Harrumph! What Are Your Intentions?

June 25, 2014 by Nancy Noonan


Every time my aunt’s zany brother-in-law saw any of my boyfriends at a family event, the first thing out of his mouth was, “Harrumph! SO, WHAT ARE YOUR INTENTIONS?” Naturally, the first time he said this I was mortified, but since my boyfriends thought it was a hoot, I learned to laugh it off, too. The query, however, became a family joke, emerging here and there.

Emerge, recently, it did. I was having a lovely summertime garden lunch outside one of my best friend’s art studio. This friend is a highly decorated artist. No, not with a lampshade on her head, but with top prizes from just about every juried art show she enters. Before lunch we had looked at the painting she is currently working on.


As we talked about life and our work during lunch, I told her how beautiful I thought this new painting was. She said, “You know, I think I have finally learned something about painting: if I decide what my intention is at the beginning of a work, I end up with a much more successful result.” I couldn’t resist and asked her, “For this new painting . . . what is your intention?” She said, “My intention was to capture the fresh smells and sensations and dewiness of a field of newly mown grass and hay in the early summer—when it’s so strong and liquid you can almost bottle it. . . . I didn’t want to just ‘paint a pretty picture’ that showed how it looked (which was more what my early paintings were about). I want it to have a richer feeling and deeper connection to my intention . . . and I won’t sign off on a painting now unless it does that.”

This got me to thinking about intention and how we can apply this to our work and lives to end up with a “much more successful” result, too. How often do we charge off in a rather helter-skelter fashion, without giving much thought to our intention up front? A wise person once said “Intention is the building block of the outcome.” When you think of any lasting structure, it’s only still standing because of the integrity of its building blocks, its foundation, which were thought out and placed right at the very beginning. This can apply to anything we want to create.


As an example, the building block of intention for 20th century Master Artist Pablo Picasso’s perhaps most famous work, “Guernica,” was to show the horrors of war, in this instance regarding the bombing of the Basque town, Guernica, in the Spanish Civil War. His color palette choice was clearly dictated by his intention; its muted, rather mono-chromatic color scheme of black, grey and white was meant to show that war destroys the color, the joy and the very essence of life. Because Picasso knew his intention for the painting at the onset, the political, emotional and artistic result is much more powerful.


So how can we all use intention to improve our lives and work? Here are 3 easy steps:

1. Set your Intention: your particular business intention, life intention, artistic intention, political intention, spiritual intention . . .

Here’s a simple example to get you started thinking intentionally: What are your intentions for your summer? Pick one. Since we’re right at the beginning of summer, it’s the perfect time to lay your foundational blocks. As an example, perhaps an intention for your summer is for your family to take a number of camping trips.

2. Create a specific goal: My husband and I had camping as one of our intentions every summer as we were raising our two sons, so each year we decided how many and for how long the trips would be.

3. Take action and develop practices to support that goal: Every February we blocked off dates on the calendar throughout our entire summer and decided where we would go. We made reservations, checked the van’s tires, wrote out meal plans (ok, so they were a little heavy on the s’mores), got in shape for mountain hiking . . . and away we went. The result? Priceless experiences and rich lifelong memories.

Someone once told me, “You know, we always intended to take our kids camping, but just never did. . . . And now they’re gone.”
Dang. Don’t let that happen to you . . . with any of your intentions!

Know that setting your intention is a powerful foundation.
Do it now and be sure to be specific and take action steps to make
your intention come to fruition.

When you do, enjoy your fun, successful and
intentional summer––one where, when someone like my zany relative asks,
“What are your intentions?”
–– you’ve got an answer!

To learn more, visit Nancy Noonan and the Mastery Institute at www.nancynoonan.com.


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