Beating The Beaten Path

If you were to take a test that measured how you behave against what your intended behavior is, how close do you think those two things would align? If you had to put a percentage on it, do you think you’d be at 90% alignment? 60? 40? The truth is, while we all have intentions, most of us fall short of them. This is called the intention-behavior gap. How many of us aren’t even aware at how out of alignment with our own intentions we are? How much could we improve if we knew?

All humans fall into behavioral patterns. We learn them early and over time, deepening the grooves and making permanent pathways that we follow again and again, even when we are trying to change. These well-worn pathways are how our brains have been programmed and will do so on autopilot. That means your brain has mastered and recorded these actions and will default to them because it saves time and energy. Great for walking and driving, not so great when it comes to trying to break some habits or behaviors.

So, how do you align today? Start with making a list of intentions. For this example, let’s list ten items we might want to be intentional about today:

1 Limit caloric intake to 1,400 calories.
2Walk or jog for 60 minutes.
3Clean up the guest bedroom.
4Do two loads of laundry.
5Be on-time to every appointment.
6Use my work commute to learn something.
7Make eye contact with and smile at people I encounter. 
8Choose how I react when the kids are driving me crazy.
9Ask my partner how their day was and listen intently
10Limit alcohol to two glasses of wine.

These ten will be 100% of our recorded intentions for one day. So, divide 100% by our total listed items, and each one now represents 10% of our intentions for the day. Keep the list readily available so you can refer to it and remind yourself of what you intend to do. At the end of the day, let’s go back and see how we did. We’ll give ourselves 10% for each item if we completed it fully, zero if we missed it altogether, or prorate it as best makes sense. Here’s what that might look like:

1 Limit caloric intake to 1,400 calories.10%
2Walk or jog for 60 minutes. (Walked for 30 minutes.)5%
3Clean up the guest bedroom.5%
4Do two loads of laundry. (Did one.)5%
5Be on-time to every appointment.10%
6Use my work commute to learn something (audiobook).5%
7Make eye contact with and smile at people I encounter. 10%
8Choose how I react when the kids are driving me crazy.5%
9Ask my partner how their day was and listen intently10%
10Limit alcohol to two glasses of wine.10%
Total75%

When added up, I was 75% behaviorally in alignment with my intentions for the day. Not too bad but definitely room for improvement. I used multiples of fives for this example for the easy math but your list could be longer or shorter than this, or you may feel like reacting angrily only once in the car is more like 8%. That’s fine! Your list will change some each day, depending on what you have going on.

The next thing we should do is aim to improve our alignment by 1% each week—which is a very common and achievable metric used by many different strategies for both personal goals and in business. When we keep a list and know we are going to be grading ourselves, it helps us to be accountable to our own intentions, and 1% each week over a year is massive improvement! Of course, as you improve in some areas, you will want to add others that need more work. Your daily score will drop as you are adding new intentions and rise again as you master them. It is not a perfect or exact system but it is powerful in helping us to be mindful of and encourage our own progress. In life, we are or should always be learning and improving.

To veer off the path of historic behavior and onto the path of intent, we have to be intentional. We have to become our own behavioral therapists and observe ourselves objectively and find ways to block the old path so we can begin to build the new and improved one. Keeping a daily log is just a start but it’s a solid one.

How do you live every day with intent? If you find this useful, want to share, or just say hello, feel free to drop me a line.

Mandy@GreaterApe.com

Author: Mandy

Your basic American primate, searching for magic and meaning.

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