The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’ve heard it and even used it a few times. At one point in my life I believed it. These days, I place a lot of value on intent and intentions because I truly believe that those things matter as much if not more than the results.
An Intentional Exploration of Intent
Why is intent important? I believe intent, or the goal of an action or series of actions, says a lot about a person. If my intent were to climb the corporate ladder at all costs, that would say quite a bit about me. If my intent were to work with underserved populations to help them build life skills through exercise, then that would also say much about me.
I have seen first-hand how someone’s actions show their true intent over what they say. I think everyone is able to pick up on this to some degree. Sometimes referred to as a BS-Meter, that cognitive dissonance that occurs when listening to someone and they just seem phony or not genuine.
Where Does It Go Awry?
Why do actions not always reflect our intent? Where does it go off track? I’ve thought about this for some time, and I believe the reasons vary for each person, but fall into three broad categories.
It’s sad to say, but some people believe they should do whatever they can to get ahead. Lie, cheat, steal, all of it. People in this category can be very convincing and charismatic. We know them best as the snake oil salesmen.
It takes courage to show who we really are. Sometimes we just aren’t up to the challenge. Exposing our innermost self to others can be terrifying. That level of vulnerability requires a level of courage that not everyone can muster initially. Those who use humor to deflect attention away from them fit into this category.
To Fit In With Society’s Expectations
Whether it’s a gender role (girls play with dolls, boys play with swords) or the expectation from family, following the path that others expect us to take can be compelling. The disconnect between what we “should” be doing and what is true to us shows up and impacts who and how we are.
That covers some of the why intentions don’t match actions. What can be done to bring action more in line with intent? My answer to most questions like this is space. Allowing time within ourselves to measure the action we want to take to our intention in life or a particular situation is one of the most powerful ways to keep the intent and the action in synch.
The benefits of having actions match intentions include things like a sense of well-being, calm, harmony with the universe (whether it’s consciously felt or not) and a sense of ease in everything that you do. This last one is the one that sticks out for me. On days when I am in synch, everything I do is easy and right and feels great. On days when action and intent are out of synch, I’m better off staying in bed because anything I do is going to crash and burn; usually in some spectacularly loud way.
There isn’t a magic answer or a wand to wave and “fix” everything. Setting your own intent and sticking with it, putting off the naysayers, is difficult, but worth it. I believe it leads to a life that is more rewarding, less complicated and less onerous. It’s just an extension of what my parents used to tell me when I was growing up, “Think before speak or react. Rash actions can have dire consequences.”