During a recent visit to the car dealership to get my oil changed, I decided to go for a test drive of a new car rather than sit down and write this blog. Usually, I feel like a creative genius sitting in that waiting room with my headset on, pounding away at the keyboard. Today, I felt that nagging question of “what am I going to write about” hanging in the back of my mind.
With a classic case of writer’s block going, I went for a test drive. It was an avoidance strategy for sure. Perhaps a very expensive one if my avoidance led to getting a new car.
I did what any good test driver of a new car would do: opened it up on the highway to see how fast it accelerated. For a few seconds anyway. As we were making the same circle that salesman has likely made hundreds of times, I asked him how he felt being in the passenger side of a car with a complete stranger flooring it and otherwise putting a car through its paces.
Here is what he said: “I don’t get scared when someone is seeing how fast the car can accelerate or they try the brakes. What scares me is the people who don’t realize just what a bad driver they are.”
His statement reinforced an insight that has been percolating with me for years. It’s something that will be percolating for the rest of my life.
Awareness matters. So does intention. And they are closely linked.
Being unaware (ignorant) can create unfortunate consequences – in domains far beyond test driving a car. Ignorance simply means you are operating based on an unconscious choice and you do not know what you do not know. Like a driver who is oblivious. Like a boss who doesn’t understand the impact s/he has.
What the car salesman basically said was that intention makes his job less scary.
There is a lot of power in intention. This is not a newsflash. There have been books and movies made about the power of intention.
Yet, like anything with depth, there is a WORLD of difference between knowing something in theory and actually putting it into practice.
It’s the “putting it into practice” that has been percolating with me for the last several years.
Being intentional requires awareness and discipline.
Intention to me means that you are operating by a conscious choice. You made a decision and you are acting on that decision.
It means I have to pause to decide on my intention for anything that matters. It’s one of the key leverage points I can use to run my life (instead of letting my life run me.)
So how did I do on that slippery slope of test driving a car? Did I fall prey to the salesman’s charms and drive out with a new car? (By the way, I genuinely am in the market for a new car – and I also love the game of negotiating.)
In this case, when I decided to actually do a test drive, I also decided that my intention was to learn about the car, get a first offer and LEAVE. No matter how good the offer.
The deal they put in front of me was actually pretty good – and I honored my intention. It kept me from making a rushed deal, and when I do buy, it will be on my terms.
Being intentional helps you create the terms for your life. It puts you in the driver’s seat. You can’t control what happens in so many cases.
Intention allows you to respond rather than react.
Where are you exercising the discipline of intention? In what ways are you letting your life run you? What decisions do you find particularly difficult?
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I spent my vacation week at Coble Ski School, going with the flow with a fabulous group of women for our ninth annual Women’s Week. Why were we going with flow? Irma loomed large in the days leading up to the week. Several of us started texting and emailing each other wondering what the heck to do. Would Irma go right over the site, making it unskiable? What were the alternatives? And what about all of our friends in Florida and other places that were right in the heaviest part of the storm? Yes, we are very “addicted” skiers –but what makes us want this week together so much is the support we get from likeminded women.
That’s why going with the flow was such an important way of being for all of us this week. Going with the flow meant that we held an intention to somehow get together. Yes we might ski – but more importantly, we would carry on the joy of doing what we really do each year. We would catch up, encourage each other and somehow leave a little better than we were before. We simply had to release our expectations and take whatever came.
In the end, “whatever came” turned into one of the best weeks ever. New friendships were formed, personal bests were achieved and inspiration was found everywhere. We shared the experience of walking into a movie theater with cold, rainy, windy weather and emerging to a world that was sunny, dry and ready for us to ski.
It was just another reminder for me on the importance of being intentional while releasing expectations. It’s a fine line that opens the world up for truly achieving my dreams without feeding resentments.
How do you define the difference between intention and expectation? How do you go with the flow without simply being a leaf blowing in the wind? What are your best tips for staying present even when things are not going according to plan?
I would love to hear how you have gone with the flow!
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When giving a, TED or TEDx speech on anything, you can expect people to watch you to see if you are actually living your subject. So was the case with me last week. I was doing a short workshop with a group of Women in IT (Information Technology) at a Fortune 50 company. First, I gave my 2015 talk titled “From Raging Bitch to Engaging Coach; The Power of Positive Intent” to the group live. After giving the speech, we had a session to start putting the idea of “assuming positive intent” into practice.
The group immediately had several examples where they could use this idea. Then one of the women asked this question: “What are you supposed to do when you are in the middle of a big change and someone is resisting?” All heads in the room nodded; this was clearly a sore spot for the majority. She went on to say something that could be summarized like this: “Resistance is bad. Let’s get rid of it.”
“You need resistance in order to get traction on your change. Imagine trying to get somewhere in your car on pure ice. The only way you are getting anywhere is to have traction.” I answered. The conversation that ensued held to this theme: resistance is neither good or bad. However, it is necessary. In order to “assume positive intent” about resistance, there are two things that have to happen.
First, you recognize resistance as the source of traction in the change.
Second, to get that traction, you get curious in order to get behind the resistance and better understand it.
Resistance is full of very useful information.
From the curious vantage point, a leader can begin to use resistance as a source of traction. (We will save working with your own resistance for another day….like losing those last few pounds, quitting smoking, apologizing to that friend, reaching out to help in a difficult family situation – you know, little things like that.)
In a corporate change setting, leaders frequently deal with resistance in many forms. So what does it look like to come from a curious vantage point?
Here are some examples of the shift:
Instead of trying to bury resistance, you allow it to exist right out there in the open
Instead of insisting on your way, you illuminate choices and consequences
Instead of framing emotions and undercurrents as personal, you frame emotions and undercurrents as data and information
Instead of getting distracted by resistance, you stay focused on your goals and objectives
It is normal for people to resist doing something they don’t want to do. You will hear things like this “That won’t work,” or “I’ve already tried that.” The reactive counter to that resistance is usually “Yes, it will,” or “Did you do it right?” and so forth. It’s like a big ole game of verbal Ping-Pong and nothing changes.
Go with the resistance instead. Ask “What would work?” or “Are you willing to try x?” When the resistance is extremely strong, it’s helpful to have the other person (or yourself) think through where they are and are not committed. Daniel Pink has an interesting way to unlock some positive thinking about this.
If you are leading change, it’s hard to allow resistance to exist. It seems like your role is to overcome it. However, trying to overcome resistance actually makes the resistance more elusive. Consider this instead: Your role is to set the conditions for change and make clear requests for people to take appropriate action.
For more on using resistance to accelerate change, read the full article “From Drag to Lift; Using Resistance, Complaint and Conflict to Accelerate Change.”
If you are still stuck on how to assume positive intent in the face of tons of resistance, set up an OnDemand Coaching call with me.
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Lynn Carnes accelerates change and unleashes leadership performance in organizations, especially in context of challenges without easy answers. She loves to hear about how your experiments with these ideas turn out. To contact her or share your experiences email email@example.com.
Inspiring new ways to look at learning, growth, and reinvention, whether in leadership, athletics, art or life.
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