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Mind the Gap: The disturbing reason we fall short

We fall short so often because of a simple principle. The intention-behaviour gap. In short, announcing our plans to others dooms our plans to failure.

Doesn't that seem a little bit odd? That announcing our plans makes us accountable to make those plans. No. In fact, the opposite happens. When we announce our plans, a lot of people praise us for the plan, and for the initial bit of progress. This already is a social reward for announcing a plan, but nothing of value has been produced yet. Even when we produce something of value and get praise for the little work we do, the Pareto Principle comes in as 20% of the work, yields 80% of the rewards- or at least generally... that last 20% of the rewards is invisible with the 80% of effort required to achieve it...

And so our plans grind to a halt. Accountability fades as those who would make us accountable forget our plans. This Pareto Principle, alongside the intention-behaviour gap is what makes accomplishing great things so difficult. It's a seemingly invisible force that propels lonely, private and introverted people towards great works- and what pulls braggart, public and extroverted people like an anchor to the water grave of their plans.

And as for the topic of accountability, is it even the case that others want to keep you accountable? In China, there is the notion of "The nail that sticks out the furthest, gets hit first". In Britain, there is "Poppy Syndrome", the tallest poppy is cut first. In other contexts it's called the "Crab Bucket". As one tries to achieve good or great things, jealousy, bitterness and resent pushes people into pulling them back down into their own miserable depths. Why would these people keep you accountable? And further on that, is it truly fair to put the responsibility of your action, your success and your will on another person? It is a great weight of demanding all the rewards, and none of the responsibilities that pushes people to have others keep them accountable.

So then, what can we do to topple the intention-behaviour gap? First and foremost, accepting responsibility for your actions and when you announce your works. You cannot see the rewards without the responsibility to your work. Secondly, understanding the Pareto Principle, and knowing the largest mountain is invisible to many, obscured in the horizon by the clouds of the heights. If you understand this, you'll understand you should announce your intentions, after the actions needed for those intentions are mostly or all complete. You get to eat your cake, the social recognition building towards the accomplishment, and keep it, the accomplishment itself. Thirdly, a deliberate approach to keeping your actions private, aimed, well-described intentions that are your intentions and yours alone.

Nietzsche states in Thus Spoke Zarathustra "If you have a virtue and it is your virtue, you have it in common with no one. To be sure, you want to call it by a name and caress it; you want to pull its ears and amuse yourself with it. And behold! Now you have its name in common with the people and have become of the people and the herd with your virtue!". Truly, if accomplishing your unknown intentions, is something good... something virtuous to you, then why then do you want to give it up and stain it? It is a rare gift, creativity and accomplishment, and it is a common crime to sell it off to the public.

More strictly, this intention-behaviour gap has the name of the value-action gap. That your values do not align with your actions. It is not hard to see this in the vast majority of people, even you dear viewer. Humans are hypocritical creatures- they clamour for freedom of speech, yet push for censorship and controlled speech. They clamour for the rights of criminals, yet ignore the privacy and violations against victims. They clamour for environmentally green policies to be pushed for, yet turn a blind eye to how China is the major dominating factor in pollution. This gap, can even be seen in the inconsistencies between people and who they criticise- to the point it is a projection of their insecurities, and a projection of their own Jungian shadow. The value-action gap is in a sense, the tangible results of a person who has not integrated their shadow- and a great many demons of their childhood pull at their emotional puppet strings.

Published on 2023/11/22

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