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Bridging the Intention-Action Gap

Why do we arrive at a decision and then not action it … is there something wrong with us? No, but there is help and a solution, writes Lynda Moore.

6 June 2023

After the pandemic and the lockdowns we hoped life would get back to some sense of normality. Instead, we adjusted to the “new normal” and life carried on.

Then Mother Nature had other thoughts and decided to throw extreme weather at us; the cost of living and mortgage rates shot through the roof; and all the living-your-life stuff has caused plenty of stress and anxiety. It may have even given rise to questioning your life, where you’re going and what it is that you really want.

Some of us resolved to make change and have done it. After months of thinking about it, weighing the pros and cons, we’ve done it; we’ve changed how we live our life.

That may be a career change, evaluating your business and your role in it. You may have taken advantage of remote working and moved out of “town” and immersed yourself in country life. Maybe you reassessed your relationships and made changes there too.

But others haven’t committed to the intention, yet. Why do we arrive at a decision and then not action it? Is there something wrong with us? No, it’s relatively normal human behaviour. There’s even a name for it; behavioural scientists/psychologists call it the intention-action gap or intention-behaviour gap.

As a money mentor coach I see it often with clients and their finances; they set financial goals and then let them slide.

The best of intentions

We start out with the best of intentions, knowing we need to cut back our spending and start saving for that goal we’ve set; the house extension, new car or boat, the holiday or starting the retirement fund. Then life just seems to get in the way and our best intentions slip and we don’t get around to it.

This intention-action gap thing is pervasive; it doesn’t just relate to our finances. Most of us will have experienced this behaviour when thinking about healthy eating or exercise, or the lack of them.

“My new year’s resolution will be to exercise for 30 minutes a day, four times a week,” you say to yourself, eating your
third helping of Christmas cake while prone on the couch. And the end of January rolls around and you still haven’t got off the couch.

Why do we let it slide?

A couple of reasons: we know that getting into a fitness routine and healthy eating will have long-term benefits, but watching the next episode of our favourite TV show is more gratifying in the moment.

Or the intention-action gap can result from being too ambitious. So, we don’t start as we don’t really believe we can do it.

Simply knowing what we need to do isn’t enough; we need to take action. How do we do this?

Accountability partner: One way is to have an accountability buddy, someone who has “nagging rights”. You give them permission to help you keep your commitment, whether it’s going to the gym or sticking to a savings plan. This works even better if you are also helping your buddy be accountable for something they’ve committed to as well.

Commitment device: Another way to bridge the intention-action gap is to put in place a “commitment device”. This can be as simple as setting up an automatic transfer to your savings account the same day you get paid, so you never see the money.
Have a look at stickK if you want to know more about how commitment devices work.

Commitment contract: Entering into a commitment contract that says if you don’t do what you say you are going to do, you forfeit something or give something that is of value to you to a charity. Again, you can set this up with your accountability buddy or you can use an app or website to keep you on track.

For this to be successful and really work, you must:

  1. Recognise there is an intention-action gap you want to do something about.
  2. Find a commitment method that you know is going to keep you on track.
  3. Remember this is your commitment to change, not your buddy’s or the commitment device. If you aren’t totally committed, it won’t work.

Opportunity for change

Why not rethink your vision of the future, or if you haven’t given it a lot of thought create one for yourself.

There is no time like the present, with all this financial uncertainty, to reinvent your finances and change the way you do things so your future will be brighter.

A great way to overcome blocks and emotional money connections is to chat with someone who understands the psychology behind money.

And that is exactly what I do. I help people push through money blocks and make their finances work for them.

If you want to change the way you think, feel and behave with your money, then head to moneymentalist.com and come and talk to me.

Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.


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