Two polar opposite feelings from one little chocolate bar

Today I’m going to tell you a bit of an embarrassing story, it ends with me hunched over a trash can, but please, don’t judge me :). First though, I want you to think of a time when there was something you wanted to do or buy, but inside you had the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. I’ll give you a quick minute to think about it.

Ok, got something? For me, this happens pretty much every time I go to the grocery store. I come well equipped with a list of the things I need to purchase, but inevitably as I near the end of my shopping, there’s this little devil inside of me that gets louder and louder. He tells me things like: “you deserve a treat”, or “c’mon, you went and did all the shopping, throw something for yourself into the cart.”

I think about what I might want to get, and why I shouldn’t get it. I think about the loophole I’ve got—if I buy this while getting groceries, then it counts against the grocery budget, right? Wrong. All too often I end up losing the debate and buying something I never intended to buy. Ever been there, done that?

Now, don’t get me wrong, buying a treat for myself wasn’t the problem, the problem is that I did it without intention.

You see, when I act without intention, I’m left to rely on my brain to come out on the right side of the debate. But that’s tough, because my brain seems to forget about intention when it’s in the middle of a debate. In those moments, all my brain cares about is what offers the most immediate sense of satisfaction.

Compare that unfortunate scenario with this one: Suppose instead that I planned to make that purchase in advance. I decided that I wanted to get a chocolate bar, I put the item on the grocery list, and then while at the store I simply bought the chocolate bar. I acted with intention.

In both cases I bought the chocolate bar, so why is intention so important? Before we answer that, I want you to take a moment to think about a time when you purchased something you cared about, something you had to save or wait for. Go ahead, I’ll give you a sec.

Now, how did you feel after you purchased that? When you’ve experienced spending with versus without intention, one just feels a bit better. Let’s break down my story a bit.

Unintentional purchases make me feel bad. I end up feeling embarrassed that I didn’t have the “willpower”, and that I couldn’t stick to the plan. And when I buy without intention, I often end up wanting to keep it a secret. So, to keep it hush hush, I sneak the chocolate bar into the groceries, and I eat it right outside the store, hunched over a trash bin so I can I can easily get rid of the evidence :). The worse part, I don’t even really enjoy it—ugh, this sucks!

But intention, intention saves me from all that. My favorite part of purchasing with intent is the way it makes me feel. When I buy with intention, I feel responsible, I feel proud, and best of all, I feel contentment.

You felt the same when you made that purchase that you waited for.

That’s why Katie (my wife) and I plan out all our purchases for the month, before it even starts. We discuss what we want, what we could buy, and what we maybe shouldn’t buy. Then we make decisions about what matters most to us that particular month.

Sometimes that means buying a few chocolate bars, and sometimes it means buying none. But it always means feeling responsible, enjoying the peace of contentment, buying with intention, and no more hunching over trash cans to eat my chocolate bar!