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Law of Diminishing Intent

Mike Houge

The Law of Diminishing Intent.

Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve probably experienced it.

I first ran across this idea when reading a piece by consultant Duncan MacPherson.

As he explains it, “In simple terms, the Law of Diminishing Intent states that, when it comes to finishing a task that seems absolutely crucial one moment, our motivation wanes at about the same rate as the task’s significance. 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.”

Did you notice where MacPherson said problem lies? Was it the importance of what you were planning? No. It was your own internal motivation.

Consider financial promises you have made to yourself in the past, but never followed through on. Think about what it was that caused you to get all stirred up in the first place to focus on your finances.

Did a friend die, or did you hear about a bankruptcy, or did that dream of owning your own business resurface, or did your child graduate from high school…whatever it was, some event or idea triggered an emotional response.

That response got your emotional tachometer all revved up and you were ready for action.

So you bought a book or called a friend or called an old mentor or wrote first draft of a business plan or wrote your thoughts on an estate plan.

And there it lies to this day in that great big stack of unfinished projects you’ve got either in a drawer or sitting on the corner of your desk at home.

How do any of us overcome the Law of Diminishing Intent?

1. Release past failures. Don’t waste another minute listening to that internal playlist in your head telling you how many times you’ve tried this and failed. That’s a total waste of time and is irrelevant. That was then. Now is now. You’re about to break free from your past, because you’re about to …

2. Reignite your emotions. There are powerful emotional reasons to you to make positive progress financially. For instance, rather than tell yourself it would be nice to have such and such an amount of money, focus on what that money can do for you: provide a stress-free retirement, allow you to travel, allow you to spend time with those you love, allow you to start the business you’ve always wanted. Get a picture of the emotional benefit of the financial change you want to make and focus on that picture. Then…

3. Recruit assistance. Don’t try this alone. You’ve done that up to this point and it hasn’t worked. You can recruit assistance by hiring a professional (which is honestly the most likely solution) or simply by finding a like-minded person to partner with to hold each other accountable. While the “partner method” is free, it is also subject to the whims of whichever partner has the lower level of motivation.

This is too important for that. Search out a professional advisor or coach who can help you reach your goals.

It’s time to overcome the Law of Diminishing Intent – don’t put if off any longer.

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