I did a lot of driving last week. It was a holiday weekend in the US and the UK and we had decided to go and visit our son at college. After a fantastic weekend, I drove north to our UK site for an afternoon of excellent meetings, and then later that same day I drove further north to visit a site we used to own but now work with. More outstanding meetings. I then drove home. I also did a lot of sitting in traffic – nothing significant – just volume on the roads…just not moving.
When I’m driving by myself and not on telephone calls, I listen to the radio. I used to rely on radio for traffic updates, but now the GPS systems are so good and quick it’s not necessary. I listen to talk radio. Sport, politics, business, arts- shows where opinionated listeners call in to offer views to even more opinionated hosts. Hosts whose role seems to be to shout down anyone who dares to disagree with their monologues.
In short spells, these shows are often entertaining if not particularly enlightening. Tuesday morning was all politics (hard to imagine I know…but true). Blood pressures were rising; insults were flowing; good manners were in little evidence. And all of a sudden the discussion paused. It was time for Thought for the Day. Who knew? Calm and reflection (and no interruptions) in the midst of frantic discussions. I listened and waited.
‘We confuse intent and action in ways that seldom help, frequently misjudge and often frustrate’ was the opening statement. I was intrigued. I liked both the simplicity of the observation, but also the necessity to consider the words. The presenter was right – I do mix intent and action. I needed more.
‘We judge others on their actions and ourselves on our intent.’ Wow – so that really helped me. We assess our own performance based on our intention and yet for others we consider only their actions. Do I do that? Do we? I think we do…I know I do.
It was intriguing to consider how often and how much we judge ourselves based on our intentions. By definition we always know and understand our intent…both for anything thing we do and just as much for actions we don’t do. Conversely for others we tend to only see and experience their actions…since by default we do not know their intention.
So I can assess myself based on my intent very easily…whereas for others my simplest path is to assess based on their actions alone.
The intrinsic risk of an imbalance becomes obvious. Our intentions are always positive…but the impact of our actions is unfortunately not guaranteed to be so good. Even the best of us can inadvertently say or do things that have negative or unexpected outcomes.
Moreover, we can have as much of an issue with actions we plan but don’t take. I know all actions I plan are based on positive intent – and so my self-assessment will always be good – but if I don’t implement and follow through then I am guaranteed zero impact or benefit.
So what resolution or advice was offered? Well in truth advice wasn’t much on offer. The segment was thought for the day after all…and it did make me think.
After another hour in slow moving traffic, I landed on two actions for my day based on my newfound insight. First was to seek to explain and understand intent behind actions – mine or others. Second to avoid my own ‘intent but no action’ scenarios.
Oh yes…and to follow the traffic advice of my GPS next time…