how long it should take to complete an intention

Today Mrs. Meyers reminded me of something that I keep in mind while working to fulfill intentions in my life that I find very helpful. So of course, I’d like to share it with you.

When we get serious about creating intentions for our lives it is easy to make sweeping goals and grand gestures.

I will start eating only healthy foods, from now on.

I will pay down my debt to zero this year.

I will get along better with my father.

I will stop picking at my nails, immediately.

And, when we may not complete these intentions according to our personal deadlines, it’s easy to be come discouraged, or even give up and “go back to normal.”

We want to see the progress rightaway.

But as Joyce points out, we gotta give ourselves as much time getting out of the mess as we did getting into it — if not more.

The ingrained patterns we have created that get us into our not-so-great situations are often difficult to change overnight. And if we are serious about making lasting change, we have to be willing to take it slow and steady.

We have to be willing to persevere for as long as it takes.

So while we can aim at never picking our nails again from this breath onward, if we find ourselves picking unconsciously six times in the next week, we can return back to the intention once more and begin again.

In my own life I’ve found this understanding has played out in two food intentions I’ve had in my life.

The first intention was to stop letting my ego control my weight. After 10 years of obsessing over what I ate and controlling it with my brain, I desperately wanted to break free of the constant food thoughts, beliefs, and restrictions. I didn’t want to obsess over food and weight the rest of my life.

However, once I stopped eating according to my brain and listening to my body’s signals, it took me a full year and a half, 547 days, to finally break free of the itch to want to get back on a diet, a plan, or just “try to lose some weight.”

Once that urge started to seriously subside, so did the weight that I had once been so desperate to lose. My body did it for me, though it took all the self-control I had to refuse to give in to my ego’s insistence that it knew best.

If I had become discouraged sooner, I might easily have given up and gone back to the way things were for the last decade of my life. I could have found a new “plan.” But Mrs. Meyer’s message helped me stay strong even when I felt fed up.

More recently, I’ve also been feeling an urge to cook more at home. Though I’m not a bad cook or baker by any means, I’m usually impatient and uninterested. I’d rather split nachos with Mr. Lively at Terascas than spend time making a recipe that takes longer than five minutes. Mr. Lively thinks I’d eat popcorn every night for dinner if I lived alone.

For this intention to be fulfilled, I found that what I really needed was not a huge amount of time, but rather a more compelling reason to want to cook.

In years past, this intention was fueled by the “cooking at home is a good thing to do, saves money, and is something that I admire in my friends – so I should do it too.”

Did that work? Nope. Not more than a few days at a time. Then I’d be back on the phone to Pho and I calling in some Pad See Ew with tofu.

However, I finally got my true motivation to cook more: I want to prepare better, healthier meals for Mr. Lively and I, so we don’t spend our whole lives eating out.

Though I work from home and eat breakfast and lunch in my apartment, Mr. Lively is busy working or hanging out with me or our friends. He often doesn’t have time to make anything besides dinner for us. And even then, we usually didn’t have groceries in my kitchen to cook with, so we order take-out for dinner or eat a frozen Trader Joe’s pizza. Which left him often grabbing something on the way to work for breakfast, getting lunch with co-workers downtown, and eating out for dinner frequently.

For me personally, I knew that I could show my love and care for him by preparing simple foods for his breakfast and lunch. Nothing too involved or fancy, but at least homemade and fresh.

To make matters even sweeter, Mr. Lively himself does enjoy cooking and making more complicated recipes, so he’s volunteered to cook our dinners – the thing I least like to prepare. Since I’m caring for two of his meals a day, he’s excited to return the favor at dinnertime for me.

So though I’m sure we will still do our fair share of eating out on the town, we are now mutually invested in cooking at home for one another. Which ultimately gives me a genuine reason to cook, to show my love for my boyfriend.

So whether it feels daunting to break a long held negative pattern or if you are struggling to genuinely commit to your intention; reflect, look deeper, and just keep going.


This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Melissa

    You two are so cute 🙂 I totally hear you on the frozen pizzas and Thai food. When I quit my job, we had a good reason to cook at home more – save money. And I’ve recently wanted to take better care of my body, to feel better and healthier, so I’ve been cooking meals more often lately. This weekend, I got a little off track, so this post is a good reminder that it’s okay as long as I keep trying!

  2. MsAmanda

    This is jumping ahead to tactics, but I find when I’m trying to work though something like the above, I need a guideline or something to aspire to.

    I love to cook and am sometimes able to pull together the time and inspiration to make good meals. That said, my real dinner intention is to cook tasty, healthy and nutritious meals that use *mostly* whole foods without a lot of extra time, fuss or stress. So for me, its finding the cookbooks (Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) or blogs (Dinner a Love Story or Smitten Kitchen) that keep things simple and give me a base to build upon.

    The sight lines of what I aspire to be have in my life make it so I can customize to my needs since I at least have an idea of what it could look like. Its not comparison, rather reference.

  3. Nicole

    Love this post! Recently, I’ve found myself struggling with meeting my intentions. I should really think about this post you wrote whenever I’m tempted to ‘fall off the wagon’ with my intentions purely because I know I could just climb back on later. But, doing that does not lead me to be my happiest self. Thanks so much! I really appreciate you and your words!

  4. You know it never gets old to hear that you need to give yourself a good amount of time to undo bad habits that you have picked up in our lives. We engage in the bad habits for years and then expect them to go away just because we wake up and say so. It’s so unrealistic, but we all do it. Thanks for a great post!

  5. Rebekah

    Hi Jess,

    I’ve noticed Joyce Meyers has been mentioned in several posts and I’d like to look more into her teachings on my own. Do you have any recommendations on where to start? Any essential Meyers books in your personal library?


  6. Jess

    I love all of your ideas so much! MsAmanda, sounds like you have a great system in place!

    Rebekah, personally I prefer her teachings over her books. I think her way with words and speech is what she excels most at. So I’d suggest podcasts or her TV show (it’s on a Christian station here in Chicago locally).

  7. Aw, I love this :). Wonderful insight. I think finding “genuine” intentions would definitely make implementing certain changes in my life a much bigger success. Also, I can’t wait to meet Mr. Lively.

  8. Lisa

    I always seem to need this reminder, so thanks! I frequently forget that habits are not created or broken overnight.

  9. Kate

    I literally just came from a 2-day training class from VitalSmarts called “Influencer – the power to change anything”. If you want to change something, I’d highly recommend their book “How to Change Anything” which talks about personal strategies and 6 sources of motivation that can help you stick to your guns AND your goals.

    Just by reading what you said, it sounds like you hadn’t found your true personal motivation yet – and maybe you’re unsure of your personal ability. I found the course fascinating and I think you’d like the content Jess! 🙂

  10. Jess

    Kate, you are totally right. Until now, I did not have a compelling reason, now I do. : )

  11. Jess

    Kate, you are totally right. Until now, I did not have a compelling reason, now I do. : )

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