Two Intentions: One Builds Up the Other Tears Down
Intentions direct why you say or do anything—consciously or unconsciously. Intention, then, guides your action. Therefore, your intention informs both your action and your attitude toward that action.
The pace of life can be so fast that it is common to go on automatic, just keeping your head above water and coping with your long list of things to do. Often you don’t even know your intention.
If you can remember to stop and ask yourself, “Wait, what is my intention here?” you will accelerate your ability to understand the motivations behind your actions. This is one of the core questions that is part of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® framework.
Whatever your intention, your thoughts and actions will follow.
In our work, we contrast two primary intentions. One feeds right into the Dreaded Drama Triangle and the other is rooted in TED*. There may be a gray area in the space between these two intentions but treating them like a directional road sign helps you to assess your motivation before you speak or act.
One intention is a “looking good” intention. When you are motivated by this intention, your desire can be me-focused, and you pay more attention to being right or how you can improve your status.
Characteristics of coming from the Looking Good intention include:
- Looking good even at others’ expense.
- Being right or being the hero.
- Being smart and/or the winner.
- Staying in control, which requires judging others.
- Protecting how you are seen.
- Connecting with others when it furthers your agenda.
- Reluctance to forgive when an error is made.
- Putting yourself above others and blaming.
Ouch! That’s a nasty list and most people never want to purposely relate to others from this intention. But it is so easy to get caught in this intention without thinking about it. Your day may be going so fast that you are just trying to get things done and may unconsciously interact from this intention.
We can almost guarantee that relating from this intention will lead to the other perceiving you as a Persecutor in the DDT.
The second intention is a Learning Intention. When firmly rooted in this intention, you focus on:
- Learning and continuous improvement.
- Enhancing the capability and the capacity of the other.
- Increasing your ability to listen without judgment.
- Being transparent with no hidden agenda.
- Respecting others and seeing them as Creators.
- Using your energy to create a safe space.
- Sustaining connection with others, even when there are differences/obstacles.
- Being willing to forgive, if appropriate.
- Building others up and genuinely supporting them.
Living and relating with others from the learning intention allows you to focus on how you want to be in the moment, independent of whether you are winning or losing. When intentions guide your moment-to-moment focus, you live from your values and what matters most to you. This approach is less about a specific accomplishment—it is more about continuous improvement and learning with each experience.
Before you engage in a conversation or action, especially during this holiday season, pause and ask yourself, “What is my intention? Is it to look good and be right? Or is my intention to learn and grow while building others up?” You will find wisdom and guidance in your answer.
(We first learned about these two intentions from the late Diana Cawood, professional coach in Vancouver, British Columbia.)