Yesterday I realized that I had not posted anything. I was once again having problems getting a post written and published. My punishment: write a post about why I’m having trouble and expose my behavior to the world.
Or rather, expose my behavior to the strength of my analytic ability. Figure out what was wrong. Teach myself (and anyone who reads—-like Future Me) what to do when this happens.
TL;DR: everything that happens comes from intention. If what I want to have happened has not happened, then I need to fix the intention. If I’m not fixing my (failed) intentions, then my metaintention needs fixing.
The last post I wrote was about intention. If I’m not completing a post, then there’s something wrong with my intention. So what went wrong today?
When an intention appears in consciousness, it might starts as a mere desire. An intention’s got to build some muscle to result in action. It’s got to compete with other intentions. And it’s got to overcome inertia. We might describe inertia as the default intention: to do nothing or to follow whims.
An inention has to include—or give rise to— a plan.
Without a plan, an intention is an oversized whim.
I didn’t publish the post I intended to write because my intention to do so was inadequate.
My failure to publish was an intentional failure.
What did I intend to do? I wanted to “write a post.” “What post? I never decided. My intention was vague.
I did start writing something—so I had enough intention to start. I didn’t finish. Why?
I did not intend to finish. To publish.
I did, kind of, intend to have it be published—I suppose. Memory is vague as was the inention.
Stuff came along. Other intentions arose and passed away. Some were unconscious, and some were conscious.
Some led to action. Others led nowhere. Perhaps those intentions are sitting around waiting for the right moment.
I had no intention to decide what intention to follow and what to abandon.
One way to describe the situation: my intention wasn’t strong enough to maintain itself in the face of the distractions around me (which lead to other intentions) and problems that I faced when writing.
Another way to describe it: I never intended to publish the post. I intended to start. Sometimes that’s been enough to get me to the end. Once I start moving, the momentum often is enough to carry me through.
Yesterday it wasn’t.
Now I have a more precise and stronger intention: to write this post AND publish it.
This post will be published because I intend to maintain the necessary intention to the end.
That intention—to maintain my intention—is itself an intention — a metaintention.
Yeah, I love meta.
From Meta - Wikipedia
…a prefix used in English to indicate a concept which is an abstraction behind another concept, used to complete or add to the latter.`
The original sense of meta (as in metaphysics) is that meta X is beyond X. But now meta means, more often, X about X. Metadata is data about data. Metalanguage is language about language. Metamemory is memory about memory. Metacognition is cognition about cognition. And so on.
Metainention is intention about intention.
So my problem is the lack of metaintention. Not just any metaintention, but some specific ones.
I want to undertake projects with intentions that are sufficiently developed to carry the project through to the end.
I want to monitor my intentions, intentionally choose among them, ensure that they are sufficient to the wished-for outcome, maintained to the end.
Those are wants. To turn them into intentions I need to make sure that the wants are strong enough and to provide a plan that will result in my developing and maintaining the desired intention.
I need to develop new skills: awareness of intention—or its lack; and awareness of attention—or its absence.
The current state of those skills: conscious incompetence.
The next state: conscious competence.
The goal: unconscious competence.
I need to periodically remind myself to check the state of my intention until I do it without a reminder.
When I am suddenly conscious—without a reminder—that I’m being inattentive or operating with inadequate or improper intention, I need to take a moment and be grateful to whatever part of my mind projected that awareness into consciousness.
I need to learn that when that awareness appears, or when I check my intention that I need to take action.
I need to energize intention when it is weak. I need to restore it when it fails. I need to develop new plans when old plans are inadequate.
To maintain that intention I need both intentional awareness and metaintentional awareness.
Any time I am working to do something, I need to be aware of the state of the underlying intention.
This has been adequate to get this post out.
Let’s see if it’s good enough for another one.