Yin and Yang

Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work – Peter Drucker (management consultant, author and educator).

Good intentions aren’t enough. People have good intentions when they set a goal to do something, but then they miss a deadline or other milestone – Harvey Mackay (businessman, author and syndicated columnist).

Good intentions never change anything. They only become a deeper and deeper rut – Joyce Meyer (author and speaker).

I have low tolerance for people who complain about things but never do anything to change them. This led me to conclude that the single largest pool of untapped natural resources in the world is human good intentions that are never translated into action – Cindy Gallop (advertising consultant).

Each and every one of us has intentions; and most likely they are good intentions. But there must be another component to “intention” for there to be success. This component is a counterweight of sorts. It’s the yang to the yin. Without commitment good intentions never come to fruition. We’ve talked before about execution and how specifically we act. But before we can take action we must install the middle step of commitment. If we have good intentions and try to take action without commitment, we’re likely to fail.

Commitment embodies obligation, responsibility and dedication. Let’s suppose that I set an intention to exercise every day for at least thirty minutes. So far so good. Then I plunge into exercise activities the next morning and the morning after that. Wow – now we’re cooking! But wait, the third morning I struggle to get out of bed and decide to skip the exercise routine; besides, I have an early breakfast meeting that would probably have shortened the amount of time I could spend on the treadmill anyway. Then the next morning I have another excuse and so on. What was missing here? Why didn’t I follow-through on my good intentions? Very simply, I lacked commitment.

Understanding how to link intentions and sustainable action through commitment may seem elusive. There are two foundational elements to commitment. The first is what I call an “A ha” moment. This is when something in our mind clicks – where all the pieces fall into place – and our intentions make perfect sense. I’m not really going to commit to an ongoing exercise program until there’s a meaningful reason for me to do so. Of course I know that I want to be healthier, but that’s not enough. Why do I want to be healthier? My “A ha” moment came when I realized that my oldest grandson needed me to be in his life for the long haul. At that point, being healthier had a much more important purpose to which I was willing to commit. Often it’s easier to make a commitment when someone else needs us to be committed.

The second foundational element to commitment is that of accountability. Sure, we can be accountable to ourselves, but unless we have tremendous self-discipline this isn’t always easy. If we feel an obligation to others for some reason, then we can be accountable to them for that which we commit. In my case the reason I’m committed to an exercise program is to be alive and supportive of my oldest grandson. And thus I’m accountable to him for this commitment. If for some reason I don’t feel in the mood to exercise, I see his innocent young face in my mind’s eye and it isn’t hard to kick into gear and follow-through with the necessary actions.

Intention and commitment are necessary before we can take action. Making a commitment to another person and being accountable to that person helps to ensure that we follow-through and translate our intentions and commitment into action.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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The Bond

Question: I’ve noticed that some people aren’t following through and doing what they say they’ll do. Does it seem like this has become more of a problem over the years?

Answer: What you are describing has been occurring for time in memoriam so I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s become worse. And it’s not only a crucial issue for entrepreneurs but for everyone else as well. At the root of this is a simple word . . . commitment.

I’m an old school kind of guy and believe that a commitment is the same as a promise. It’s about trust and a my-word-is-my-bond mindset. How we deliver on our commitments to others begins with how we deliver on commitments to ourselves. My parents instilled in me a deep sense of discipline and pride when I was growing up. I had a wide range of chores – some of which I did not particularly like. I practiced the piano for 30-minutes at 5:30 AM on weekdays. I wasn’t given the option of scrapping a practice session. I know I was driven not to disappoint my parents – but in the process they taught me to take pride in what I did and not to disappoint myself. Thus, I learned how to make commitments to myself and keep them.

How can we learn to make meaningful commitments to ourselves? It starts with simple things. Perhaps we say, “I’m going to commit to an exercise program five days a week.” How seriously do we take such a commitment? If we exercise for a couple of weeks and then fall off the wagon, we undoubtedly may rationalize quitting. But are we being true to the bond we’ve created with ourselves? If we can’t even keep the commitments we make to ourselves, how will we fare when we make commitments to others – commitments that others trust and count on us to keep?

If we say to ourselves, “I will try,” or “I think I can,” that’s not really a commitment. When we say “I will,” it is. When we frame commitment to “my word is my bond” and “I will,” we can now set clear standards of accountability for ourselves. I can ask myself, did I keep my word when I said “I will?” This is a very easy question to answer – it’s either yes or no.

Finally, are we prepared to go above and beyond our “legal” obligation to deliver on a commitment? In other words, do we say we’ll do something and if we fail, do we point to the “fine print” and say we’ve measured up anyway? Years ago, one of our sales associates ran into financial difficulties. We loaned him some money and told him to pay us back when he got back on his feet. He was very appreciative and assured us that he would do so. We chose not to put anything in writing and instead operated on the basis of trust. A year later, this associate was closing transactions and making good money. Not once did he ever acknowledge his commitment to pay us back. Because we had no formal contract with him, I suppose the case could be made that he had no legal obligation to pay us back. We never really defined what it meant for him to be “back on his feet.” But he knew what it meant and so did we.

We make commitments only when we are intentional about delivering on them 100%. And when we meet the obligations we commit to ourselves, we are then ready to take the sacred step of honoring the trust placed in us by others.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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