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Empty Yesterdays and the Law of Diminishing Intent

Empty Yesterdays and the Law of Diminishing Intent
Chris Moriarity

“You pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays” ~ Harold Hill


In 1996, I saw a production of Meredith Wilson’s ‘The Music Man,’ and this quote seared into my psyche.


It would seem that human beings are hard-wired to seek collective kick-off dates to begin initiatives:


“Diet starts Monday”

“Next Month I’m going to…”

“I’m going to get some training…”

“Next time the patient comes in…”


What happened to today?

Why do we seem to be okay with deferring growth, progress and profits? We all know we need to have goals, and many goals are achieved, but without an acute event, we seem to remove the immediacy of the issue right out of the gates.


Jim Rohn coined this unfortunate phenomenon as the “Law of Diminishing Intent.” He found that we essentially have 48 hours to act on a new goal before it starts to wither and die. You know what I mean…remember that dream of playing center field for the Boston Red Sox? Yeah, that ship has sailed.


He goes further to explain that one of the best strategies to avoid this is to establish accountability. Tell people what you are going to do. This is easier said than done. At one time or another everyone has made cocktail-proclamations of all the great things to come. Why do goals always seem less achievable in the light of day? It’s simple: we don’t know how to break the dream down to daily executable and recordable bites and we almost never factor in the down-side of delay.

So, what should we do?

1. Create a gap-chart that visually maps out where you are and where you want to be.

Want to make more money? How much and by when? The how-much establishes your gap and the by-when creates your timeline. Now, create a road map and tape it to the bathroom mirror. If these goals only exist in your mind…they don’t really exist. They need to be codified and routinely reexamined.


2. Fail-harder.

Winners double-down on resolve and expect to stumble on the way. If you’re not struggling, you have a shitty goal. Nothing good ever came out of being comfortable. Get uncomfortable.


3. Invite people to call you out and ask about your progress.

However, here’s the kicker. Make sure you’re asking about their goals too. If they don’t have them, find new friends. People love to grow together, but social and business circles pull to lowest common denominator. This happens in your office daily. The rising tide should float all boats, and a keen eye needs to be looking for person always drilling more holes in the hull.


Always remember, the most important day in the history of the world is today, it’s the only one you are guaranteed.

You get 24 opportunities to get an hour better at something everyday. Dedicate just one and you’ll find your world is a better one.

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  • speck

    There is evidence of people who share their goals have an instant feeling one gets when you achieve something. You feel you did it and it can take away a great amount of motivation to get started again. I think of a drug addict who says he/she is done and is stopping, the group celebrates at the decision, tears and smiles all around. Everyone feels good. But as everyone leaves so does the addicts desire to stop. I believe it is better to discuss accomplishments not goals. “where have you been lately for a drink after work” Oh, I decided to get in shape and have been at the gym most nights and I am exhausted by the time I am done.