Bridging the Gap: How to Turn Your Intentions into Actions
Like many, I make grand plans at the beginning of the year - exciting and challenging goals I am determined to achieve in 12 months. Sometimes this works and I can satisfyingly tick off my New Year resolutions, but often, these plans are work in progress by December (read: incomplete).
According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, I am not alone; only 46% of people who make New Year’s resolutions stick to them. Why do well-intentioned goals and aspirations fall by the wayside? Why can we find follow-through difficult?
In this blog, I'll be exploring some of the reasons why we see this intention to action gap. I will be sharing some practical tips and insights to help you turn your goals into actions and improve your follow through. With the right mindset and strategies, it's possible to bridge the gap between intention and action and make meaningful progress towards our aspirations.
What is the Intention to Action Gap?
The intention to action gap is a common challenge many individuals face when trying to pursue their goals. It refers to the disconnect between our intentions, or what we want to do, and our actions, or what we actually end up doing. Often, we may have the best intentions to achieve our goals, but we struggle to take consistent and meaningful action towards them.
There are several reasons why the intention to action gap may occur:
- One common reason is a lack of motivation or a sense of urgency. We may have the intention to achieve a goal, but we may not feel motivated enough to take action, especially when faced with challenges or obstacles.
- Sometimes we set ambitious goals that are hard to achieve in the timeframe we have set.
- Additionally, we may struggle with self-doubt or fear of failure, which can hinder us from taking the necessary steps towards our goals.
- Procrastination can also prevent us from achieving our goals; it’s way more fun spending 30mins on TikTok than using that time running on the treadmill to achieve a 10k stepping goal.
- Moreover, our busy lives and the constant distractions we face can make it difficult to prioritise our goals and allocate the necessary time and effort towards them.
You may find that you do one or more of these when faced with working on your goals. However, there are effective strategies that can help bridge the intention to action gap and empower us to take meaningful steps towards our goals.
Here are some tips to help you get from intention to action:
1. Reflect on your Motivation: What is your 'why'?
Understanding the "why" behind your goals is crucial in motivating us to take action. Reflect on the reasons why you want to achieve a particular goal and how it aligns with your values and aspirations. This reflection can help reignite your motivation and drive, making it easier to take action even when faced with challenges.
2. Set SMART Goals
Setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals can provide you with a clear roadmap to follow.
- Clear and specific goals - It is important that you clearly define your goals. You need to be specific about what you want to achieve and set measurable and achievable targets. Whether it's a personal goal like improving your fitness or a professional goal like advancing in your career, having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish will give you a sense of purpose and direction. For example, if your intention is to improve your fitness, instead of just saying "I want to get healthier," you could set a specific goal such as "I want to run a 5k race in three months." This way, you have a concrete target to work towards, and you can track your progress along the way. When your goals are well-defined, it becomes easier to break them down into smaller, manageable steps and take action towards them. Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable, and set deadlines to create a sense of urgency.
- Breakdown your goals into steps - Once you have defined your goals, it's important to break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Develop a plan that outlines the specific actions you need to take to achieve your goals. Break down your goals into smaller tasks and create a timeline or schedule to hold yourself accountable. This makes them less overwhelming and more achievable.
3. Create an Action Plan
Having a plan in place provides structure and guidance, making it easier to take consistent action. Instead of focusing on the end result, focus on the process and the actions you need to take to get there. For instance, if your goal is to save money for a vacation, your plan could include actions such as creating a budget, cutting back on unnecessary expenses, and saving a certain amount of money each month. By having a plan in place, you'll have a roadmap to follow and a clear path to your goal.
If your goal is to advance in your career, you could break it down into smaller steps such as updating your CV, networking with professionals in your industry, and acquiring new skills through courses or working towards a qualification. By taking one step at a time, you can make progress towards your goal without feeling overwhelmed.
4. Overcome Procrastination
Procrastination is a common barrier to taking action. The first step in overcoming it is to identify the reasons why you are procrastinating and find strategies to address them. For example, if you are feeling overwhelmed, break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. If you are feeling unmotivated, try visualising the benefits of achieving your goal or rewarding yourself after completing a task. Remember, taking even small steps consistently is better than not taking any action at all.
It's easy to get distracted by the constant stream of information, social media, and other demands on our time and attention. Identify the activities or habits that are taking up your time and energy but not contributing to your goals and find ways to minimise or eliminate them. For example, if you find yourself spending too much time scrolling through social media, you could set limits on your screen time or use apps that block certain websites during designated times. By prioritising your goals and minimising distractions, you can create the space and focus needed to take action.
5. Cultivate Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is crucial in bridging the gap between intention and action and is very much linked to the previous point. It involves setting aside short-term gratification and staying committed to your long-term goals. Set aside dedicated time for working on your goals and create a conducive environment that minimises interruptions. Develop strategies to enhance your self-discipline, such as setting clear boundaries, turning off notifications on your phone, finding a quiet workspace, or delaying non-essential tasks for later.
6. Seek Support and Accountability
Surrounding yourself with a supportive network can be invaluable in bridging the intention to action gap. Share your goals with close friends, family, or mentors who can provide encouragement, motivation, and accountability. You can also consider finding an accountability partner or hiring a coach to keep you on track and provide guidance and support along the way.
7. Embrace Failure and Learn from Mistakes
It's important to acknowledge that failure and setbacks are a part of any journey towards achieving our goals. Rather than seeing them as roadblocks, view them as opportunities to learn and grow. When you encounter setbacks or make mistakes, reflect on them, learn from them, and make adjustments to your action plan accordingly. Embracing failure as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block can help you stay resilient and motivated to keep moving forward.
8. Practice Self-Compassion & Be Flexible
Be kind to yourself throughout the process of bridging the intention to action gap. Avoid negative self-talk or self-blame when you face challenges or make mistakes. Instead, practice self-compassion by treating yourself with the same kindness, understanding, and encouragement that you would offer to a friend. Celebrate your progress and acknowledge your efforts, no matter how small they may seem.
It's important to remember that the path from intention to action may not always be straightforward. Life can be unpredictable, and circumstances may change along the way. Be willing to adjust your action plan, reassess your goals, and adapt to new situations. Flexibility and adaptability are key in staying on track and overcoming obstacles that may arise.
9. Visualise Success
Visualisation can be a powerful tool in bridging the intention to action gap. Spend time visualising yourself successfully achieving your goals. Imagine the feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and fulfilment that come with taking action and seeing results. Visualisation can help you stay focused, motivated, and committed to taking action towards your goals and it is the perfect excuse to create a Pinterest board!
10. Celebrate Your Progress
Recognise and celebrate your progress along the way. Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts you have made, even if you haven't achieved your end goal yet. Celebrating small milestones or achievements can boost your motivation and reinforce the positive habits you have developed.
By understanding 1. your motivations, 2. setting SMART goals, 3. creating an action plan ,4. overcoming procrastination, and 5. staying accountable you can make meaningful progress towards your goals and achieve the results you desire. Remember, it's normal to face challenges along the way, but with the right mindset and strategies, you can overcome them and turn your intentions into actions. The key is being consistent. So, take that first step, and keep pushing forward to transform your intentions into concrete actions and achieving your goals. You've got this!