When Intention Meets Action

Larry Carter - Web Developer


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The beginning of every year marks a time in which many assume the responsibility of laying down resolutions for them to accomplish over the coming year. These can be outlined in the form of new beginnings, significant milestones, or final realizations. Now, one’s “resolution” or one’s “resolve” is defined as a “firmness of purpose or intent; determination.” This resolution is a solid decision to follow through with something. But if any of you have ever participated in setting your own New Year’s resolutions, you’ll understand that a firm decision or a determined intent is not enough to accomplish your goals. At some point, you have to take action. The two roads of intent and action begin running parallel, and intent may veer toward or away from action at any point during the year. This has led me to ask the question, “At what point do intent and action cross paths?”

You’ve probably heard about this word plenty of times; there are volumes written explaining how to foster this word; this word is what helps get you out of bed every morning: motivation. And if you are given enough motivation to do something, you will more than likely take action to do it. But how much is enough?

The way I see it, the amount of motivation needed is equal to the difference between intent and action. Given 5 units of motivation, you could expect to make up the difference of an action where intent is 5 units away. But what constitutes a unit? And how do you even gain a unit? The English language is very interesting in that the word “difference” is not just the result of subtracting one thing from another. Differences are also the dissimilarities between two things. So what are the differences between intents and actions? Here are some characteristics of each:

Intent

  1. Action of the mind
  2. Requires minimal effort
  3. Represents potential action

Action

  1. Action of the body
  2. Requires just enough effort
  3. Represents intent realized

So how can you successfully make the transition from intent to action?

Begin with taking your intent and dividing it into smaller tasks if possible. It is much easier to motivate yourself to complete smaller tasks that will eventually comprise the whole of a larger task. Create a schedule, have an accountability partner or sign up for a support group. I intended to read thirty books last year. To accomplish this, I figured I needed to read one book every 12 days or so. One book seems less daunting than thirty. But I then went further with breaking this down for each book that I read. If the book contained 300 pages, I would need to read about 25 pages every day. Twenty-five pages seems much less daunting than an entire 300 page book, and even less so than thirty books. This made the motivation difference from intent to action much smaller since I only needed to motivate myself to read 25 pages per day, rather than the seemingly overwhelming task of reading thirty books in an entire year.

The effort to follow through with a resolution really only needs to be “just enough.” If you struggle with resolutions, easing yourself into a habitual practice is much easier than changing your way of life with a snap of your fingers. Habits are natural, and studies show it takes about 21 days to develop a new habit. Do you have a difficult time going to the gym three times a week? Schedule it. Make it difficult to simply not go. Personal growth is important, and if we’re honest, we make time for the things we really want to do. Odds are, if you can put just enough effort into it for a few weeks, you’ll feel more strange trying to stop than trying to continue.

Even though you’ve taken some of these steps, you’ll probably find yourself slacking a bit throughout the year. It’s important to realize that self-improvement is a process, and adjusting your expectations during the process can actually bring satisfaction that is motivating in its own rite. After graduating high school, I became the typical college kid, letting my high school athleticism fade and gaining a few pounds in the process. One year, I decided to throw a number in the air and go for it. The result was a resolution to run 1,000 miles by the end of the year. I told everyone I knew, I put it on my schedule and I gave it the best try I could. Unfortunately, I did not reach 1,000 miles. But I managed to discover an entirely new source of accomplishment that gave me just as much satisfaction. I ran two half-marathon races and one full marathon. While that wasn’t necessarily the goal, I readjusted my expectations and took pride in doing what I did. At the lowest level, it was more than I accomplished last year. At the highest level, I had done something I had never done before: disciplined myself to leave my comfort zone and experience something new and exciting.

Maybe you can’t lose fifty pounds this year, but maybe you can lose ten. And next year, your habit will be established and maybe you can lose fifteen. Perhaps you can have a smoke four days out of the week instead of quitting completely. If you are an overachiever, you probably have this stuff down. But for the rest, take pride in the small, habitual conversions from intent to action, and before you even realize it, your life will have completely changed for the better.

Questions or comments? Please contact Larry Carter at lcarter@teamCOACT.com.