I’m a sucker for things that appeal to my dreams. That e-course offer than just landed in my in-box? Check. That book that a friend of mine just told me about? Check.
Both ordered? Check.
Both completed? No check.
In fact, I have a growing pile of e-courses and books that I’ve never even started. And yet I still have the same level of intention to do so as the day I bought them. The trouble is, I now have a growing pile of guilt, too.
I call that intentionality dysfunction—the guilt that comes from repeatedly investing in things that you want to act upon but don’t.
(Confession: I belong to a local gym, but for the last 30 years, I rarely made an appearance. I refused to cancel my membership because I didn’t want to surrender my intention to be more healthy. And, until the last two years, didn’t want to act on it either.)
Can you identify? Does intentionality dysfunction have you in its guilt grip?
Do you have:
- A growing pile of books you haven’t read?
- A growing number of ecourses/webinars you’ve registered for, but haven’t taken?
- A gym or other membership you have yet to really use?
- The same goals on your list of New Year’s resolutions for the past few years?
- A folder of business ideas that you’ve never implemented?
- Home projects or hobbies you’ve purchased materials for but never finished (or even started)?
Let’s be clear. The problem is not the intention. Intentions are good. We all have good intentions. Often too many of them. As the old English proverb says, the road to hell is paved with them. (Hell is where guilt calls home.)
So, how do we clear ourselves of intentionality dysfunction? Here’s some ideas:
- Impose a moratorium on new intentions. Decide you’re not going to put down any new pavers—for now at least—until you’ve cleared the deck of prior intentions.
- Create a list of your intentions. Often, we think of all the things we want to do, yet they aren’t written down. That creates a burden on our brain (called the Zeigarnik effect) to constantly remind ourselves of the unfinished task. Give yourself relief. Write them down. And give yourself the freedom to remove items that are no longer appealing.
- Decide your next intention and your next action. Pick one intention and a starting point for it. But start reasonably. Declaring that you will run 5 miles a day every day that week when you haven’t exercised in months is not reasonable. Instead, what’s the smallest, most immediate goal you could make to start acting on your intention? Maybe it’s simply to walk outside for 10 minutes before your first cup of coffee.
- Make your intentions more prominent. Promote them to yourself by making them more visible. If you want to read more, for instance, put a book in your television-watching chair or even over the top of your coffee mug. If you want to exercise first thing in the morning, lay out your clothes the night before so you can’t ignore them when you wake up.
- Act on your intention daily. Build habits into your day that help you start taking action on those ideas. You can even use old habits to build new habits.
So, there you have it. If you do have it (intentionality dysfunction, that is), you now have an action plan. The question is, did I just hand you another paver?
Comment below: What’s other action steps do you find helpful to tackle your good intentions?