Implementation Intentions: A Powerful Formula for Success

“All the greats studied their intentions.”
“Intentions, not actions, make all the difference in your life!”
Here’s how to set intention-driven goals that get you where you want to be.

Implementation Intentions is a powerful formula for success. Implementation intentions are the things you want to do in your life. They help us keep our goals on track. Implementation intention examples include “I am going to exercise” and “I will be more patient”. Read more in detail here: implementation intention examples.

A man writing math equations on the blackboard.

If you’re like many other guys throughout the globe, you most likely set some new objectives for yourself on January 1st. Maybe it was to get into the habit of working out or reading on a regular basis. Perhaps you wanted to get out of debt or boost your productivity.

Maybe you did alright for the first week or two, but then you fell off the goal-setting wagon. But, oh well. Isn’t there always next year?

Keep your cool, chief. There’s no reason to lament the wonderful life that might have been. There’s still a chance for you.

To round out this month of inspiration, I set out to write a detailed piece about how to improve your odds of achieving a goal.

But when I dug more into the study, I discovered that 1) summarizing all of the material would take more than a blog post, and 2) many of the methodologies didn’t strike me as very useful.

Instead, I chose to focus on the one strategy that was new to me, piqued my interest, and, most importantly, has been shown to increase your odds of successfully adopting a new habit or achieving a goal.

This technique is known as “implementation intention,” and it’s a simple and efficient strategy to train your brain to achieve your goals.

What prevents us from setting and achieving our objectives?

According to research, the path to unmet objectives is paved with good intentions. By the end of April, half of those who made New Year’s resolutions had broken them. Only half of individuals (and this figure is likely overblown) follow through on their good intentions, whether they made them in January or at any other time. Surprisingly, this is the same proportion of the time that the typical person can resist the four hours of undesirable urges that they encounter each day. Isn’t that a little demotivating? Fifty percent is a “F” in school.

So, what leads us to falter on our way to our objectives? Psychologist Peter Gollwitzer categorizes the most prevalent roadblocks as follows:

Failing to Get Started on a Goal-Setting Project

People can fail before they even start because they are unable to:

It’s important to remember to act. People “forget” about their objectives, which may seem absurd, but how frequently does this happen in our lives? We set a goal to begin reading 30 minutes before bedtime, but that night we get caught up in the internet, lose track of time, and not only don’t finish reading 30 minutes before bedtime, but also fall asleep an hour after we meant to turn out the light.

Taking action at the right time. An chance to follow through on our goals presents itself, and either we fail to identify it or we see it but don’t know how to seize it. On a Saturday afternoon, your wife takes the kids to meet her sister, leaving you alone at home. It’s the ideal moment to complete the dining room table you’ve been working on, but you instead choose to watch a game.


At a key juncture, second thoughts emerge. “The difficulty of overcoming early hesitation,” Gollwitzer calls it. You recognize the best time to achieve your objective is now, and you know what you should do, but at this vital juncture, you’re having trouble selecting long-term gains above now delight. Let’s imagine you’ve made it a mission to take the physical part of your relationships with the women you date gradually, but you’re on the sofa kissing your new woman friend, and she smells so nice…

Getting Sidetracked While Trying to Achieve Your Goals

Even if you succeed in getting started on your objectives, it’s unusual that you’ll be able to accomplish them with just one decision. Instead, you must stay focused on your objective and not allow these setbacks disrupt your efforts:

Stimuli that entice. It was simple to make reading a goal in the nineteenth century–what else could you do for entertainment? We now have a plethora of options to choose from. It seems that studying every night is a wonderful idea…but there are so many cat videos to watch!

Behavioral reactions are being suppressed. “Old habits die hard,” is a sophisticated way of stating.

Negative emotions. Depression, worry, anxiousness, and ego depletion all drain your drive to carry out your good intentions. Simply anticipating a bad mood has the same effect–which explains why you’ve been thinking about getting a physical for the last five years but have yet to make the appointment.

The Solution: Intentions for Implementation

So those stumbling blocks are definitely working against you. However, there is a technique to fight back: by forming an implementation intention (“II”), you may prime your brain for success.

An II is just a strategy for linking a situational signal with a reaction that will help you get closer to your objective. All you have to do is rephrase your objectives into “if-then” sentences. The situational cue is the “if,” and your planned reaction to that cue is the “then.”

As a result, your objective of “working out more” becomes “I will leave for the gym at 7 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.”

“I want to plan on a regular basis” becomes “If it’s 9 p.m. on Sunday night, I’ll prepare my weekly schedule.”

“This year, I hope to save $2,000,” becomes “When I am paid, I will put 10% into my savings account.”

“I want to cut down on my caffeine intake” becomes “When I experience a coffee urge, I’ll drink a glass of water.”

“I want to be more patient,” becomes “If I start to get furious, I’ll take three deep breaths.”

“There’s no way anything so easy can truly work,” you’re presumably thinking. However, almost a hundred studies and a decade of study have revealed that implementation intentions are not only very successful, but they may actually quadruple a person’s chances of attaining their objectives.


