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Michelle LaBrosse


How to Align Actions With Intentions

Five steps to overcoming distractions and creating productive outcomes

Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 15:54

Most people begin with the great intentions to eat well, exercise, do their best at work, and get along with co-workers. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always impel us to actually do what we say we’ll do. Why is this? Let’s explore the answers to this question and how to align our actions with our intentions.

Often impediments to success come in what we at Cheetah Learning call “triggers”: the everyday disruptions that mentally or emotionally distract us from what we intend to accomplish. You prepare a detailed agenda for the team meeting, and several team members show up late. You arrive at the office and want to get right to work on your most important task, but your email is flooded with urgent requests. You present a proposal for a new project and face a lot of unexpected push-back from stakeholders.

What is your typical response to triggers? Triggers push us into making choices that aren’t fully conscious or intentional; we react rather than take action with purpose. You may lash out at a co-worker, neglect other work you need to do, or find yourself stress eating. These behaviors bring feelings of guilt and frustration. Letting off steam rarely makes us feel better; instead we feel like we aren’t in control of our actions or emotions.

With practice, we can make conscious choices when confronted with triggers. Here are tips that we’ve developed to help students prepare for the anxiety-inducing Project Management Professional Exam.

Identify what triggers you. It’s easy to feel blindsided by triggering events, but if we step back, it becomes apparent that some of these triggers are fairly predictable and routine. There are likely one or more co-workers whom you can count on to be late, no matter how many reminders you send about a meeting. Acknowledging the probability that these co-workers will be late to your next meeting is the first step in taking conscious action.

Recognize and accept that you are being triggered. You’re in a meeting, and the usual suspects come in 10 minutes late with apologies and excuses. Predictably, you feel annoyed. Recognize and accept that you are experiencing that feeling.

Breathe. Deep breaths help to calm so you can focus on making a conscious choice in response to a trigger.

Identify positive intentions of others. If the behavior of someone else is a trigger, and this is often the case, take a minute to acknowledge the other person’s positive intention that led to his actions. As the saying goes, we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. Judging others by their intentions opens up new possibilities to help you understand and empathize.

Find a productive way to move forward. We don’t have control over triggering events. We do, however, have control over how we respond to them. After acknowledging that you are being triggered and recognizing that others, like you, start out with good intentions, you are in the position to choose the actions that will produce the outcomes you want. For the latecomers to meetings, rather than chewing them out, pause and ask yourself: What can I do right now to make this the most productive meeting anyway? How might I most effectively communicate with the late team members to let them know their tardiness is unacceptable?

When we act consciously rather than react, we influence ourselves to act according to our best intentions. This positive self-influence brings us a deep feeling of satisfaction that is far more rewarding than the reactive behavior we justify as letting off steam. Reactive behavior may feel good in the moment, but it doesn’t help to achieve the long-term happiness that comes from making conscious choices.

To learn more about making conscious choices in your professional and personal life, consider taking Cheetah Learning’s 30-PDU online Happiness Project course. 


About The Author

Michelle LaBrosse’s picture

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program and holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. More than 50,000 people have used Cheetah Learning’s project management and accelerated learning techniques.