The Rise and Fall of my Intention Log

Every once in a while I start a new self-tracking habit that doesn’t quite work out for one reason or another. This post is dedicated to one such endeavor: the “Intention Log” which began on 9/29/13.

My Intention Log was directly inspired by Mariel Hemingway (yes, the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway). I saw her interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday.

I particularly enjoyed her interview because she shared her personal stories of how she overcame her struggles. She voiced her vulnerabilities, which, according to Brené Brown is a really good thing. More on vulnerability in a future post….

At one point she mentioned something about rituals, and how her morning ritual of making tea is sacred to her (watch an excerpt from the interview here). Ever since then I’ve really enjoyed my morning ritual of having coffee in the kitchen while answering emails.

It’s funny, but I used to think of ways I could automate the coffee brewing process, kind of like Doc Brown from Back to the future and the dog food. But ever since that episode of Super Soul Sunday I’ve actually really enjoyed making it all by myself.

I know, I’m so grown up.

Back to Mariel (sounds like a great 70’s sitcom right?)

Another thing she mentioned was how every night before going to bed she would set an intention for the next day. I really liked that idea. And since I had already created the habit of creating new habits (more on that in my pioneer post New Habits), I decided to see what all the hullabaloo was about and give it a shot for myself.

I created a new outline in my CarbonFin Outliner account and began writing intentions for the next day. Of course, I also added a task in my ToDo app and set the repeat interval to “daily.”

To bring the abstract into the concrete, here’s an example of an early entry:

  • Add value to [censored client name]’s life
  • Brighten everyone’s day at Blake’s office and improve their workflow by enhancing the Beyond Tells excel tool
  • Bring smile to people’s faces
  • Feel love for everything and everyone, and spread that with others

As you can see, I wasn’t sure how broad or specific to go. After all, what is an intention, really? Instead of investigating this question further, I just did whatever came naturally to me. At first it only took me a minute or two to jot down my intention and then just go to sleep.

And then a few things happened…

First I noticed that it was taking me longer and longer to come up with my intentions.

Here’s an example of a later entry:

  • Wake up feeling rested and full of joy
  • Have a remarkably productive day and be damn proud of it

Believe it or not that took me a while to come up with. Not because it’s so incredibly complex, but because I was trying to find a balance between broad/specific, and abstract/tangible.

Secondly, and here’s the real kicker, I noticed that I didn’t feel any better as a result of writing these intentions. Especially when I compare that to the effect mediation had on me. I didn’t find myself thinking about my intentions during the day, and I didn’t feel any more grateful or happy as a result of having recorded them the night before.

So just like that, on 11/6/13, just 38 days after beginning, I stopped cold turkey. Not to be confused with hot turkey, which I’ll be having next week for Thanksgiving. Mmmm….

So what did I learn here?

It’s great to be open to trying new things, since that’s how I began self tracking in the first place. However, it’s also super important to pay attention to when things do NOT work out.

It actually reminds me of the Lean Startup methodology. Fail early, and fail often (and if at all possible, learn from those mistakes). It’s funny, but even though I’ve heard so much about Lean Startup methodology and framework by Eric Ries I still haven’t read it. Perhaps it’s a whisper that I should take the time to actually read it?

So yeah, even though this intention log was… wait for it… well intentioned (badam ching!), I decided to abandon ship after only 38 days. To not do so would mean going down with the ship just for the sake of saying that I didn’t quit.

No thanks, I’ll choose activities that add value to my life instead 🙂

What have you tried recently that fell flat on its face? How long did it take you to realize things weren’t working and stop? Don’t forget to share your story (or a small excerpt of it) in the comments.