Matters Column

Intentional actions bring intended results

December 1, 2012
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Intended actions often result in unintentional consequences. We often set wheels in motion that eventually stop in places we had not considered, planned for or anticipated when we chose not to act.

Intentional actions, however, typically create intended consequences. Should we wish to change the direction and/or course of our lives, we must do more than think about what we should do. We must put into action our intentions. 

When moving forward we should reflect upon the past rather than holding tightly to it, embrace the present while looking ahead to where we might wish to be as we are letting go, and seek to clearly differentiate our dreams and/or goals from easy extensions of our current circumstances before acting intentionally to bring them to fruition. 

Far too many good-intentioned individuals stagnate just across their line in the sand because they were more concerned with enacting change than with charting a new path and moving forward in a new direction.

When we intend to do something but do not get around to acting upon our intentions, we have nobody but ourselves to blame when an outcome is not what we wanted.

Intending to leave early for a meeting does not guarantee an early arrival if we actually start out 10 minutes late. Intending to work hard around the house does not mow the lawn if we do not intentionally start the lawn mower. Intending to get good grades in school does not assure us of a stellar grade point average unless we have intentionally decided to study. Intending to visit a shut-in friend or relative does not constitute support until we intentionally and deliberately invest our time and efforts to do so. 

Our best intentions are just that: thoughts not put into actions. Whenever we think we should do something we choose not to do (for whatever reason), we create an unintended result.

When we act intentionally, however, examining the alternatives and intentionally bring to fruition our actions, we often change the course of our (or someone else’s) life as reality transforms from “what is” to “what could be.”

When we choose to help another out of a jam, rather than wishing them well, we make a difference in the lives of those around us. Rather than enabling individuals by doing things for, rather than with, them, we should teach them how to manage their problems so they might be avoided, rather than hiding from them or only seeking outside intervention.

We cannot change our or another’s future — we cannot contribute to anyone’s good — until we choose to act. We must consciously and deliberately change (or intentionally maintain) the status quo to achieve our intended consequences. Nothing will change, no matter how noble and honorable our intentions, until we choose action over complacency. 

Do not let yourself live a life of unintended consequence for lack of realizing your intentions. Do what you say, say what you do — or what you intend to do, and then act. Do not let your lack of action define or validate your good intentions. Bring your intentions to fruition by focusing your actions and moving deliberately forward toward the accomplishment of your dreams.

Action might mean finding a program or class, securing employment or new employment, seeking guidance from a knowledgeable resource, or moving from your “comfort zone” into new and unfamiliar territory. We cannot travel a new road unless we intend to move, then must act upon that intention if we are to venture forward.

The next time you draw a line in the sand, think about the new realities you seek to establish through the actions you take rather than focusing upon what you may be leaving behind. Our future is built upon dreams that become reality, not on the actions we avoid taking in order to minimize negative consequences. 

Refuse to live in a world of probability. Choose instead to move toward one of possibility, a place defined by asking “what if” or “what could be” rather than accepting “what is.” 

What intentional acts have you taken lately to initiate change? Were you successful in moving forward toward the unknown or were you more motivated by a fear of falling back? Were you more hesitant to let go of “what is” than you were excited to reach out for “what could be?” 

Draw your line, step over it, then move steadfastly ahead, refusing to limit your potential by focusing on what you wish to leave behind, and you will become a major part of the solution rather than an insignificant portion of the problem. 

David Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids.

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