Action vs. Intent

Action vs intent

“We judge our self by intention, but we judge others by their actions.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about action and intent. You can judge or evaluate based on an action. An intention can’t be measured.  However, if you think about it most of us judge others based on their actions. Yet, when we look internally, we give ourselves a lot of credit for just having “good intentions.”

An intention is more like a feeling. It’s a nagging internal thought about something you know you should follow through with. An intention is just the start of a vision. Before that vision can become a reality, you’ve got to put action behind the intent.

That action usually means something must change. Change can be scary, but it’s usually necessary to move forward. I recently heard a great thought dealing with change. “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevancy even more.”

You’ve got to set active goals and implement the strategies to get them done. There is power in doing something. When you put motion behind something it becomes real. It’s both a physical and mental cue that you are headed in a new direction.

But there’s a step in between as well. That’s commitment. Commitment means there are actual expectations in place. That commitment will move you to action. Better still if you add a voice to those commitments so that others can hold you accountable. Many people are afraid to verbalize their commitments, because if they fail to follow through, the confidence others have in you begins to fade. You lose credibility. That lack of follow through is where action once again becomes necessary. If you really want to change, you must put the action in place to show people who you really are.

In the end, each of us is judged based on our action. Whether that’s how we treat other people, or whether we follow through and finish projects at work. What you planned or thought you’d do is of no importance. No one is ever helped, or now project is finished, by your good intention.

Before you jump head first into action though, you need to make sure you check your intention. If intentions come from a motive of revenge or anger, you really need to think before you act. These may feel good for a moment, but they always backfire and make you look like a spiteful small person.

These lessons carry over into something more important than work. It carries over into our relationship with others.

What if you tell your child, you’ll be at their school program, yet the closer it gets you choose to take a lunch date with a colleague instead? What if you told them you’d go play outside “in a little bit” yet sit there all night watching tv? Your intention may have been to go see the play or go spend time with the child. Your actions speak volumes though. Your actions say they aren’t as important as something else.

What if you told your spouse or neighbor you’d help them with a project over the weekend, but spent all Saturday watching your team and eight more? Your intent was to help them out, but your action said it wasn’t important enough for you to give up tv time.

What it boils down and says to everyone else, is that you are more important than they are and your word isn’t worth much at all.

If we really want to make an impact in our lives and workplace, we need to realize what we do is way more important that what we intent to do. I want my actions to speak. And I want to be known as the person who keeps her promises.  We need to let intentions serve as a guide. To be effective leaders, you’ve got to learn how to follow through and put commitment and action into play to reach your goal and keep your promises.

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