Intention, action and reflection

An athlete plans, acts, and reflects.  Do you?  Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

There are arguably three stages to any action you take.

  1. There is intention, that advance warning which may or may not exist, in which the intention develops to respond to the world in a certain way
  2. There is action, which is primarily composed of systems directly interacting with the world
  3. There is reflection, the ability to notice the effects of what has happened, and allow it to affect the person who has acted.


Given these three broad stages, we can imagine that there might be different personality preferences, which leave people lingering in one of the three territories.


Many of us get stuck in stage 1, intention.

We spend ages contemplating which actions to take, ruminating, cogitating, and generally speculating… but not acting.

Time passes, opportunities come and go… and the intention-focused person will remain in a world of their own imagination.  Others would not guess what happens in that dreamworld.  The person can (in their own head) undertake whole careers and relationships, without once stepping outside their front door.

If you are intention-focused, then you may deprive yourself of both experience, and consequent reflection.  You are in danger of becoming isolated.


Others get stuck in stage 2, action.

An action-focused person perhaps learns by doing. If this is you, others may sometimes find it hard to keep up with you, because you didn’t warn them what you were going to do next (you probably didn’t know yourself).

The action-focused person can certainly get things done.  But, because they don’t spend much time either planning, or reflecting on their experience, their life turns into one big flow of energy, without much direction or understanding.  They are busy, always busy, but often aren’t sure why.


And some people are stuck in stage 3, reflection.

A reflection-focused person will spend inordinate amounts of time dwelling on what happened yesterday, or last week, or several years ago.  They may have a persistent feeling of not being able to move on.  To them, the past feels like glue, and they simply cannot move quickly out of it into any new intentions or actions.


The idea of this division is not to get you to categorise yourself as one thing or the other.

The idea is to offer you an opportunity to consider your life balance.


Just for today, consider whether you spend most of your life intending but not doing, doing but not reflecting, or reflecting without looking forward.

You may find your own way of describing yourself.

What different way of working could you try, in order to learn about yourself and perhaps get out of your comfort zone?

Could you try more action?  More reflection?  Better advance planning?



In any active life, there are three stages of action: intention, action, and reflection.

Different people can be imbalanced in different ways.  Arguably, a good approach to life has all three – it is contemplated and planned in advance; it is done well; and then it is reflected upon in order to learn lessons for the future.

It is worth considering how you balance your approach, in order to achieve better life balance.