intention“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives”John Ruskin


One of the definitions of the conscious leadership quality “Intention” we’ve been working with is: “The ability to be aware of our own intentions and their impact at every step – acknowledging and taking responsibility for the power of our own choices, driven by ideals beyond ourselves, and nurturing the whole system in which we live.” As with all of the qualities, it is closely woven with the others – the importance of being present and awake to what is around us and what we do, the importance of holding a higher purpose beyond our own.

However, for me, our particular definition of Intention brings a powerful reminder of the importance of choice – how our every act has the possibility to add to the world, or diminish it. And, given the wonderfully complex and interconnected world we live in, each choice we make can have consequences and impact far beyond our initial perception – like the popular saying of how a mere flap of a butterfly wing can create a typhoon down the line.

This has led me to reflect on my own choices and, more importantly, the intention I am holding when making those choices and the impact that has. For me they seem to fall into three types:

  1. The distracted choice: It’s a busy day, someone pings me an email. I scan it. It generally makes sense. I assume someone has thought about it before it got to me, and it seems a quick and simple thing anyway. I drop a one-liner back, “yup, that’s fine” and I put it out of my mind. Mostly these decisions are fine, the world keeps turning. However, very occasionally, I subsequently get an upset person on the phone, and to my horror I realise that my mindless response has had unhelpful consequences. “I’m so sorry”, I say, “that wasn’t my intention!”. The reality is I wasn’t holding any intention at all.
  2. The deliberate, educated, choice: these are of a different order – they are the decisions I make when I am more awake, paying attention to the details, context, issues involved. I take information in, weigh up the pro’s and con’s and make an educated decision. These are more like the quality choices suggested by Ruskin. They involve sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilful execution. More often than not, because I have taken the time, and effort, these end up being okay decisions for the particular issue or people involved. But, on reflection, they aren’t the best choices they could be. And this comes down to what intention I was holding at that point in time.
  3. The conscious choice: when I am truly walking the path of being a conscious leader – I make decisions with, to use Ruskin’s definition, a higher intention. I hold a space, or an impulsion, for my decisions to bring about the best possible outcome for those I am with and the greater good. I am aware of the wider context I am operating in beyond my own needs, or the ‘logical answer’. Sometimes this requires me to make a less logical choice, a harder choice – but I find if the intention is pure, the consequences of that action are further reaching, more powerful in impact, and, ultimately, add to the world rather than diminish it.

This understanding has actually brought a simplicity and clarity into my day to day actions and decisions, creating strong, effective and vibrant outcomes for me, my clients, my colleagues and, I hope, the wider work. It is easy to slip – to get bogged down in the minutiae of day to day work, to ‘fall asleep’ and make ‘mindless’ decisions. The trick I have found is to set my intention at the start of the day, and find the quiet moments when I am making a coffee, or walking to the next meeting, to reconnect and reaffirm my intention.

Beth Ogilvie-King