Before we start looking at how we get from intention to action, it is really important to pause for a moment and reflect on our intention. Let’s say you are out for dinner with friends and one of them is training for a marathon and on impulse you say “Let’s do it together!”.
Even if you do not run, stick with me because it also works as a metaphor! In that moment, you may truly mean it. However, such spontaneous decisions have far-reaching implications. It is essential to distinguish between fleeting thoughts and genuine intentions.
To put this in context, I once worked with a client who, at the outset of our time together, said she had hundreds of goals, almost none of which she was actually working on. Whenever she decided to tackle a goal, she would get distracted by a whole series of other possible goals.
So, let’s be clear – until you make a plan to start taking action on something it is still only a series of thoughts. Query your goals:
- Why would I want to do this?
- Why would I not want to do this?
- Will accomplishing it be fun?
- Is it about the journey or the destination?
- Does this fit into some larger picture?
In the marathon example, you may first need to answer these questions:
- When will I train?
- What is the time commitment?
- Are there financial costs?
- What impact will the training have on other parts of my life?
- Have I discussed my idea with those who are impacted?
- How will they support me?
To my mind, it is only once you are clear how the idea and its consequences fit into your life and are putting a plan in place that it makes sense to start thinking about making commitments to yourself.
The journey from intention to action is often far more complex and challenging than we anticipate. Obstacles arise, motivation wanes and before we know it, our well-intended commitments fall by the wayside. So, how do we bridge this gap between intention and action? How do we ensure that the commitments we make to ourselves are more than just words?
This is where commitment devices come into play. A “commitment device” is a tool that people use to somehow lock themselves into a course of action they might otherwise avoid. These devices help bridge the gap between intention and action, effectively pushing us toward achieving our goals even when we are tempted to stray.
Depending on your psychology, different types of commitment devices may work better. Here are some examples to inspire:
Harnessing the power of commitment devices can increase our chances of turning intention into action, allowing us to get to our destination despite the challenges along the way.
Questions in the Image:
- How do I make commitments to myself?
- How often do I follow through?
- What causes me to fail?
- What commitment devices might help?
Want to Read More Around This Topic?
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath (link to Amazon.co.uk). This book offers insightful, practical advice on how to effect change in our lives and illustrates these points with engaging real-world examples.
Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – a Friday morning can bring thoughts of weekend and freedom and offer up these questions: How do I feel imprisoned today? Who or what might be imprisoning me? How might I feel freer? What do I not want to do? Who do I not want to be?
About Tom O’Leary
My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.
The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.
And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.
That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.
What Thoughts Would You Like to Share?
I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.