Note: For ten weeks, I am using the Dream Coaching® program to work on my dream of finishing and publishing a book about my trip to Uganda, and I am reporting on my progress in my weekly column. As always, my column is posted on my blog every Friday. To read the series from the beginning, start with the introductory post, dated May 3, 2013.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

There are several interpretations of that famous saying. What it says to me is that many of us have grand and good-hearted plans and dreams, but we never act on them. We never follow through.
Session 1 of the Dream Coaching program deals with this – not necessarily in relation to noble and global endeavors, but simply as a matter of training ourselves to do what we say we’re going to do.

It’s all about setting an intention.

Whether we think about it or not, every one of us is setting intentions throughout the day and throughout our lives. An intention is simply something we plan to do, so when we wake up in the morning thinking of everything we need to accomplish that day, when we write out our “to-do” lists, or when we start planning vacations and careers, we are setting intentions. But setting intentions for the things we plan to do is not the same as actually doing them.

In order to make sure our intentions turn into actions, it’s necessary to be thoughtful and deliberate about setting them in the first place. Otherwise, too often, they fall by the wayside and become nothing more than wishful thinking, or vague and fuzzy glimpses of a distant future that never comes into focus or fruition. But when they’re thoughtfully and deliberately set, our intentions can turn into an instruction manual. They serve as a roadmap that will take us exactly where we want to go. As long as we follow them.

The dream I am working on right now is completion and publication of the book I am writing about my first trip to Uganda. The intentions I’ve set focus on specific steps I can take right now, and habits I can establish or reinforce that will keep me going. My intention is to create structure and accountability for completing this project, to spend at least an hour – first thing in the morning every day – working on my book, and to have a complete and polished manuscript finished by the end of the 10-week program.

The trick is for us to use our intentions not just as a plan, but as a commitment. Not “This is what I’d like to do,” “what I need to do,” or “what I really should be doing,” but “This is what I WILL do. This is what I AM doing. Starting right now.”

Each session of the Dream Coaching program includes an assessment page that asks what we set out to do that week, what we did and didn’t accomplish, and what pearl of wisdom we received in the process. A pearl of wisdom might be a lightning-bolt “Aha!” moment, or a quiet whisper that relates to what we’re working on. I know from experience that bits of wisdom come to us all on a regular basis, but will float right by us if we’re not paying attention. So I’m glad that the practice of watching for them and writing them down is part of the program. It trains us to catch and capture these precious gems before they slip away.

My pearl of wisdom this week was that sometimes you have to strike a match several times before it ignites. This came to me when I was upset with myself for blowing one of my intentions before it even got off the ground. It was the one about writing for an hour first thing every morning, and the problem was that I neglected to account for the fact that I’d be at a Toastmasters Convention for two days. Although it was understandable that I wouldn’t be able to work on my book while I was at the Convention, it still felt to me as if I had failed to honor and fulfill my intention. What I learned from this is to be specific, realistic, and clear in setting my intentions. That way, I can fulfill them more easily, and enjoy the satisfaction that comes when I do – as well as increased motivation and determination that will keep propelling me toward my goal.

If there’s a dream you’re working on while I’m working on mine, spend some time this week setting intentions. Not what you’d like to do, but what you are absolutely going to do. Think about where you want to be at the end of the ten weeks and ten sessions. Think about some steps you can take right now. Think about some habits and routines you can establish that will help to get you there. Be sure to write your intentions down, starting with the words, “I intend to…” or “My intention is to…” Let yourself know, in no uncertain terms, that you ARE going to do what you say you’re doing. And then, get started.

I intend to succeed. I hope you do, too.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on May 9, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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