Intention and Self-regulation, notably studied by Gollwitzer first in 1993, proves that setting an intention about how you will reach a certain goal can double or even triple your chances of reaching it. In order to this, the “Implementation Intention” is utilised and follows this set wording: “If (such and such occurs) then (I will take the following steps)…”. Putting your intention in to this set “if – then” formula leads to an objective more likely being achieved than when motivation and desire alone are relied upon. For example, we may be highly motivated to get rid of our bad habits or alter a certain behavioural pattern but it is still difficult to initiate these changes or indeed to maintain them.
Setting a precise intention – or “plan” – greatly increases the likelihood that you will act upon your motivations because then they are connected to something precise such as a future date, situation, happening, etc., which makes them more solid and supplies future triggers. The intention you have set is registered in your brain and can therefore be carried out with the least amount of conscious reflection. You already have the mental representation of your future actions available to you which makes it much easier to actually carry them out. This type of Implementation Intention is particularly effective when used for long-term goals that can be difficult to get started on (such as losing weight, eating healthier, passing exams, doing regular exercise, keeping the house tidier, etc.).
Several scientific experiments have proven the success of this Intention and Self-regulation strategy. One of these, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, studied the frequency with which three groups of participants (chosen at random with no criteria for initial physical health) exercised over a period of two weeks. Each group was given different instructions before starting: group 1 (witness group) was given a random text to read (not to do with sporting activity at all) and then told to keep track of any exercise they did over the 2 week period; group 2 (motivation group) was given a text on the benefits of sport and the dangers of not exercising regularly and then also asked to keep track of their exercise levels the same as group 1; group 3 (intention group) was not only given the same text as group 2 to read but was also asked to say out loud how often they intended to exercise over the following 2 weeks. The results showed that 91% of group 3 (the intention group) exercised at least once each week, in contrast to 35% of group 2 and 38% of group 1. This clearly shows that being motivated is no greater help than having no motivation at all in fact, and only setting a solid intention will give you an advantage for successfully carrying out an objective.
This principle has numerous professional applications, whether to help your business reach certain goals or indeed to encourage customers to act (or react) in a certain way. For example, to encourage people to use and continue to sign up for a gym membership, it would be more effective to provide them with clear goals and intentions – for example, a list of monthly weight-loss goals or exercise regimes for them to follow each week. This will keep a clear intention in mind and be more likely to turn motivation in to action and achievement.