Opinion: Attention to intention


Sometimes, it just seems like we cannot get out of our own way. We have good intentions, plan and work hard. We are professionally trained and of good moral character. But there is a gap. Is it simple incompetence? Are our failures the result of sufficient effort but insufficient ability? Perhaps. Maybe the fault is one of some externality. Maybe the reoccurring fact that our objectives often do not materialize as outcomes is not because of us at all. Again, perhaps.

Is everything that we are doing the absolute best that it could be? Are we remaining open to better courses of action? Are there superior paths than the ones we’ve chosen? The smartest humans among us are constantly striving for self-improvement. Do we remember the destination even when we are fatigued from the journey? Do we meet people where they are without restraint?

The elementary school librarian could not seem to get little Frankie to return his library books on time. He’d been warned, lectured and incentivized – all to no avail. With good intention, he still didn’t deliver. In exasperation, he was banned from the library. OK, scofflaws must be held to account. Yet is it ever right to proclaim, you are dumb and we are going to keep you that way and that knowledge is ours and we only share it with those deserving? Sit still, stand in queue, pay the fine, toe the line, or you will be held back in ignorance. Can we teach Frankie the importance of responsibility by preventing him from having responsibility? Will our good intentions get to an equally good outcome? Could Frankie pay his penance by reading books about responsibility? Could he learn if we let him? Could he think of his actions as both intention and outcome? Can we?


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