As a business owner, mom, wife, sales consultant, and writer, I am continually pressed for time. In my whirl of conference calls, employee recruitment efforts, sales meetings, homemade dinners, and looming deadlines, I found myself feeling less focused, more stressed out, and less content with my efforts than I would have liked. Then a funny thing happened. My gym coach started talking to me about the importance of "intentions", and while he meant it in terms of getting me to approach my physical movements with more consideration and clearer goals in order to avoid re-injuring my back, it resonated with me in a much larger way. I decided to ask myself "what is my intention?" prior to engaging in anything I deemed important in my life and it has improved my relationships with others--personal and professional--and also with myself.
First, some new packaging we had been waiting for was delayed, and I felt frustrated at how this delay might affect the way a new customer would feel about my company's ability to deliver. My feelings of anger at the irresponsible behavior of our vendor could have led my conversation about the problem with my business partner (who oversees this part of our business) down a path of potential disagreement. Before I said anything, I paused to asked myself "what is my intention with this conversation?" Clearly, it was to reach a solution that would get the missing product to us sooner rather than later--rather than to re-hash all the things that might have gotten us into the situation to begin with. I took a breath, and focused on my intention: resolution of the delay. Instead of spouting off about my angry feelings, I simply began with "how do you think we can get this packaging here faster?" My partner and I quickly found 3 possible ways to proceed, and we were able to resolve the obstacle without argument.
The next day, I had planned to take my son to a new park during the morning hours I had set aside to spend with him. I hurried us out the door, all the while hearing the ticking clock of numbered minutes in my ear--and as my 3 year old dawdled in every conceivable way possible, I began to see the perfectly planned discovery of the new park evaporating before my very eyes. Feeling my impatience rising, I managed to dig up the million dollar question again. "What is my intention here?" Reality came rushing back. It was not to prove that I was worthy of my mommy title by providing my son a new playground experience! It was to truly connect with him, even if our journey took us only to the end of our block. I stopped hurrying, and focused on being present. My son and I loved the way the morning played out, and when it was time for me to go to work, I left light of heart, instead of racked by guilt that I had not done enough.
A few days later, an employee told me she was leaving the company. She had only been with us for 6 months, but in that time, we had made many concessions like working around her school schedule, giving her extended time off for an illness, and more. When she announced her departure, I was both hurt and disappointed. When she offered to stay for 3 weeks beyond her notice, I was inclined to tell her to pack up and exit immediately, but I checked in with myself first by mentally exploring "what is my intention?". The answer turned out to be that despite my frustration, what I needed most was to keep my customers covered, and prevent my other employees from having to do someone else's work--so I kept my emotions and my mouth in check, and accepted that she stay for another 3 weeks.
Relationships are the foundation of everything we build in business and in life. We construct them with our customers, our vendors, our colleagues, and our loved ones. When they go well, we, ourselves--and everything that we touch--thrive. When they are strained, clouded, or disregarded, everything that flows from them and is built upon them is affected. By constantly checking in with our intentions, we can stave off short-sighted, confusing, and even destructive words and actions, and deepen our connections to those around us.