4 Ways to State Your Intentions in Order to Drive the Best Outcomes

I’m preparing to take my kids into Target, Lord help me. I just need to get some necessities.  I park the car, turn and look them in the eye and tell them, “We are not going to the toy section.  We are here to get milk, a card for someone, and some toilet paper. You will both walk beside me and the cart.  You will not run, and you will not ask if you can go look at toys, okay?”

I get “yes ma’am”.  And then ask them to repeat back to me what I just said and what they are going to do.

I silently hope for mostly compliance. 

Shoot, I should have also added, “No asking for any gum, candy or any type of anything in the checkout aisle,” before going into the store.

If I’m thinking clearly, I’ve learned to set our intention- both why we are going to into some place and the expectations for their behavior- before we walk into a place. I’ve learned this the hard way. In other words, I’ve had my fair share of public place visits that have involved running through the aisles (the kids, not me), spending 30 minutes in the toy section and breakdowns in the checkout line over “having to have” some strange egg thing that has both chocolate and a toy in it. Oh, how I wish I’d come up with these eggs.

It’s funny how just telling them what we are going to do and why we are going to do it actually helps. 

And it’s no different for us as individuals and for us working as groups at work. It’s simply intention setting to regulate behavior and therefore outcomes.

As a research article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience states:

….Effective strategy to reduce this intention–behavior gap is the formation of implementation intentions that specify when, where, and how to act on a given goal in an if-then format (“If I encounter situation Y, then I will initiate action Z!”). It has been proposed that implementation intentions render the mental representation of the situation highly accessible and establish a strong associative link between the mental representations of the situation and the action. 

Some intention-setting ideas to consider in your workplace include:

1.    For the love, have a meeting agenda and send it out ahead of time.  In other words, before you get out of the car with your kids at Target, not once you get in the store.  This should specify, when, where, how and who.

2.    The same thing is true for post-meeting intentions.  Debrief action items post meeting- the what, when, where, how and who- verbally and then send a written follow-up with these action items.

3.    Have an intention pep talk with yourself before you go into a difficult discussion or situation.  For example, before I got out of the car (man, I’m in my car a lot setting intentions) before going into what I knew could be an uncomfortable situation last week, I asked myself, “What do I want to get out of this?”   The answer was an opportunity to build relationships instead of destroying them. In other words, we aren’t here to look at toys, we are here to get toilet paper.

Setting this simple intention led to me keeping my mouth shut more than once when I really wanted to say something because I knew I was right. Opening my mouth would most likely have led to my intention being destroyed. This is like the adult version of going into Target and coming out with $100 of stuff you don’t need or can’t afford when you went in to only get said toilet paper.

4.    If your intention is really just to get toilet paper, a card and some milk, eliminate the things that keep you from doing that.  I can’t totally eliminate my kids nor do I want to, but I can find a better time through more proactive planning to schedule a trip to the store without them.  Or, I could be smart and simply order drive-up pickup.  Oftentimes we have to regroup and set unnecessary intentions because we got so far down the rabbit hole of not setting intentions in the first place. 

How good are you at setting intentions to regulate your behavior and outcomes?

If you like this post, you may also like:

How Neuroscience Is and Will Revolutionize HR

5 Questions to End the Slow Painful Death of Death by Meetings

A Simple Goal Setting Method

Mary Ila Ward

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