Setting intentions

Intentions are fickle without good organisation. Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Humans are quite weak when it comes to following through on intentions.  We are not really built to be consistent to our own specific intentions.  Our biological life has been more of a flow through situations, than a concrete implementation of preset plans.


It’s evident in our legal and social systems how difficult we find it to follow through.  We have to be given job descriptions, rules, guidelines, laws, signposts, reminders, diaries, supervisors…. all these are designed to keep individual humans on track, and to make sure they don’t stray too far from a common understanding.  We may make promises, but there are thousands of systems which exist to hold us to them.


What’s the problem with our intentions?  Why do we find it so hard to say we will do something, and then actually do it?  There are several factors, built into the fabric of existence, which get in the way.  Here are a few:

  1. CONFLICTING PRIORITIES – We intend to diet, and then get hungry.  Our body then has a conflict, which itself takes energy.  Once a few things have happened to derail our diet, we give up and compromise.  The fact is, we live in a world of multiple priorities, and that complexity catches us out.
  2. THE NEED FOR COMFORT – If we had no need for comfort, intentionality would be a whole lot easier.  But we get tired, we feel discouraged, we even get a little paranoid and lonely.  As creatures, we are nurtured by our community and carers.  The trouble is, often no one is there to help.  Without the security of support, we give up.
  3. LIMITED RESOURCES – Externally, time and money are limited.  Internally, energy and skill are limited.  This means that, whenever we set an intention, we are combatting lack of time, lack of money, lack of energy, and lack of skill.  We end up feeling hurried, poor, tired and incompetent.


How can we combat these blocks, and make sure that our intentions have a chance of being fulfilled?  Here are some ways we can arrange our lives to make success a little more probable:

  1. THINK IT THROUGH FIRST – The best intentions are set after a bit of clear thought and consultation.  It’s good to run some ‘what if’ scenarios, so that, when problems happen, we have prepared for them.
  2. USE SIGNS AND REMINDERS – We have reminders of our intentions everywhere – in the clothes we wear, in the pictures we have on our wall, in the way we decorate our homes and cars.  Try to design your appearance and environment in a way that reflects your intentions. 
  3. HAVE A SUPPORT NETWORK – Whether it’s a good counsellor, a group of friends, one or two best friends, supportive family, mentors, books or videos, try to have a social and spiritual network that keeps you going.  If you have a particular project, then join or build a team committed to the same intention.  This works for dieting, learning, life interests, change plans, and career interests.
  4. DIARISE AND KEEP ACCOUNT – Use a diary to plan, and keep accounts – this will help your management of time and money.  There is a lot of science in good planning, and diarising and accounting skills help enormously.
  5. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF – Have a system of nutrition, exercise and learning.  Energy and skill don’t appear from nowhere – they need fuelling, and they need practice.  Make sure your schedule attends to your self-development.


In short, to give your intentions a good chance of success:

  1. PLAN – Set aside time for early thinking and consultation
  2. SIGNPOST – Surround yourself with reminders of your priorities and intentions
  3. SOCIALISE – Surround yourself with fellow humans who share your intentions
  4. RECORD – Use a diary, and keep accounts
  5. LOOK AFTER – Attend to diet, exercise, learning and practice

These are five good stages in any personal or business development. Plan the change, signpost it, socialise it, record it, and look after it. Without them, intentions are likely to be lost in chaos, loneliness and tiredness. With them, personal development is likely to be more orderly and sustainable.