Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Motivation vs Intention

Written by: on October 17, 2018

The biggest takeaway from reading, Learn How to Study by Rowntree is the effectiveness of planning out your study time. It has been said in leadership teachings to focus on your strengths and not your weakness.[1] While this is a famous saying and motivates people to do their best while not worrying about their weakness, empirical evidence does not support the benefits of this popular notion.[2] Taking a cue from Rowntree the more effective path to take would be to plan for your weaknesses rather than ignore them.

For me, this plays out in the area of writing. For years I have always declared that I am not a good writer. It is an area I deem as a weakness and try to avoid at all cost. The ultimate statement I continually confessed being, “I will never write a book,” was the result of this weakness I perceived in writing. Through the journey of a master’s program and now this doctoral one I am gaining more confidence in this area but still see it as a weakness compared to others. One of the reasons for the growth is precisely what Rowntree preaches which is planning. For Rowntree reflective processing is a key to maximizing learning. This is highlighted in his seven-phase process of learning via essays. They are (1) analyzing, (2) researching, (3) deciding, (4) planning, (5) writing, (6) critiquing and, (7) learning from feedback.[3] Notice that writing is number five out of seven, not number one. The lesson that I have learned over the last three years is to plan out my writing so that the lack of confidence is built up through a process instead of being overcome by the weakness. Rowntree’s perspective now gives those of us who struggle with writing a framework through reflective processing.

The application for leaders is the age-old saying, “if you fail to plan then plan to fail”. In the Pentecostal/Charismatic streams that I move in, “planning” is often seen as the antithesis of the Holy Spirit. The underlying thought process is one that sees the Holy Spirit as spontaneous and therefore any “planning” will hinder the Spirit. On the one hand, I do think some churches “process” every aspect of the church service down to the minute, in order to control the flow of a service. On the other hand, we can dismiss the belief that planning is anti-Holy Spirit with even a cursory look at scripture. One only has to look at Genesis the first chapter to see that God plans out the creation. If you look at Acts 2, the day of Pentecost, at first it may seem like a spontaneous act until you read and understand the context in which the Holy Spirit comes. In Acts 1 it says, “Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”[4] I reference this portion of scripture to point out the fact that the disciples were not in a random place at a random time hoping for the Holy Spirit to show up in Acts 2, but they were commanded to be there and wait. It was a planned place for a planned encounter to happen. What may have come as spontaneous to them, was not to God. Practical I think this plays out in the understanding of motivation vs. intention.

In a research study conducted in Great Britain, people were split into three separate groups with the goal of determining what makes people stick to their goals.[5] Using exercise as the goal, group one was the control group and were asked to track how often they exercised. Group two was known as the motivation group. They were asked to read material on the benefits of exercise along with being tasked to track how often they exercised. The final group was given the same presentation as group two plus they were asked to make a plan for when and where they would work out. Each person in the third group was specifically asked to complete this statement: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].” The results showed that in the first two groups, 35 to 38 percent of participants exercised at least once per week, while in the third group 91 percent of the participants exercised at least once per week.[6] Motivation, in this case, did not add to the habit of exercising, but intention (planning) did.



In many Pentecostal/Charismatic churches, we seemed to be motivated by the right outcome (as in not wanting to get in the way of the Holy Spirit), but motivation alone does not add much. Being intentional both through prayer and via planning times for the expectation of the Spirit might do more for our churches than just wishing something will happen. Intentionality does not take away from the Spirit but anticipates a move of the Spirit. Planning, therefore, can be a help and not a hindrance if viewed in the right perspective.



[1] For one such example see: “Forget About Working On Your Weakness, Play To Your Strengths: Your (Overwhelming) Reaction To The Idea,” Paul B. Brown, Forbes, accessed October 16, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/actiontrumpseverything/2013/07/10/forget-about-working-on-your-weakness-play-to-your-strengths-your-overwhelming-reaction/#52d029587765.

[2] “Stop Focusing on Your Strengths,” Harvard Business Review, accessed October 16, 2018. https://hbr.org/ideacast/2016/01/stop-focusing-on-your-strengths.html.

[3] Derek Rowntree, Learn How to Study: a Realistic Approach (London: Time Warner, 2002), Location 4722, Kindle Edition. ­

[4] Acts 1:4-5 (NLT).

[5] Sarah Milne, Sheina Orbell, and Paschal Sheeran, “Combining Motivational and Volitional Interventions to Promote Exercise Participation: Protection Motivation Theory and Implementation Intentions,” British Journal of Health Psychology 7 (May 2002): 163–184.

[6] For a more in depth analysis visit: James Clear, “Achieve Your Goals: The Simple Trick That Doubles Your Odds of Success,” accessed October 16, 2018. https://jamesclear.com/implementation-intentions.


About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

12 responses to “Motivation vs Intention”

  1. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Great thoughts Mario. We only have 24 hours in a day, these next three years I for one am going to have to truly improve my scheduling to maximize each of those hours!

