Chapter 15: Overcoming Shadows – Part Three
In the first two parts of this article I talked about the importance of overcoming the shadow, and using affirmations to achieve your goals. Now I want to talk about the importance of understanding the intentions behind our goals. Consider the following;
“Shivering but rapturous, the warrior stood in the snow on a wind-beaten path in the Alps. His olive skin was chapped and his eyes were watery from the icy wind. But he felt no discomfort. As he looked across the white peaks, he saw faint green plains in the distance. Those plains were Italy, and the twenty-nine year-old warrior, named Hannibal, had been dreaming about this moment since he was nine years old.”
These are the opening lines from one of my favorite books, called HANNIBAL AND ME. Hannibal was an amazing military leader who, at the insanely young age of 29 had already almost achieved a lifelong goal of conquering Rome. He led battles resulting in the death of one in four Romans. Many Italian cities switched sides, swearing their allegiance to him. All that had to happen for his success to be complete was for Rome to surrender to him. And that, it seemed, was his ultimate goal.
But what was the intention behind Hannibal’s goal of conquering Rome?
What would triumph really look like? It all happened so long ago that we can’t say for sure, but an obvious answer would be restoring to Carthage all the lands that Rome had taken from them in the past. Did Rome have to surrender to him for this to happen? No—at this point, he probably could have negotiated that without defeating Rome. Or perhaps he wanted to capture all the great Roman minds and inventions. Did Rome have to surrender for that to happen? No. Innovation would have been better stimulated by negotiating a peace treaty with Rome than by defeating it.
Yet Hannibal chose to stay his course and this turned out to be a big mistake.
Meylyne also faces a choice when she discovers that the Great Oaken Mother has been poisoned. At first, like Hannibal, she just wants to stick to her initial goal which, in her case is to find a cure for Prince Piam. But behind that goal is her intention to return home, impressing her mother while she’s at it. If she sticks doggedly to her quest of finding Prince Piam’s cure, she will end up with no home to return to!
So Meylyne changes tack.
Hannibal instead stood firm to his goal of defeating Rome but Rome kept defending itself. It takes a lot less energy to defend than to attack and ultimately Carthage withdrew its support from Hannibal and he had to retreat without capturing his final prize.
Decades after Hannibal’s conquests, Rome obliterated Carthage. They killed, sold into slavery or chased off every last Carthaginian and then destroyed the city, brick by brick. Legend has it that the Romans poured salt into the land so that nothing would ever grow there again. Their revenge against Hannibal was complete and they were the champions.
It is precisely because Hannibal didn’t focus on the intentions behind his goal that it ended up a disaster for him.
In the last article we talked about the benefit of doing affirmations to achieve goals. Here, too, we must think about the intentions behind our goals. Let’s consider the case of Laverne, who wants a lead role in a play. As we discussed in the last article, she uses the affirmation “I want a lead role in the play.” She affirms this over and over before the audition and is over the moon when she gets a leading part.
But as rehearsals start she feels oddly dissatisfied. She is new to the theater group and when she overhears some others discuss their weekend plans—the parties they will go to and so on—she feels embarrassed by her “less-than-cool” social life.
In further examining her desires, she realizes that what she really wanted out of her lead role is to feel like she belongs to a group and that she matters because of it. Simply getting the lead role in the play did not achieve that for her. Instead of “I have the lead role in a play,” her affirmation could have been a much simpler, “I belong.”
This is the tricky part of doing affirmations. You need to focus on your larger intentions!
How about you? Do you have a goal you’re currently pursuing? What is your intention behind this goal? Please let me know—I’d love to hear from you!