What’s the Difference Between Intention and Commitment?

Intention. Commitment. Two words that appear to have similar meanings, but the difference between them is miles apart.

Let me explain.

Back in the days when my family was young, and I was still in my 30s, I would go out and run early in the mornings before work. At various times I got the distance up to several miles. But we were living in upstate New York–where the snowfalls are legendary–and it was difficult to sustain any kind of longer-term running program through the winter months.

“One day”, I said to myself, “someday before I turn 50, I’m going to run a marathon!”

As the years went on, and the children grew older, the challenges of life and career got bigger. There never seemed to be enough time. Day-to-day “to-do” lists grew longer. The years started to fly by. Before I knew it, I had passed 50, and then 55, but my focus was on the economy, tuition costs, starting a new business…. everything except running.

Then last year I turned 60. And that promise I had made to myself nearly 30 years earlier started to haunt me. For one thing, I looked at the sands in the hourglass, and there was a lot less there than there used to be! The window of opportunity for achieving my goal was definitely getting smaller. But more importantly, I realized more and more that my integrity was on the line. A trustworthy person is one who keeps his or her word. And if I couldn’t trust myself to do something I’d always promised myself I would do, then how could anyone else trust me? And what kind of legacy would I be leaving behind for my children?

I had a long-standing interest in running a marathon. My intention was strong, but my commitment was lacking. How long would I have to train for a marathon? Did I have the time for it? I’d run some half-marathons, but could I really finish the full 26 miles? What if I failed? I’d started other things over the years, but came up short. What would folks say this time?

Time to stop the negative self-talk, stop the doubt, end the procrastination, and make a reality of this one thing in my life that I’d always been dreaming about. Time to move forward, past the point of intention, and make a commitment.

I decided right then and there it was time to make a change. I went online and registered to run the Richmond Marathon.

Making that decision took less than two minutes. And aside from pushing through the last 4 or 5 miles of the actual event–(which really WERE hard!)–that simple decision to make a commitment to accomplish my goal was the hardest thing I did over the next 4 months. I trained long hours, but learned to enjoy the process. Listening to great stuff by John Maxwell, Darren Hardy, and other success mentors on my ipod made the time go by quickly. And I kept envisioning the outcome, the end result. I had great support from my family that helped make it all a reality. My wife, daughters, in-laws, and nieces all traveled to Richmond that weekend to help me celebrate at the finish line. One son-in-law even  jumped in and ran the last 7 miles with me, just to encourage and cheer me on. There was a great sense of fulfillment in finally realizing my goal, and the joy having loved-ones there to cheer at the finish line is something I’ll never forget as long as I live.

But none of it would ever have happened unless I made the commitment to get it done. The difference between a good intention and a solid commitment, in my case, was 26.2 miles.

What could you achieve in 2015 if you actually made the commitment to do it?