Intention vs. Attention

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Inspirational quote card from Laurie
Laurie Buchanan explains how to turn intention into action. Image via Laurie.

I have been following Laurie Buchanan’s Tuesdays with Laurie blog for some time now and consistently revel in the insights she shares and conversations she generates in the comments sections of her posts. Laurie is a renowned blogger, author, and life coach so when she recently shared about a podcast she had done, I immediately went to listen to it. I was struck in particular by her words about the differences between intention and attention. When I asked her to guest post on this subject to flesh out the points more, she kindly agreed. Below is Laurie’s inspirational guest blog post.

Intention vs. Attention – Guest Post by Laurie Buchanan, PhD

Inspired writing
Meet one heck of an amazing lady! Photo used with Laurie Buchanan’s permission.

What has your intention, and what has your attention? It’s really important to know the answer to these questions, but first, let’s clarify the difference:

Intention is passive and comes from the emotional/feeling part of the brain. It’s a desire and a goal. It’s something we’re focused on, something we want to make happen, something that we aspire to do. It remains invisible until it comes into being.
In her book Pocketful of Miracles: Prayers, Meditations, and Affirmations to Nurture Your Spirit Every Day of the Year, Joan Borysenko said, “Intention provides the energy that motivates our continuing efforts.”

Attention is active and comes from the mental/thinking part of the brain. It’s the visible tasks, processes, and individual action steps we must take in order to achieve our intention. These visible action steps have the power to inspire others. Let’s use the following scenario as an example:

  • Your intention (invisible dream) is to take an extended vacation to Provence, France.
  • Your attention (visible action steps) then must be focused on saving money for the trip; getting a passport; gathering weather-appropriate clothing; obtaining suitcases; reserving lodging, meals, and ground transportation; establishing an agenda; and making arrangements to take time off from work.
Inspirational quote card from Laurie
Laurie Buchanan explains how to turn intention into action. Image via Laurie.

There are some people who never realize their intention. Why? Because their attention was not in line with their intention, it was elsewhere. It could be that they allowed external factors to interfere with their attention. Some of those factors are in their control, while others are outside their control.
Let’s use the Provence, France, example. Events that are within your control but derail you from the necessary action steps to achieve your intention could include:

  • Making poor financial decisions.
  • Agreeing to the influence of someone else who has a “better” plan for you (e.g., parents who want you to go back to school; a love interest who doesn’t want you to go).
  • Procrastination—you simply put it off.

Events that are outside of your control and derail you include:

  • Not saving enough money because you had to unexpectedly replace your vehicle after it was totaled in an accident and had to pay subsequent medical bills.
  • Getting laid off from work.
  • Suddenly finding yourself in a long-term-caregiving position for a loved one.

Have you always wanted to write a book?
Have you intended to take voice, dance, or piano lessons?
Have you had a burning desire to learn to fly or scuba dive?
Have you always yearned to take a hot-air-balloon ride or intended to travel?
Have you meant to learn another language or take a pottery class?
When our intention and our attention are in sync with each other, we meet with success.

Turn thought into action

Laurie Buchanan inspires with her writing, including her book The Business of Being.

About Laurie Buchanan

A cross between Dr. Dolittle, Nanny McPhee, and a Type-A Buddhist, Laurie Buchanan is an active listener, observer of details, payer of attention, reader and writer of books, kindness enthusiast, and unabashed optimist. She’s also board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, a holistic health practitioner, transformational life coach, speaker, and author. Her second book, The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace, hits the shelves of bookstores near you on July 10.

42 COMMENTS

  1. It’s crazy, but I was thinking about this (trying to clear up a pile of intention with what I want to take action on) in my own semi-scrambled way. This was a timely read for me. Thank you Laurie and Christy!

  2. This is such wonderful post from Laurie – My mother who is a doctor, would like to add the following:

    The Key to Achieving More. When it comes to staying in the moment, the key is to understand the difference between where your attention is and where your intention is. From the dictionary: Attention: Concentration of the mental powers upon an object; a close or careful observing or listening.

  3. Thank you for introducing me to Laurie, Christy. This was a fabulous post. Lately, I’ve struggled to get my intention and attention in line. Often I find my attention span is short lived due to distractions. That said, if I really want to accomplish something, I’m quite intentional. I’m a mess…LOL! Great to meet you, Laurie!

  4. It’s often said the real “secret” to the “secret” is establishing your goal and then mapping your action to that goal “Attention” to “Intention” so not really a secret at all… Liked this post thanks.

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