Last weekend, I went to my garden to harvest what I thought would be a great bunch of carrots. Having never grown carrots before I was curious to see what I would find.

It wasn’t pretty. A few were about the size of my thumb nail. Another couple looked like they had been eaten from the inside out. The best of the motley bunch was the one pictured below.

Who could I blame? The soil, the weather, the birds, or our pooch, Barney?

In fact, none of them. It came down to one thing – I hadn’t put in enough effort. I had planted the seedlings, feeling virtuous at the time at the thought of growing my own vegetables, and then done nothing. No water, fertiliser or any attention that would have helped them grow.

I’d just hoped they would grow, whilst putting in zero effort.

It was a stark reminder that like anything in life, if we want results and good outcomes we need to put in effort. Success rarely comes by accident.

Interestingly, we can say we want something, and yet not put in the effort to make it happen.

In my situation, I liked the idea of growing vegetables, but not enough to put in the effort required to harvest a good crop. In my list of all the things I needed to do, it didn’t make the priority list.

In short, it just didn’t matter enough.

What about you?

Here’s two questions to ponder:

  1. What are the things you say you want, but put little or no action in to bringing to life?
  2. In what way is that impacting your life, and do you need to up the ante and make it matter more to you?

When something matters, it becomes a priority. It becomes something you decide you want to change or take action on. You’ve set the intention, and when it’s your choice it is more likely to happen.

Setting the ‘intention’ is what matters.

Intentionality is different to wanting. Wanting is like ‘wishing’; there’s no action steps tied to the desire. You can wish for something to happen, but that’s not going to help you make progress.

Intentionality is specific. It involves focus, energy, determination and above all else, persistence.

It’s about reflecting on and crystallising your thoughts to articulate:

  • Where am I now, with respect to this matter?
  • Where do I want to be and what’s my desired goal?
  • What will be different for me when I get there?
  • How committed am I to making it happen?
  • What am I going to do to make it happen?

Dr Heidi Grant Halvorson, the Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia Business School, talks about how setting intentions is really important.

How intentions work is you are clear about what you are going to do in various situations. It works like this: If or when situation A happens, then I will perform behaviour B.

For example, you may say when I work back late at night, I will meditate before I go to bed. The research, according to Heidi, shows that you will be more likely to follow through when you are clear about what behaviour you will choose in a particular situation.

She says that ‘Deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success’.

As well, if you want to make progress write it down, and get a commitment buddy. Committing your intentions to paper and to a friend or colleague will help.

A study by Psychology Professor Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University, California confirms this.

In her research, she broke participants into five groups, each with different instructions:

  • First group had unwritten goals
  • Second wrote their goals down
  • Third wrote down their goals and action commitments
  • Forth wrote goals and actions and gave them to a friend
  • Fifth group gave their written goals and actions to a friend and also provided weekly updates

The research found 76 % of participants who wrote down their goals, actions and provided weekly progress to a friend achieved their goals. This result was 33 % higher than those with unwritten goals.

The American essayist, poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, said:

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Dreaming, wishing and wanting is fun, but the real action happens when you put your intentions out there.

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today!

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’.  For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact [email protected].