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Five Tips for Moving From Intention to Action

Carol Walton profile image

Carol Walton

Hands hold small scoopfuls of earth.

The intention and motivation to make a change can come from a variety of places. We may see something that needs to be changed and be moved to do something about it. Or we may simply find intention from a gut feeling that moves us to ask, “What can I do?” or “How can I help?” 

While we’re often moved to act with immediacy, obstacles may arise over time that impede our effort to move from intention into action. Fear, procrastination, or questioning where to begin are some challenges that hinder our progress toward achieving our goal. 

So how can we begin to move from our good intentions to tangible action? Below are some tips to start your process:

Set your goal 

What do I want to achieve? What do I want to do in my community? With so many things going on, it’s hard to work on everything all at once. Set your mind on one goal and think about the change you’d like to see, focusing on one immediate action that will start you on your path. It’s helpful to write down the goal and determine how you will complete it by using the SMART acronym: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Creating a SMART goal will allow you to see the specific steps required to move forward. Some questions to consider include:

  • Specific: What is the definite action that I want to take? Do I want to invite people to join me in achieving this goal? What materials or resources will I need?
  • Measurable: How will I know that I am making progress with my goal?
  • Achievable: How can I accomplish my goal? Are there any limitations to consider?
  • Relevant: Is this something that I’m really passionate about? What impact am I hoping to make for the community at large?
  • Time-Bound: How much time will I commit to achieving this goal?

Here’s an example of a SMART goal:

I will enlist the help of five people to join me in getting signatures supporting a neighborhood composting program by September.

Set a specific time frame 

Understanding that taking action may require time and consistency can help you set up a time to achieve a set goal. As stated above, you want to make sure that the action you decide to take is within a reasonable time frame. For instance, if you decide to make a change by volunteering for an organization, think about how much time you can dedicate to volunteering before you make a commitment. Or, if you’re planning on organizing a local park cleanup, think about when you’d like to hold the event. Is this something you want to do monthly? Or is it a one-time project? Setting a time frame will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Invite others to join you 

Share your idea for action and extend an invitation to friends to join you in your effort. Enlisting the help of others can keep you accountable to your goal and also help spread further inspiration to others for inciting change.

You can start a group with people who are just as passionate as you are about the action you’ve decided to take. When you form a group, plan to meet informally with members to discuss the goal and invite some feedback. Keep your get-togethers lively by starting your meeting with a fun activity that helps newcomers get to know the group. Make sure to have an agenda with discussion items you’d like to address and encourage members to chime in to get their insights. You may need to meet a few times after the initial gathering, so decide as a group how often to meet and see if others would like an opportunity to facilitate the future get-togethers. Finally, group members should decide which tasks they will take to ensure that everyone can contribute.

Take action 

After the initial planning and getting people on board with you (or even deciding to go solo), the next step is to take action. To ensure follow through, take an initial smaller step in the process before diving into all of the details. It’s can be helpful to have an accountability partner who will help keep you to your word. Self-reflection will also be very beneficial in this process. Ask yourself, “How will I feel if I don’t commit to this needed action?” or “What will be the benefits of seeing the results at the end?”

If other individuals are joining you, or you’ve decided to form a group, be sure to have check-ins throughout the process to ensure that everyone is still on the same page and that you all are supporting each other. Be flexible with everyone’s schedules and any other missteps that may occur or challenges that may arise. As things come up, decide together what possible changes may be needed to ensure that results are met.

Lastly, remember that whether you’ve decided to volunteer, donate needed items for a cause, organize a local community initiative, or even help a neighbor with a kind gesture, your act is an excellent contribution to the world at large. Take it in because you’re helping to make a difference.


Once you’ve taken the first step, it’s time to celebrate with your community. 

These are a few tips for moving from intention to action. Do you have other insightful advice to share with the Idealist community? We’d love to hear from you! Share your suggestions and comments with us at


Check out inspiring stories of people who have moved from intention to action like this and others in our Ideas for Action blog.

Carol Walton profile image

Carol Walton

As Program Manager of the Idealist Action Incubator, Carol offers guidance and support to our community of action-takers.