The intention-behavior gap is when your current actions don’t align with your past intentions. As accountability coaches, we view this gap as resistance. When the gap is large, resistance is high, when the gap is small resistance is low. Accountability serves to pull you through resistance but if we can lessen that gap before you set your intention or in our lingo ‘make a commitment’, all the better.
So what factors influence resistance?
I will note that in our work we use the word commitment because it is well defined. We know that defining your commitments is an important part of our ability to hold you accountable. However the intention-behavior gap doesn’t require that you define your intention just that you have an intention such as, I’ll work on my resume when I get home. But then you get home, you are tired, and the last thing you want to do is work on your resume. Then of course, you wake up regretful because you still want to work on your resume. When it’s gray it’s easier to let slide. Another approach would be to say, I will work on my resume when I get home for 30 minutes. Doable, defined and much more likely to happen.
Make it enjoyable
Another way to lessen resistance is enjoyment. If you set an intention to do something that you really don’t enjoy or want to do, the likelihood that you are going to do it goes way down. This came up on a coaching call this week. A small group member who has long enjoyed exercising reported that exercise was a struggle right now. A fellow group member asked if she enjoyed working out and her response was she had really enjoyed it when the weather was nice and she could exercise outside but now that it had turned quite cold she couldn’t seem to get herself to the gym.
In this case, the member completed her exercise commitment but it was more difficult than she wanted it to be. So her homework was to brainstorm ways that it could be fun or enjoyable. In her mind she had two options outside or the gym, but now there is an opportunity to think more creatively.
Lessen the Intensity
If you are finding yourself feeling very resistant to something that you have set an intention around, think of how you can shift your energy. One way is the intensity. For instance, I spoke to a woman last week that had to create a meeting agenda for a meeting that she did not want to attend. She kept saying she would do it and then not doing it and it was causing her stress to not have it done. She had a large intention-behavior gap aka a lot of resistance. So another way to approach this would be to spend 5 minutes on the agenda, thus lessening the intensity, lowering the resistance, and in all likelihood she would have spent more than 5 minutes or be able to work on it for 5 or 10 minutes the next time until eventually it would be done.
When you notice that your intention-behavior gap is large i.e. resistance is high, try one, two or all three of these techniques and notice how much easier it is to move through.