The best of intentions

I have been intending to write again for some time now. Obviously, I have not been very intentional about sitting down to do it, since my last post was in August, and I actually started writing this one in January. It’s funny, isn’t it, how the shades of meaning convey such difference between our intentions and being intentional?

We all have good intentions, no more so than every New Year as we pronounce our resolutions with such determination. Eat healthy and exercise this year! Organize the whole house! Never be late again!

Yet, in spite of the best intentions of so many, those who actually succeed in achieving their goals are intentional, or deliberate, about them. They plan healthy meals and time to work out. They tackle clutter one area at a time. And they somehow figure out how to always be on time. (Still a mystery to me.)

Being intentional often means finding ways to break ingrained habits that interfere with our intentions. Our brains love habits; relying on them conserves a tremendous amount of mental energy. The mind seems to like reverting to autopilot and not having to think through every single one of the countless decisions we make every day.

I started reading a really interesting book about this over spring break called “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.” The first 68 pages were great. I have not yet finished it, though, since among my bad habits is only finding time to read books while on vacation. I must not be alone, though – Amazon also offers three different “summary” versions of that title for those who aren’t in the habit of finding time to read a whole book.

The big problem with habits is when what we tend to do is not we really intend to do. If these tendencies are affecting our health, our relationships, how we spend the precious gift of time we’re given every morning, it’s time to hijack the habit. That kind of change requires a very intentional and sustained effort.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do it all at one time. Sometimes making a different choice just for today is enough to get the ball rolling.

Today I chose to finally finish this. I challenge you today to do something you’ve been intending to do. After all, being intentional is much more fulfilling than being full of intentions.