Randomness and Intentionality
Does intentionality encourage positive consequences of randomness?
Posted March 28, 2017
How do these two aspects of our lives interact? When is a random act not entirely random? If intentionality is a dominating principle of action, who creates that intention? Who decides?
Religions ascribe ultimate intention to a Supreme Being, a god. At the same time, there is the concept of "free will," of individual choice, which leads to accountability. How mindfully do we exercise our free will?
Although I am not educated as a philosopher, I am certain that these issues have been argued for centuries in every culture. The concept of freedom of choice as a fundamental principle of human existence obviously has ramifications for political and social structures.
If we accept that randomness and intentionality coexist simultaneously, how does one influence the other? In school and at work, we are exhorted to focus, focus, focus on specific, practical goals. What are the consequences of this behavior? Might that limit our options, our creativity, our imagination, and ultimately, our success? Conversely, if we trust in the universe and follow whatever choices cross our paths, aren't we scorned for being aimless and a little stupid? Over a lifetime, will we have accomplished as much as our focused friends? Conventional wisdom says no.
This seeming paradox is particularly intriguing and important for the entrepreneurial mindset, which emphasizes being open and being eager to learn from every interaction and experience. If we believe that learning from experience is most valuable, doesn't logic tell us we need to eagerly seek out diverse encounters, as many as possible? If we are exploring the unknown, as entrepreneurs must do every day, doesn't that put a high priority on the value of embracing randomness? But, how can we justify this behavior?
Entrepreneurs are constantly under extreme time and resource pressure. There's never enough time, money or energy to do all that needs to be done. How can we be intelligent about allocating resources so we can be open to randomness? How might certain personality traits, e.g., extroversion/introversion, influence this ability? How can we learn and enhance such skills?
Do you believe that intentionality is the same as focus? Maybe there are different levels of focus and even different ways to focus? When I watch tennis matches, especially the quarter-final and semi-final rounds of professional tournaments among the world's top 10 players, I am fascinated by the mind-energy game as much as I admire the physical performance. On a given day, even the player who is ranked number 1 in the world might lose to a player ranked much lower. Surely, the level of skill is comparable among the top 10. Yet, the ranking shows that the top players are able to consistently beat the others. How does that happen? What are the players focusing on?
Analysts and commentators talk about "desire," "hunger," determination, intensity, etc. Confidence is certainly essential, and so is intense focus on every footstep and every stroke. Is intentionality yet another aspect of this phenomenon?
If focus is about tactics, perhaps intentionality is about strategy.
When a player can marshal the entirety of his or her energy and broadcast that to the universe in a simple, bold declaration of "I Am," what happens to that player? There is literally no room for any other thought. No self-doubt, and no "confidence", either. No sense of fear, no concern about the opponent, court conditions, audience, or line judges. All awareness is both intensely on the moment and on timelessness. Typically, athletes who can experience this state call it "being in the zone".
Many programs are available for people to learn in this direction, including meditation as well as other spiritual practices, so the concept is not novel. What is intriguing is the contrast with randomness, which plays a much more complex role in long-term, open-ended systems like personal growth processes. How might intentionality influence how we choose to interact with randomness? How can we learn to maintain intentionality so random events can be more productive for us? What does that mean and what kind of effort on our part does it take?
The concept of intentionality itself may be a very complex feature that incorporates the following traits, and perhaps more:
Clarity of purpose
Intentionality is a conscious state of being in the present microsecond.
Not who I was in the past, and not who I will be at some future time.
I AM. That declaration of consciousness needs to span months, years, across a lifetime of random occurrences.