Intention: Incremental Learning for Life

Bloom Blog Roque

One of the primary ideas I want to explore here at BLOOM is the concept of intention.  This is the first of an ongoing series of posts that expound upon the notion of living a life of intention.

First of all, what is intention?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, intention is defined as ” a determination to act in a certain way.”

It is synonymous with the words .  .  .

purpose
resolve
aim
conviction
hope

It’s a big word with a lot of depth.  So, the next question is “How does one live a life of intention?”

I suppose it means living with an active awareness of and acting on one’s preferences, desires, goals, and dreams?

I suppose?

All of that sounds hunky-dory, but is it really that simple?  I will not pretend that I know the fullest and best answer, but I want to take the time to find out.

One way that I have explored intentional living is through what I like to call incremental learning.  It is the kind of learning that is diametrically opposed to crash courses or any kind of fast learning.  Basically, you take a skill that  you want to learning and pick it apart to its most simple and fundamental components.  Then, you SLOWLY explore each of these components one at a time in a gradual, organic, and consistent way that has no deadline.

Back in 2012, I bought a cello.  I started taking lessons and have loved it ever since.  The challenge was that I am not a cellist by trade.  I am a piano player.  The way I learned to play and understand music is almost completely different than the way a cellist does.

I must have been crazy to take it on.

But I have always loved the instrument.  (Also when I grow up, I want to be like Yo-Yo Ma.)  At first, I dove in.  I found a wonderful teacher who taught me a lot that first year.  I was ambitious and focused.  I tackled as much as I could as fast as I could.

Then, I started to feel pain.  I felt pain in my thumbs and in my hands. I never felt pain when I played the piano, which feels as smooth as water cascading down a mountainside.

I had to stop and reassess.  I stopped taking lessons and took a long break.  I mulled over the viable option of quitting the instrument altogether.

What I eventually decided to do was to stick with it and do it more methodically and slowly.  This is where I have come to practice incremental learning.  I play no more than 15 minutes a day to reduce strain.  In those minutes I focus on just one element at a time.  For the longest time now, I have been working on strengthening my bow hold in a way that does not create pain or strain.  I have made good progress, but there is more work to do.  Other times, I might focus on creating a good tone that is pleasing to the ear.  Another time, I may just work on memorizing a piece.

Incremental learning means slowing down and taking the time to understand something one small element at a time.  There is no pressure.  No deadline.

This has been my intention, and I have reduced the pain while managing to learn something I love.  Even though this particular learning process takes forever, I am still getting out of it what I  wanted.

If there is something new that you want to learn that feels impossible or overwhelming, consider learning it incrementally.  Go with that intention and see where it leads you.  It will not be long until you find your own way.

-Roqué