Good Intentions

There are so many things that we—very consciously—intend to do. The saying “good intentions” is true for many reasons, namely because that’s typically what our intentions are aiming toward; being good, doing good, and generally filling our lives with good-ness.

Unfortunately, there’s something that happens all too often with our good intentions.

They are (to bring in another saying) much easier said than done.

Now, if you are someone who 100% takes on their endeavors as soon as you make them, then I commend you, and you are not part of this discussion.

I, however, am the queen of setting forth fantastic intentions for myself and my life, basking in the idea of them, and eventually forgetting about them only to remake the exact same intentions about 3 months later.

Confused? Here’s the perfect example: I always want to be the person who’s on time to everything. Even better, I want to be the person who’s 5 minutes early. I have this vision of allowing cushion time no matter where I’m going or who I’m meeting and never worrying about being late to anything, ever.

You can probably guess why I have this intention… I am religiously 5 minutes late. Always.

I blame this on two things: The fact that I try to cram as much as possible into unrealistic time frames, and my genes. Sorry mom, but I’m using you as a scapegoat here.

Anyways, I always decide—normally after almost getting in actual trouble for being late—that enough is enough and I’m going to turn into Princess Punctual.

So why is it, no matter how often I try, these very do-able intentions simply fall to the wayside? Is it laziness? Habit? A subconscious fear of change? I think it’s probably a combination of these things—but I find it so interesting that, as far as I’m concerned, almost everyone has things in their lives they’d love to change but simply don’t. I think many would claim that they “can’t,” but  we all know that’s not true. We can do anything, but it’s a lot easier to imagine the way we’d like to be than actually taking the steps to get there.

Now, I might have a bad habit of tardiness and leaving too many half-full water cups around the house, however I do like to think I have a good work ethic. I couldn’t be a runner if I didn’t have willpower, and I know I’m capable of some pretty satisfying outcomes when I actually commit to something. I was thinking about this on my 10-mile run yesterday: How is it possible that running 10 miles at 6:00 am became normal and routine when keeping my car clean has been on my to-do list for months?

Obviously, we pick and choose where our priorities lie, and frankly I’d prefer to log miles than to make sure my car floor carpets are vacuumed. However, I am realizing I need to strike a better balance. Obviously, running is one of my number one commitments, but I think that my constant focus on fuel, sleep, strength, speed, etc. could be taking away from all the other good intentions I revisit over and over again.

And the truth is, good intentions aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Making my bed every day, replying to emails faster, reading more books instead of watching tv, and trying recipes other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aren’t going to take away from running whatsoever. Sure, if I had the intention to become an Olympic shot-putter, that might put a damper on my marathoning career, however I’m realizing that the nature of intentions is that they’re veryaccessible.

Intentions aren’t the same as goals: Goals we know will take time and work, therefore we instinctively know that we cannot expect immediate results. We know, however, how easy fulfilling our good intentions are, and that’s why we get a temporary high thinking about how much more tidy and joyful our lives will be once we practice them.

But, this is where we get caught. I think that it’s the temporary high that blinds us to the fact that in order to change, we actually need to be proactive. We have to change habits that have led us astray from our good intentions, and—once again—it’s much easier to say we’ll change than actually do the changing.

My mom, despite her questionable punctuality, is fantastically and annoyingly right about just about everything. She passed on this quote to me a while back, which I think speaks exactly to the issue of good intentions:

“It’s a lot easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.”

Good one, huh? It kind blows your mind a bit.

The fact is, it’s easy to think. We let our imagines run wild with all the endless ways we can make our lives better. And sometimes, we convince ourselves that thinking about it is improvement enough.

“I want to do more charity work, therefore I’m a good person.”

“I thought about going to the gym, so that counts for something.”

“Oh I’m going to read that book I’ve had by my bed for months on vacation on the beach, you know, because I want to save it.”

In NO way am I excusing myself from these brain tricks. I am guilty of having them all the time. However, I am starting to realize that action is a necessary counterpart for any thoughts we might have. Our ideas might be fantastic, life-changing, or all-around groundbreaking, but the fact is that they are quite literally nothing without action.

It’s harsh, but it’s true. So that is why I’m setting a new intention for myself; an intention to change the way I typically approach all my “good intentions.” I’d like to tackle my daily life ambitions with the same mindset as I do my running: by just doing them.

Despite it’s simplicity, Nike had it 100% right when it came up with its motto. Thinking about doing something only delays the actual action from happening, so instead of wasting our lives thinking, pondering, and imagining—why don’t we just do it?

Most of the time, I don’t even question if I’m going to run or not: I know the rewards of doing it are far better than the extra 1.5 hours of sleep I’ll get, and I know that if I don’t get out there I’ll spend my whole day questioning why I didn’t just do it.

So, why not infiltrate this mentality into my everyday life? Why not stop the constant recreation of the exact same goals over and over again, and just make them my routine? I know a clean house makes me happy, I know that arriving early helps me focus, and I know that drinking enough water will always make me feel better. These things are accessible, and easily integrate-able into my life. And in fact—they are easier than running, and easier than a lot of the things I do fill my life with.

So there you have it. An intention to do away with intentions and start with some action. Again, I know this is so much easier said than done—old habits die hard, etc. etc. BUT the only way to defeat the cycle of having unfulfilled good intentions is to just start doing them.

I want to act my way into a new way of thinking.



1 thought on “Good Intentions

  1. leannewinslow

    This is so true, everyone has good intentions. It reminds me of something I heard once, probably on Oprah.

    We judge ourselves by our intentions, but everyone else judges us by our actions.

    You may intend to be nice/generous/forgiving/happy/loving/(put intention here), but if your actions say you’re not, then are you those things just because you intended to be?


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