Kindness Challenge 2013 – Day 3
The other day my husband and I were at the grocery store. In a familiar scenario in every grocery store I’ve ever been in, sale items were placed on high shelves – some much higher than six feet. An elderly woman, about 5’ tall, was trying to reach the items she wanted, and started pulling them from the bottom of the stack, creating a danger to herself and others. We stopped and asked her to tell us what she wanted and we would get them for her. She told us, and then asked us why we stopped to help her. We were surprised by the question, and my husband readily answered “Because we didn’t want you to get hurt by falling cans, and you were struggling to reach what you wanted.”
Karl and I have been talking a great deal about intention, or “cause” in the last several weeks, and what meaning we give to that word. The Bing online dictionary defines intention as an aim or objective, or a quality of purposefulness. As we are learning, however, definition does not always reflect meaning. Definition is an agreed upon explanation for the word symbol(s). Meaning is what lies in our heart, it is internal and is based upon our experiences and feelings. Let me say that again: Meaning is internal, whereas definition is external.
Let me break the above scenario down just a bit. If our “intention” in helping this woman was to be thanked, and feel good about ourselves, this would have fit the definition of intention to be kind, but not the meaning of kindness itself. The meaning of kindness for me is to complete an act of love, without expecting anything in return.
I’ve been in several coaching conversations in the last week regarding kindness. What stands out is that when we are kind without expecting anything in return, what we give often returns to us tenfold. However, when we are kind in order to manipulate or expect something in return, we are often manipulated. This is the difference between kindness with the intention of giving love without expectations, and kindness with the external purpose of manipulation or getting something in return.
As a leader, many of us classify our intentions as goals. And, if you look at the definition you will see that this fits completely. But a goal is not an intention. A goal is the desire to accomplish something physical. It requires action based on a desire for something to occur. Intention is based on the meaning you give to the action required to accomplish the goal.
“An IN-TENTION is the quality of CONSCIOUSNESS you bring to an ACTION.” – Gary Zukav, The Mind of the Soul – Responsible Choice
A physical goal can have multiple intentions. Sometimes we actually intend something different than what we think we intend, and we know this by how we feel about the effect, i.e., the consequence. If we are disappointed or hurt, our intent was to manipulate the situation.
John was probably one of the best team players around. He was extroverted, worked very well in collaboration with other members of the team, often taking on more than he could actually handle well. He often intervened in conflicts to soothe the waters, and was the instigator of team parties and celebrations. Susan, on the other hand, was somewhat introverted and quietly went about helping her teammates where they needed help. She listened carefully when others were not in complete agreement, asking questions and offering suggestions as these very positive conflicts yielded results. When one of her teammates was in a severe car accident, she visited them in the hospital, took food to the family, and once they recovered, helped them find another car. It was only when the teammate returned to work that others found out about all that Susan had done.
At the end of the year, Susan was promoted to the next level due to her team contributions. John was furious. He stomped in to his supervisor’s office and demanded to know why he wasn’t promoted – he did everything he was supposed to do to contribute to the team and achieve the results expected. What was John’s underlying intention to his teamwork activities?
What we do will not create power if it is not aligned with who we really are. We cannot change our lives by working to change our circumstances. We can only change our lives by changing our intentions behind the actions we take to create our circumstances.
What are your top three goals for 2013? Beside each one, write down your intention. Take some time, you might be surprised to discover that your stated intention is not what you hold in your heart.
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Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, and Phoenix, AZ, is a spiritual, personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.