March 27, 2014

You’ve heard this before, right? “Build your practice quickly and easily by clarifying your intention” and other things of that nature.

It bothers me when people imply – or outright state – that by changing your thoughts, you’ll be able to build a booming practice in no time.

As if a) the problem is your intention, not the fact that you aren’t marketing well or that you are not offering something people want and b) if you are just intent enough, whatever you want is bound to happen.

I  think we all know that it’s not that simple.

Sure, for some people intention may be the one thing holding them back. For most of us, though, it is just one small factor in the equation that leads to a successful practice.

On the other hand, I do think that intention is a key piece of business building.

Here’s an example from my practice:

I’ve been taking a little break from my clinical practice for the past year or so.  I needed the time away, and just recently I started thinking that perhaps it’s time to starting seeing a few new clients again. Life is about as stable as it’s going to get with two small children, and things are starting to settle down at work as well.

The timing seemed right.

I didn’t actually *do* anything; I just thought to myself that I’d like to start seeing a small handful of clients over the next few months. No emails to my mailing list, no Facebook posts, no tweets. Just a shift in my thinking.

Over the last week, I’ve had 8 clients schedule appointments. Another just emailed as I was typing this post.

Some people would say that this is the  law of attraction, that you attract what you want, etc. etc. I’m not sure I believe that.  I have 10 years of experience and a long list of existing clients, so even though my intention/thoughts did shift there’s a lot more to it than that.

So what’s going on?

Intention is Permissive

I have a theory. To borrow a physiology term, I think intention is permissive when bringing in new clients (or bringing back returning clients).

When we say something is permissive physiologically-speaking, we mean that it doesn’t CAUSE a direct effect but rather its presence is necessary for the response to happen.

For example, in an excellent review paper  Groeweneq et al (2011) note that corticosterone (the animal version of cortisol) doesn’t directly cause changes during a stress response. Instead, “it facilitates or inhibits signalling of ion channels, receptors and neurotransmitters. Thus, it increases or decreases the threshold for activation of these neurons by context-dependent factors.” Essentially, high levels of coritcosterone allow other changes to happen but don’t directly cause a response.

A more straightforward example is  a person who gets into a car accident while driving in the rain. The fact that she was driving in a car is permissive. She didn’t get into a car accident BECAUSE she was driving a car, but without being in a car she wouldn’t have had the accident.

Maybe I should have come up with a more positive example :). If you’ve got one, post it below or let me know. My mind is not up to the task right now! Anyway…

I propose that the same is true with intention. It’s permissive to practice building.

You need intention to successfully grow your practice, but intention alone won’t get you very far.

Does that make sense? What do you think? Does this hold true in your experience?


Groeneweg, F. L., Karst, H., de Kloet, E. R., & Joëls, M. (2011). Rapid non-genomic effects of corticosteroids and their role in the central stress response. The Journal of Endocrinology, 209(2), 153–167. doi:10.1530/JOE-10-0472

About Camille Freeman, LDN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for highly-trained herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.

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