he was a fictional character. He was able to connect the power of intention with attention.

Catching the Mind’s Eye

For example, when I was a kid, I bought a 1957 Rambler1956 Rambler Custom Cross Country Station Wagon station wagon. It was black and red, originated in California and was totally rust free. And, before it was fashionable in all cars, it had seats that folded down flat. Imagine the possibilities. Once I got it, there were 1957 Ramblers EVERYWHERE! And Holmes I am definitely not.


The same thing could happen to you. You go out and buy a car. It’s a 1968 VW Bug. You haven’t seen one of these for years. They must be incredibly rare. So, you get this old car and then you notice that you’ve started a trend. It seems like you see one or two of these rare little beetles every day.

You know in your heart of hearts that there hasn’t been a sudden run on Volkswagen beetles, just like I know now ( I didn’t then. I thought it was a conspiracy) the old Ramblers had been there all along.

So, what happened? Well, there is a part of our brains that stands at the gate of awareness with its arms folded looking mean . Not that it matters much, but it’s called the reticular activating system (RAS). It’s a part of our brains that is either on or at a restful alertness. The RAS is our link to Sherlock Holmes.  It’s a big bad-ass bouncer at an exclusive club; you know, one of those clubs where everyone wears some version of black and exists in a cool pose and only the ‘coolest’ get in. The difference between most of us and the famous detective is that he had an exquisitely trained bouncer.

Like the bouncer, it prioritizes what in the environment actually makes it through to our attention span. We can’t pay attention to everything. As a matter of fact, most of what happens around us we miss. If we didn’t, we would go insane.

Interlude: As I stop here for a moment, I slow down and actually pay attention, I notice a number of things that didn’t exist for me a few minutes ago. There is a persistent, gentle humming coming from upstairs, maybe a fan; I’m writing this in my warehouse office and I can hear voices from downstairs. There is a crow cawing outside and branches rustling against a window; and I can hear faint sounds of music off in the distance, could be a Rolling Stones song.

And I am still missing most of what is happening in my small world of here and now.

Without the RAS screening the calls for attention, I would be attending to all of these things, plus a million others all at the same time. This sounds like a recipe for madness to me.

I am at a point in my life where I am working on reInvention. You may be doing the same. If you are anything like I am, you don’t want to waste a lot of time chasing rabbits down holes. So, could we use this built in bouncer to our advantage? I think we can. The power of intention helps us sort it all out.

Intentional Power

Okay, it’s not a law. But the power of intention is intense when you get a handle on what you really want.

Then the RAS is no longer just a bouncer, it’s a heat-seeking bouncer who works for you.

When we truly decide on something we want – and I mean what we really make IMPORTANT – it’s like giving our ‘guy at the door’ the exact description of who we want in the club. And he’s got a good eye.

There is a ton of information out in the ether on goal setting. A quick search on Google for ‘goal setting’ comes back with 11,900,000 hits. Doesn’t it seem that with all of these resources, techniques, and methods available, mostly  free, that once we set a goal it would be a done deal?

But I would bet that if we were to poll all of the people who have set goals, new years resolutions, or turned over a new leaf – and failed – we would have a lot more than 11,900,000. I would be included in that. How about you?

So many of our goals turn out to be ‘just kidding’ goals. Why is that?

Other People’s Goals

There are several ways we stack the deck against ourselves.

  1. We set goals and aims that, often beneath our awareness, are chosen because they are the goals we think we should have.
    • We unwittingly become slaves to society’s fashions. And when our bouncer realizes this, there is a slave revolt.
  2. We set goals to please another person.
    • We might be seeking approval from our parents, our kids, even that kid that used to pick on you in junior high. We do this  to get someone else to notice us, to impress our friends, or to be seen as the cool kid on the block. Sherlock, our bouncer, whatever we wish to call it has not interest in living vicariously. That part of us will only take its marching orders from authentic choices.
  3. We set goals in areas we really have no passion. Often because (see #2).
    • This is like going to see a movie, hating it from moment one, and refusing to leave. We end up mad that we stayed, we’re out our 9 bucks, and we have wasted 2 hours.
  4. We set dead man’s goals.

Authenticity is the Light House

We lose interest in anything we try that fails an authenticity test – for us. Ever notice that? In order to put our bouncer to work at a Sherlock level, we have to care about what we are trying to accomplish.

The power of intention wants a purpose worthy of its effort.

That purpose works when it is something we would choose even at a time when something else is more enticing.

Robert Fritz wrote a book a number of years ago, The Path of Least Resistance. The path he describes is not a path at all. He says that in order to get to where we want to be, first we have to be able to really picture it in our mind’s eye. We have to know its landscape, be able to taste the air there, and then be able to convey that vision to others. Not that we have to tell anyone, we just have to be able to do it.  When we get to know where we want to be, it’s like giving deerstalker cap level instructions to our bouncer.

Then we have to realistically know where we are right now. The difference between ‘here’ and ‘there’ is creative tension. Then, as Joseph Campbell said, we will create our own path. And we will notice the things we need along the way.

Unfortunately, intention also takes action. We can intend until we are blue in the face and the only thing that will manifest itself is us getting older. You and I have to do the work. There’s no magic formula yet for that.


Creative Commons License photo credit: m_bahareth

About Mike

Writes for men in transition, interested in personal development, and who are excited or lost when it comes to life and all the possibilities it offers after 50.

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