Two sets of students were invited to submit essays during the Christmas break describing how they spent Christmas Eve in one such experiment. The essay was due 48 hours after the 24th of December. Researchers provided one set of students a questionnaire asking them to describe where and when they intended to write the essay throughout the 48-hour timeframe. They were inadvertently asking these kids to construct an implementation goal (“If it’s December 26 at 3 p.m., I’ll be writing my essay in the library”).

The other group was not asked to mention when or where their essays will be written. They didn’t make any plans for implementation.

What’s the end result? Only 32% of students who did not develop an implementation goal completed the activity on time, whereas 71% of students who did construct an implementation intention completed the job on time. In other words, constructing an II increased the pupils’ odds of accomplishing their objective by a factor of two.

How to Create a Powerful Implementation Intention

Make sure your objectives are specific and well-defined. You can’t be motivated by implementation intentions if your objectives are imprecise or arise from “shoulding on oneself.” Your objectives must be specific objectives that you really want to achieve.

Determine your own roadblocks to achieving and maintaining your objectives. Is it possible that you forget about the aim throughout the day? Is it possible that you’re having second thoughts at the crucial time when you need to act?

It’s now time to create an implementation intention that will help you overcome your challenges and keep moving forward toward your goal:

Make the “If” statement. This is the situational signal that will either offer you with an opportunity or a temptation that you should avoid. “The occasion or crucial condition stated in the if-part of the plan may be either an internal (e.g., a strong sensation) or an external (e.g., a specific location, object, person, or moment in time),” according to Gollwitzer.

“If I’m envious of my pal…”

“If a lovely lady catches my attention…”

Then, make the “Then.” When the “If” cue appears, you will begin this answer. The reaction is intended to keep you on course toward your objective, and it may include thinking, doing, or ignoring certain things.

“If I’m envious of my buddy, I’ll think of one item in my own life for which I’m glad.”

“If a beautiful lady catches my attention, I’ll approach her and attempt to strike up a conversation.”

You may construct numerous IIs if more than one barrier is preventing you from achieving your objective, as long as they’re all credible and don’t contradict with one another.

As far as possible, make your “if-then” statements precise. Vague “if-then” clauses allow for contemplation, increasing the likelihood that you’ll make a judgment that jeopardizes your objectives. “If it’s 6:00 a.m. Monday-Friday, I’ll get out of bed,” rather than “If it’s 6:00 a.m. Monday-Friday, I’ll get out of bed.”


Make a list of your IIs and go through them every day. It’s best to remember them as soon as possible.

Why Do Implementation Goals Work?

Why is it that something as easy as constructing “if-then” statements is so effective in assisting individuals in achieving their objectives? There are many causes for this:

Choices are no longer available. As previously said, conflicting options often operate as roadblocks to achieving our objectives. Implementation intentions effectively eliminate these options by providing you with a precise plan of action for typical decisions.

Increases awareness of challenges and possibilities. Making your IIs pushes you to think about and prepare for the crucial scenarios that may arise along the way to your objective, as well as how you will handle them. This practice helps you become more aware of the hazards and opportunities that appear every day, and it also helps you recognize when you need to take action.

Responds automatically. If you’ve already chosen what you’ll do when a given circumstance happens, you won’t forget or lose the chance to act, you won’t have to spend time debating your course of action, and you’ll be less tempted to pick short-term gains over long-term benefits in the heat of the moment. Essentially, your response will become almost automatic. And, as we discovered last week, automating your choices may help you save time and money.

Willpower is conserved. We avoid the self-control-fatiguing debate process by “outsourcing” our choices to our implementation intentions, which conserves our valuable willpower–the fuel that helps us accomplish our objectives.

Are your implementation plans foolproof? Obviously not. Even the most well-thought-out II’s are fully capable of being overridden by our minds. They are, nevertheless, a fantastic instrument for tilting the balances in our favor.

What aim are you going to put into a plan of action? Have you worked with implementation intentions before? Let us know in the comments!



Implementation Intentions is a powerful formula for success. It’s based on the idea that you can make small, incremental changes in your life and be successful by doing so. Implementation intentions are like atomic habits: they’re easy to do and easy to maintain. Reference: implementation intention atomic habits.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the formula of implementation intention?

A: The formula of implementation intention is as follows:
Intention + Motivation = Implementation
For example, someone who wants to lose weight would have the intention to diet and their motivation would be due to them being overweight. This equation can also mean that if you want something implemented into your life, then you need an intent for it first.

What is an example of implementation intention?

A: An implementation intention is an explicit statement about how a given action will be executed. For example, you might say I am going to hit the ball with my bat or If I eat this piece of cake, then I will gain ten pounds.

Do implementation intentions work?

A: The implementation intentions work but they have to be a certain level of intentionality. For example, if you were trying out two different outfits for your character in the game before deciding what one you liked better, then that would qualify as an implementation intention and it may give some interesting options

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