Implementation Intention: Simple Brain Trick to Get Success in Life

Reading Time: 7 minutes



How often do you accomplish your goals?

You start with so much of enthusiasm, make plan to execute it, declare it to your nearer and dearer,  even you start working on it and all of sudden after few days you lose the focus. It happens with most of the people. Does it happen with you too?

You wonder how few people around you are continuously following up their dreams. They set target and get success too. You simply watch them getting success after success.

Then you feel that you lack motivation somewhere and that’s why you are unable to follow it through. Are you going through all this every now and often in your life?

Suggested articleThe only way to transform your ordinary life to extra-ordinary

It may sound weird asking it here but have you ever thought why shopping festivals are so much successful everywhere in the world?

May it be Amazon Big Billion Sale or Black Friday Sale or Thanksgiving Day. Even there are country specific festival sale like Dubai shopping festivals happening every year. All these shopping fests are too successful. What should be the reason according to you?

Aren’t these shopping malls remaining open throughout the year? To your surprise people even get more discounts occasionally some other time if compared to these shopping festivals. Yet, every year people give huge response to these specific sale occasions making it a grand success. Why?

There is simple psychological trick these marketers use wisely to make those shopping festivals a grand success. It is known as Implementation Intentions.

It goes something like this. When you know “WHAT” , “WHEN” and “HOW” part of anything that you want to DO, then YOU WILL DO IT most of the times.

Let us take the example of shopping festival again. You know when it is going to be live (TIME), you know where exactly you are going to buy it (PLACE or WEBSITE). This automatically triggers your buying intention and your purchase happens as a follow up action to this. All the marketers are smart to set your implementation intentions with massive publicity of these festivals in such a way that you visit and buy the items without fail.

Now the question is can you use this trick to make your every goal setting a success? Of course, you can. Before that, let us understand what does Implementation Intention really mean?

Implementation Intention – A simple strategy for Goal accomplishment

An article was published in the British Journal of Psychology in the year 2002. The scientist involved in the research selected 248 people and divided them into 3 groups. The task was to track how often they follow exercise regime.

Group 1 – being control was left simply to track the task.

Group 2 – was “motivation” group. They were not simply asked to track the task but read some material on health benefit of exercise. Researcher also explained the group how regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart attack and other diseases. It was to motivate them to follow exercise regularly.

Group 3 – “intention” group. This group also received the same material on the benefit of exercise as like the “motivation” group to ensure that they get the same level of motivation. In addition, this group was told to prepare a plan of when and where they are going to exercise in the following weeks. Each member of this group prepared a statement “In upcoming weeks, I am going to do at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on (DAY) at (TIME) in (PLACE).

After, initial instructions all the groups were left for their respective homes.

Surprising Results – Motivations Vs Implementation Intentions

From Group 1 and Group 2, only 35% and 38% members did the exercise regularly. Note here that Group 2 had received the motivational presentation on health benefit of exercise; in spite of that, there was no impact of this information on their behavior.  But, 91% of the members from Group 3 exercised at least once in a week. This was more than the double of the Group 1 (control) or even Group 2.

Simply by writing down a plan mentioning when and where they intended to do exercise and at what time in a day, members from Group 3 were succeeded to follow through goal.



In the conclusion, researchers mentioned it very clearly, “motivation… had no significant effects on exercise behavior of the participants.” You can read more in article here.

Now compare this study with people around you. Often people talk about bringing change in their behavior to achieve something in life. They set goals or targets. They find motivation to do it. Words like motivation, willpower or desire are used often in their discussions to give the initial heat. But what happens at the end? This applied to New Year Resolutions too. Agreed?

Many people think they need motivation to keep going. But, in reality they do not lack motivation. What they lack is clarity of doing things at the first place. This in turn impairs their ability to follow through the goal.

Why motivation doesn’t work for you every time?

Let us understand how our mind works before we decide on any goal. Before you set any goal you run through two psychological phases. Take an example of weight loss. Assume that you want to reduce your weight and you are setting it as a goal.

Phase 1 “I must reduce weight.” OR “I must do something of my weight.” OR “I want to reduce my weight.”  It only goes vague. You are very much aware that your weight is increasing and you need to do something about it. But, you keep wishing and do not set any goal. You keep playing around that idea.

This phase is really hard to break. You are held back by procrastination. The reason is that your brain is not ready to accept the idea of taking pain to reduce the weight. It has roots in that era when your ancestors were living in the jungle and your brain has just started evolving.

Your brain has evolved in the era of food scarcity

Your brain has been evolved in the time of full scarcity of food. By that time you brain was smart enough to know that doing any activity needs energy. More energy means more food. More food means more hunting. It means more running behind the animals, fighting with animals and all that what it takes to hunt the animal.

Evolution played its role and your brain decided to reduce the requirement of energy and learnt to stay energy efficient. Now, your brain tries to do everything with least energy. If not possible, it then bypasses such activity that takes more energy and in turn chose some other activity that requires less energy. Your brain knows well the difference between COGNITIVE EASE and COGNITIVE STRAINand always chose cognitive ease.

That’s the reason;

You prefer to check mails or social media pop-ups more than actually working in the office. Because checking social sites is less energy consuming than the office work.

Also, you prefer to watch TV more than concentrating on studies or reading a book. The reason is same again.

Moreover, you prefer to read news paper instead of making To Do list as a first thing in the morning.

Even, you prefer to hang out with friends more than completing your study project.

Your brain wants to save energy

This is why you keep wishing for reducing your weight but do not start actually working for it because your brain doesn’t like wasting energy. It in facts wants to store it, more and more.

Phase 2 Now assume that you are successful somehow to come out of the Phase 1. You convinced your brain and took task in hand. You want to reduce your weight. How will you set your goal then?

Goal – I am going to reduce my weight by 10 Kgs in 3 months. With some plus or minus in the weight to be reduced or timeline to follow, you set the goal somewhat similar to this, right?

Goal Setting

Setting goal in a vague way puts create stress for brain as it can’t figure out how to do it. If your brains lacks clarity on how to take it forward, then you again go into the phase 1. You remain there hanging out for weeks or months or even for years.

Simple technique that help you achieve your every goal

When you know that implementation intentions are effective and also how your own brain tricks you, set your goal in such a way that your goal sees the day of light in the form of small daily actions. Write down a clear cut plan HOW you are going to do WHAT and WHEN. It is important that this plan is broken down to daily activities. Always remember the principle of Implementation intention before setting any goal. The more you know about “WHAT”, “WHEN” and “HOW”, the better you perform.

Set the goal right way

  • Break down your goal to small daily actions.
  • Instead of setting “I am going to reduce my weight by 15 kg in 3 months, you set goal as “I will do 20 minutes exercise every Monday and Thursday before bath.
  • Now your brain knows about exercising twice a week. It has no stress of reducing your weight.
  • Ultimately your brain perceives this as a small activity to follow.
  • Since, your brain knows what (20 min exercise) to do, when (before bath every Monday & Thursday) to do it.
  • It triggers your implementation intention and you are able to follow it up through.

Goal setting

Share this article TWO of your close friends who are working hard to remain successful in life. They deserve to read this article.

Keep reading to live better.


Reading Next Book For You.

X. I read about how brain plays trick to choose only such activity that takes less energy and avoids energy consuming activities. Illustrated by David Rock in the book Your Brain at Work.


The only way to transform your ordinary life to extra-ordinary

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.