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It’s Not What We Are Going to Do That Matters

I know someone who is constantly in trouble because she means to do something, but then she doesn’t get around to actually doing it.

10-07 Thinking vs. Doing

Sunny Idea, But Then… Nothing

People get upset with her. But she believes there’s no problem, because she is so optimistic that she’ll follow through.

You might know someone like this. It’s not that hard to do this, especially for little things. Obviously, intentions are not the same as actions.

  • Seeing myself walking to the end of the block is not the same as taking the necessary steps.
  • Imagining a project as complete is not the same as doing the work to finish it.
  • Intending to pay a bill is not the same as sending in a payment.

In fact, when we dwell on the great things we’re going to do, if we’re not careful, research shows that those happy fantasies will derail us from actually getting things done.

I found this quote a few years ago and wrote it on my whiteboard (it’s still there):

You can’t build a reputation on the things you are going to do.

James J. Hill (1838-1916)
Great Northern Railway

A similar quote is often attributed to Henry Ford: “You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do.” No matter who said it first, what a helpful thing to keep in mind. It’s a softer message than “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” but still, it strongly reminds us not to confuse thinking about doing a thing with actually doing it. (You know, get busy!)

It’s not that difficult to believe so much in our vision of the future that we almost think we’ve accomplished things already.

  • Visions are good, but… it turns out that we also have to imagine the steps to getting there, too.
  • And, we have to avoid accidentally getting stuck—prematurely basking in the glory of some as-yet-unrealized future vision.

As Michael Hyatt suggests: “Plan. Execute. Rinse and repeat.”


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