    Growing up, my dad had this very alliterative phrase, “Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.” No idea if dad created it or heard it somewhere, but this was his adage for me with pretty much everything I endeavored upon. I heard echoes of that saying in Rowntree and in your post. Half the battle is just planning the time and the how right, then the results will follow.

  2. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Mario, we have definitely had similar experiences. It always amazes me that people disregard the order in creation and planning seen throughout scripture.

    The most helpful exercise in our Master’s program was the spreadsheet they gave us and the assignment to block our study time. It gave me a realistic view of what was needed to accomplish the task. For this program I put the schedule and my calendar side by side and blocked hours to do assignments that are upcoming besides the weekly normal and that has been very helpful. A lack of planning always leads to stress and less than my best outcome.

  3. It is interesting how planning with specifics, i.e., date, time, etc., makes a difference when we monitor and expect actual results. I know Rowntree meant this for how we study but I suspect this works on almost anything that requires planning. I’m thinking that since people will start writing their annual New Year’s resolutions very soon, it would behoove them to look into some of the planning principles Rowntree outlines in his book. New Years Resolution devotees might actually start losing significant weight.

  4. Jenn Burnett says:

    I appreciate your link to worship styles. As a counterpoing, I trained in a baptist seminary, I was taught how to exegete and construct carefully and then practice before presenting a scripted sermon. As such, I preached my first extemporaneous sermon the day the minister got stuck in a snow storm and didn’t make it to the church. It was the best message I’d given up to that point. While I shifted the other way for a bit, I’ve settled on recognizing my call as such: to create space for the Holy Spirit to move. I plan a service with space in it and hold all the plans loosely. I am always hopeful that the Holy Spirit will show up in transforming power, but also am careful not to create a space where there is any pressure to ‘fake it’. And I’ve also learned to proclaim that God is in the waiting and it is an act of faith to assert that we have been in the presence of God even if we don’t ‘feel it.’ As a side note, I’ve also come to believe that my planning is a separate act of worship from the execution of a worship service. That way, the preparation is never in vain. It doesn’t matter if I lay the whole plan aside, because it has already been offered to God. How would those thoughts fly in the Pentecostal/charismatic realm?

    • Mario Hood says:

      I would say this is similar to how I prepare. More of the younger pastors (who haven’t gone entirely to plan out every moment) would prepare this way but the older pastors still live in the last minute is the Holy Spirit way mode.

  5. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thank you for this, Mario. I very much appreciated how practical this book was. The scheduling reminder was needed for me. Do you know what trips me up most as an extrovert with a bit of a procrastination habit? Well, most things. Ha. If something is more fun, exciting and even urgent – like someone is in front of me and wants or ‘needs’ time with me – I choose these things over important but not necessarily urgent things. I will squeeze school work into the edges and give priority to whoever is in front of me. Our blog that is due every Thursday – I have decided to plan better to not scramble. That will mean saying no to some things that are more fun, easier or just urgent. And I need to block my calendar to make this happen.
    When do you do this? Are you able to work on school during the work day at all or does it have to be done during the evenings/weekends? I feel spoiled right now because I have more space than I am used to but I know I still need to schedule because it’s amazing how fast those hours go! Appreciate you writing on this – I’m challenged to do what you’ve presented.

    • Mario Hood says:

      I try and spend about two hours every morning doing school work and then depending on the day another hour or two at night. Because I get to the office about 1:30 before everyone one I take that time to work on school work and then after the kids go to bed at night spend a little more time. Also, try and make sure one night of the week I’m doing no work so Misty and I can have time together. It was the schedule I pretty much had during the Master’s and it has worked well so far.

  6. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Motivation is only important as a launching point and it has a very short shelf life. Action plans toward specific outcomes make the path possible, but what really makes a difference for most people is accountability and encouragment along the way. Rowntree certainly provides a plan of attack, and I think buried in his material is the idea of teacher/supervisor/cheerleader. Some people are very focussed and achieve their outcomes without an external motivator, but they are the exception. I’m naturally lazy with grand plans, so I need deadlines and people to disappoint to keeping me going. When I say disappoint, I think I mean that they are disappointed that I settled for less than I am capable of being. I have no idea what keeps you on track, Mario, but I guess attending to our known weaknesses is like plugging the gaps, rather than ignoring them. My experience is that my strengths are nearly always undermined by my weaknesses. In that sense, attending to our weakenesses, enhances our strengths.

  7. I totally agree with you Mario, planning is the sure route to successive stewardship of time and resources. I believe the most effective tool of stewardship is planning and I have witnessed it in our strategic planning in our ministry for many years, we always achieve more by planning on the use of time and other God given resources and setting specific, time bound goals which we most often achieve. Good Planning helps you to monitor your progress and gives you the tool for evaluating your performance against your set goals and the opportunity to make appropriate adjustments.
    Your blog Mario, is a prompt reminder to me to go back to the discipline of planning in this doctoral program.

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