What does it mean to be intentional?
Google to the rescue. It means to be deliberate, to do on purpose, to be purposeful.
That is a teleolgical concept – an attempt to explain something in terms of its relationship with a goal or final end point.
So, being intentional is, in a sense, being purpose driven, or goal driven.
How does knowing that help us?
There are three things, at least, that we need to think about when trying to be intentional.
The first is that we can’t do everything – we have to choose.
Students are often told when going to University that they have a choice of three things: sport, a social life and their studies.
If they are going to excel and be at the very top, they need to pick two to focus on.
We have to decide which two are most important to us and make those our primary activities.
Even if we aren’t planning to perform at an elite level, we still have to make choices between reading and watching telly, between going out late partying and staying up late working on a business.
The second thing is that we have to develop routines.
Willpower is a hard and tiring way to organise our lives.
Routines are better. If we set and keep appointments with ourselves every day to do the things that are important then, over time, we will see results.
We don’t have to set hard to achieve targets. We just need to do the minimum every day and it will build up over time.
As the saying goes, people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what is possible in ten years.
The third thing is that we have to know how we will respond when we stumble.
And stumble we will. We may want to do something – work on a book, lose weight, make sales calls – and there will be times that we just don’t have what takes to do it.
There’s no point getting upset about that – it’s going to happen so we might as well deal with it.
As W.C Fields said, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point being a damn fool about it.
With some things it’s hard to keep going – especially when our intention is to overcome routines we have created earlier, like overeating or smoking.
The thing about stumbling is to follow the if-then rule. If something doesn’t go the way we wanted, then what are we going to do next?
Do we want to get to an end or get balance?
An intentional approach suggests that there is an end – a place we can get to where everything is all right.
At the same time, we may only realise we have arrived when we don’t feel the need to go elsewhere – the end is where we are right now.
That’s another choice we need to make.