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The Law of Diminishing Intent
2019-01-22 • 3 minute read

Take a moment to think back to the last time you stumbled upon a fabulous idea. Maybe this new concept was about your financial practice or maybe it had more of a domestic spin to it. Regardless of the idea, the all-important question is whether you followed through with your plan. I would bet that you achieved some of your initial goal but that your progress stalled somewhere down the line.

What happened? Was it that you were too busy to get your idea off the ground? Perhaps there was a major change in your life that had you side-tracked. Regardless of the specific details causing you to leave your plan unfinished, your inactivity can be attributed to the “Law of Diminishing Intent.”

In simple terms, the Law of Diminishing Intent states that when it comes to finishing a task that seems absolutely crucial at one moment, our motivation wanes at about the same rate as the task’s significance in relation to other aspects of our life and business. This is largely due to the fact that the emotion associated with the action dwindles, causing the motivation required to finish the project to fade.

A classic example of the Law of Diminishing Intent unfolds every year on New Year’s Day. January 1st is a time of new beginnings. On this day, we are highly motivated to put negative thoughts, habits, or character flaws behind us. We commit to change and dutifully begin to follow our resolutions. Perhaps we start a new exercise regime, decide to establish a new work ethic or to implement organizational plan. Despite these good ideas, the rest of our lives eventually get in the way and we fall back into our old routine a few months (or weeks or even days!) later. When it’s all said and done, we chalk it up to a good try and resume our old ways.

What does it take to move forward with a new plan -- to make sure nothing stands in the way of our success? When you decide you want to start something new, be sure to ask yourself whether you really want to accomplish your goal in the first place. It is possible that, subconsciously, you are sabotaging your success even before you start. It could be that in the back of your mind, you might already know that you don’t have the infrastructure in place to maintain your success once the task is completed. The first thing you must determine is whether you have what it takes to finish such a task. You also need to identify whether the result will ultimately improve your situation.

Consider, for example, that you decide it’s time to take the bull by the horns and do everything you can to grow your business. You resolve that the easiest way to increase your assets under management is to multiply your number of introductions. However, in the back of your mind you are not sure how to handle an influx of business. You’re already running at maximum and are a little nervous about the outcome of more business. Chances are that because you are a little wary of the outcome of your plan, you are not going to give this new resolution the energy it requires for completion.

Once you have decided that your goal is indeed one you want to achieve, it is imperative that you take action right away. You need to get the ball rolling while you are still excited and motivated; before your attention is drawn to different areas. The sooner you put your plan into action, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.

It also makes sense to start your quest in logical order to make sure everything runs smoothly every step of the way. In the example above, before increasing your number of clients, it would be wise to implement ways to handle the new business.

So to avoid the losses associated with the Law of Diminishing Intent, make sure to take action right away. Decide that the goal is one you want to achieve. Then look at your plan logically and confirm that you are pursuing your goals in the best order. And establish milestones so that you can mark your progress and remain motivated to reach your goal.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

Pareto Systems
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