Intention comes from the Latin intendere, which means to lean towards, to move towards. This is the source of the energy that moves us in the desired direction. There is a difference between desire and intention. Desire has to do with a wish or a longing for something, someone, or for a particular experience. Intention has to do with a purpose, upon which one’s mind is concentrated and fixed. While desire is primarily a state of feeling, intention adds not only strength to that feeling but a commitment to take whatever action is necessary for the achievement of that desire.
Desire plus commitment equals intention. Desire without intention isn’t necessarily going anywhere. Commitment adds the critical ingredient that mobilizes the energy that brings forth the desired outcome. Commitment is a way of being that embodies determination to fulfill a specific purpose. Determination is an expression of will. Desire is lacking will.
Is intention chosen? Does intention choose you? Do we have the power to create an intention? Can we reject an intention? Can we influence another person’s intention? Can anything ever be accomplished without an intention? Can things happen without an intention? We are not responsible for everything that happens in our life, but we can’t accomplish anything deliberately without intention.
We are always operating from some intention or other. Most of the time, we are unconscious of our intention, and we consequently experience ourselves as victims of forces that are beyond our control. In fact, the forces that we are influenced by are largely the product of unconscious intentions. For example, someone might claim that he has an intention to establish an intimate, loving relationship with a woman. He might find that despite his insistence that this is what he wants, he finds the women with whom he relates aren’t interested in what he wants. They do not fulfill his picture of who he wants them to be. He is not able to fulfill his intention. He is not aware of the competing commitment to protect himself, to stay safe, to maintain loyalty to a person who might be hurt by his commitment to another woman. When he says this is what he really desires, it is likely to be true. But what is also true is that there are other desires as well. To the degree that he is unaware of his unconscious intentions, he will feel like a victim. And he will come to conclusions about himself, about women, and about the world.
When we appreciate that the results and circumstances of our lives are a product of our intentions, and that the more able we are to see our intentions, the more able we are to consciously focus them and to use them to our own advantage. Using this example of the man whose competing intentions sabotaged his spoken desire for a relationship, when he looked more deeply into his intentions and discovered others, he became more able to recognize the nature of his fears, concerns, and competing desires. In doing so, he was more able to address and fulfill his other needs in ways that allowed him to be less driven by them.
Unfulfilled needs will keep requiring attention that is diverted from fulfilling the primary intention. The primary intention is the one he is experiencing the most desire for. The hidden intention is the secondary intention. Being secondary doesn’t mean it is less powerful. The more unconscious we are of the secondary intention, the more in the grip of its power we are.
There is incredible power that comes from merely acknowledging and accepting the competing commitments. The paradox is that to the degree that we acknowledge these other commitments we free up a storehouse of power to use in service to the primary commitment. We don’t have to eliminate them; we don’t have to change them. But we do have to tell the truth that they are there.
Whenever we are aware of a protracted difficulty in fulfilling an intention, in a closed loop, a pattern or a cycle, in which our efforts to fulfill a stated intention are repeatedly frustrated, it’s likely that there is a competing intention that we don’t know is going on. It’s not a matter of changing our intention or putting more muscle behind it, it’s a matter of identifying and acknowledging our hidden intentions.
We all know that the best way to avoid failure is to avoid trying in the first place. But doing that makes another even bigger kind of failure inevitable: that is, the failure to even try. We can minimize conflict in our life by convincing ourselves that relationships are not worth the trouble that they cause, or we can take the risk and arm ourselves with some tools like our intention that has helps us to get back in the game. It’s our choice.