Take Your Intentions Seriously

As a psychologist who’s spent decades helping people improve their ability to follow through, I’m often asked this question:

“Doc, if you could give people just one piece of advice, what would it be?”

My answer usually goes like this: “Take your intentions seriously.”

Treat every intention as a solemn promise

Taking your intentions seriously means treating every single intention as a solemn promise you make to yourself. This is so important that I can’t help but say it again only louder this time: TAKING YOUR INTENTIONS SERIOUSLY MEANS TREATING EVERY INTENTION AS A SOLEMN PROMISE YOU MAKE TO YOURSELF.

Intentions really have two parts

The first part is an assumption you make that if you do something in particular, you’re likely to get a desired benefit.

The second part is a fully-informed and carefully-considered promise you make to yourself to actually do that something. Believing that you can do the first part without also thoroughly doing the second part is like believing that all it takes to make apple pie is apples!

Going light on the promise part of an intention is a surefire way to fail.

Make a big deal out of adopting an intention

That’s why you should always make a big deal out of adopting an intention. Never do it casually or on the fly. Like other commitments you make and contracts you enter, you should always do due diligence before adopting an intention. If you make a practice of treating your own “good ideas” as if they’re thoroughly vetted intentions, trust me, you’re asking for trouble.

Without realizing it, you may have assumed your intentions are renewable resources. So what if an intention bites the dust? It’s no big deal, right? You can always make more of them. Heck, it’s easy!

But having an intention fail is, in fact, a very big deal. Failing to do what you intend to do is like violating a contract. It’s like failing to keep a promise you made to friend or a loved one. When you break a promise, the credibility and clout of your future promises will take a hit. The same goes for the promises you make to yourself and don’t keep.

Remember this: If you treat your intentions as if they’re a dime a dozen, that’s how much they’ll end up being worth!