We have often heard the old adage that a certain proverbial road to an undesirable location is paved with good intentions. As I have gone through this year day by day writing one new task each day, I have had the opportunity to think about a great number of things concerning the reasons that we succeed and the alternative reasons that we fail. We succeed, clearly, when we convert good intentions into positive actions. And we fail when we form a good intention and then let it wither and die by the roadside.
I call the intentions that we allow to lapse counterfeit intentions. Counterfeit intentions are phony, like a fake dollar bill, and will rarely be resurrected from their moribund condition into any real actions. Here are some counterfeit intentions:
- The oft-repeated and oft-lamented statement "I know I should." I know I should lose weight. I know I should get more sleep. I know I need to move more, to exercise. I know I should study more diligently. I know I should be more careful about how I spend my money. I know I need to learn more skills so I can do a better job.
- Another counterfeit intention is the statement "I really intended to do that but somehow I just never got around to it."
- One more weak and counterfeit excuse: "I simply forgot all about doing that."
- Or, have you ever uttered this old chestnut: "I started to this or that, but I got sidetracked and never bothered to get back to doing anything about it."
- Here is a good one: "I meant to make this little change, but when I thought about starting it, I decided it just wasn't worth the effort."
- And, "I really want to do this, and I really, really will get around to it. Some day. Honest. No kidding. Would I lie?"
- Still more: "I know you have asked me to do this little chore for the past seven years, and I certainly intend to do it some time before I die."
- Try this one: "I'll postpone my good intention one more day. And then I'll postpone it another day after that. And, guess what, before you know it, I will have postponed this good intention into infinity."
- We may decide to do better, we may make out a list of good intentions, we may post them on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, on our iPad or iPhone, we may give a speech about them to a skeptical spouse or family member. Then Monday night football comes on and then tomorrow morning we are late for work and by Saturday we are behind in everything, worn out, discouraged, and we decide that the status quo was pretty good after all. We decide that good intentions are too much of a burden.
- We conclude that we are weary of thinking up good intentions and then not following through on them, so we know ahead of time that we have no intention whatsoever of paying any attention to our list of phony intentions. How is that for a clear explanation?
I have thought long and hard about the reasons that it took me three decades to lose my excess weight. I always had good intentions. I was forever worried about my blood pressure and my health and my heart. I joined Weight Watchers for several years. My doctor ordered me to attend a hospital weight-loss program. I counted calories. I read weight-loss books. In the end, all of these intentions, all of these activities were counterfeit. Nothing was genuine or real or lasting about any of the things I tried or the money that I spent in my efforts to conquer my weight.
Then, finally, I woke up to the reality of the difference between genuine one hundred percent valid intentions and phony counterfeit intentions. Once we are prepared to make that distinction, we are ready to discard our counterfeit intentions and launch forth a new and productive life paved with real intentions paved in actual and sustained results. Why do we kid ourselves for so long? Why do we stay overweight, continue poor study and work habits, let critical chores go by the wayside, and ignore so many things that we know we should do?
I have genuine empathy for every obese person I see. I wish somehow that we could have a mass exodus of counterfeit intentions and that we could all adopt genuine and heartfelt intentions that lead to genuine progress, to positive improvements in our lives.
Task Number 283: Beware of counterfeit intentions. When you decide on an intention, make it genuine, make it stick, make it honest, and keep your word. Your life will change for the better and you will be proud of your efforts. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.