The Law of Diminishing Intent Explained

The Law of Diminishing Intent

The Law Of Diminishing Intent & How To Use It

The Law of Diminishing Intent sometimes referred to as ‘The Law of Diminishing Desire’ is a mental model which helps explain why people procrastinate.

“The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.”

The Law of Diminishing Intent

The quote explains a concept coined by Jim Rohn.

It is the driving force behind procrastination and lack of achievement in most people.

I was at the gym the other day and got into a conversation with the husband of a former colleague.

I had worked with his wife Sandy many years ago and was curious to see what she had been up to.

I asked what she was doing these days.

“She is still working at the department store, she has been there for 20 years and absolutely hates it!” He said.

“Why doesn’t she quit?”

“She keeps saying she will very soon and that she has had enough of it.” He explained in despair.

The sad reality is she will never quit.

Sandy might have moments of inspiration, moments of heightened intent,

But she will always go back to the depressing job.

Why does this happen?

We first need to look at intent.

What Is 'Intention' In The Law Of Diminishing Intent?

‘Intention’ is a hard word to define.

It can be seen as a penetrating energy.  

You often see kids doing karate trying to break boards.

Some struggle whilst others do it with ease.

The difference is not one of strength but of intention.

The kid who punches the board is hoping that by punching the board it will somehow break.

That kid is waiting for some external force to save him.

The board never breaks this way, and he is left with sore knuckles.

The kid who succeeds always thinks about punching through the board.

Her mind is fixed on the end outcome, and she uses her intention to achieve it.

Intention can be seen as the willingness to achieve an outcome.

This energy often doesn’t last long.

When you feel inspired to do something, you need to act quickly while the fire is hot.

If you don’t act, you create a subconscious identity which acts against your goal.

This subconscious identity, if allowed to flourish, will overpower any future sparks of intention you might have.

This is why Sandy could never quit her job.

The more she postponed the decision, the smaller her resolve became.

Each time she failed to quit, she helped empower the identity of someone who couldn’t quit.

Her subconscious mind believed,

If quitting was easy, you would have done it 20 years ago.

This is the inner battle to which most people succumb due to the Law of Diminishing Intent.

They begin to think the task is harder than it actually is.

How To Break The Law of Diminishing Desire

3. Daily Action

The key to success is to take action straight away.

As soon as you feel inspired to do something, work on it that day.

Even if the work is only for 1 minute.

The duration is not as important as consistency.

We have all seen New Year Resolutioners hitting the gym on the 8th of January.

Come the 8th of March and they are nowhere to be seen.

The New Year creates ample motivation and intention for most people.

But that energy needs to be transmuted into action as soon as possible.

Most people don’t go to the gym on New Year’s Day.

If you go on New Year’s Day, you will likely have a better chance of sticking to your goal the whole year.

The game of success is all about convincing your subconscious mind that you are the person you claim to be.

First, you will need to be vigilant and consciously work on the goal every day.

“Any resolution or decision you make today has to be made again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next…”

— Albert Gray

2. Use Ulysses Contracts

In Homer’s epic poem ‘The Odyssey’, Odysseus aka Ulysses had to sail across a sea riddled with sirens.

Odysseus being a smart lad, told his crew to tie him to the ship and put wax in his ears.


When they finally reached the sirens, he couldn’t hear their siren song.

He conquered the task and didn’t jump into the sea like other men who tried crossing the region.

This is the origin of the term ‘Ulysses Contract’ – an action you take beforehand to secure victory.

When you decide on an action put some Skin in the Game.

Post your before picture on social media.

Tell everyone you are starting that new business.

Naval Ravikant, a successful entrepreneur, explains how this method forced him to start in the world of business.

“I told everybody around me—my boss, coworkers, my friends, ‘In Silicon Valley, all of these other people are starting companies. It looks like they can do it. I’m going to start a company. I’m just here temporarily. I’m an entrepreneur.” “…I didn’t actually mean to trick myself into it. It wasn’t a deliberate, calculated thing.” “I was just venting, talking out loud, being overly honest. But I didn’t actually start a company. This was in 1996, it was a much scarier, more difficult proposition to start a company then. Sure enough, everyone started saying ‘What are you still doing here? I thought you were leaving to start a company?’ and ‘Wow, you’re still here…’ I was literally embarrassed into starting my own company.”

Social pressure is a great way to ensure you take action.

Start scheduling things

Whenever you hear yourself saying things like

“I will do that tomorrow”,

Choose to do it today unless it’s physically impossible.

Failure to do this is what allows Parkinson’s law to take effect. 

If you really can’t do the thing today, get in the habit of scheduling using calendars and other reminders.

The mind is good for thinking, but it’s not a hard drive.

Leaving it as a thought is the easiest way to allow The Law of Diminishing Intent to run its course.

This consistency and resolve will help build good habits.

Habits create identity-level shifts which become permanent.

No more need for motivation.

Do this and you will be one step closer to living and dying well.

By Isaac

I help people live and die well.