Choose Your Impact

Choose Your Impact


Do you focus more on your intentions or your impact? And which one is more important…

 

This has been a central theme for us at 4D Human Being since we began all those years ago! Working in leadership, communications skills, coaching and development programmes means this subject is incredibly important to us. While we focus heavily on conscious intention, one of our company taglines has for a long time been “Helping Leaders, Teams and Individuals consciously create their impact every day.” So, intention or impact, which should we focus on more…?

 

This question is not only relevant in terms of organisational leadership and communication. It is relevant to whatever work you do. It is relevant in your personal life. And it is definitely relevant in every single one of your relationships. From the intimate to the every day to the people you may only meet once in your life. And today this topic is hugely relevant when it comes to how we explore and communicate social injustice, systemic racism and any number of inequalities in our communities and in wider society. Whether we are trying to engage our teams with motivational sales targets, whether we are presenting a keynote at a global conference, whether we are trying to keep children interested in online schooling, whether we are navigating our personal relationships through and out of lockdown, or whether we are tackling urgent social justice issues – have we checked in with and set our underlying intention? And even if we have, what is our ultimate impact..?

This article is all about exploring the every day and the very human idea of intention vs impact. Join us as we look at different ways we can help to bring our intentions and our impact into alignment.

 


Intention vs Impact

 

How many times, when challenged, have you heard or yourself used the response … “but that wasn’t my intention” or “That wasn’t what I meant.”

I’m going to guess we’ve all heard that excuse and used it ourselves more times than any of us could count. Of course we have. Because so often it will have been true. When there is a breakdown in communication, when wires get crossed, when we accidentally upset someone, when we haven’t been fully conscious of what we were saying… the resulting impact certainly wasn’t our intention. So then surely we’re not to blame?

About twenty years ago a friend of mine told me about an incident in a key cutting shop. She had walked into the shop and inadvertently knocked over a stand with hundreds of ready-to-cut keys on it. The key stand and the keys fell onto an elderly lady. The shop owner and another customer started reprimanding my friend who defended herself by saying it was an accident. She didn’t mean to topple the stand. As she recounted the story to me, still smarting from the reaction from her fellow shoppers, she said “I mean if I had walked into that shop with the sole intention of knocking a key stand onto an old lady – then fair enough, have a go at me. But that was clearly not my intention.”

At the time I fully accepted her position. However, after many years of working in corporate communication skills, I started to see things multi-dimensionally. Because intention and impact need to be taken together. They cannot be isolated. We need to focus on both. Whether we are talking about a disappointing presentation from your boss or an argument with your partner – whether the intention was good or not, the impact is what it is, and we need to take responsibility for both. That’s where learning can come in. That’s when we can take on new information and new skills so that we can begin to take charge of our impact. Not just our intention.

In the case of my well-intended friend, the elderly lady in the shop still had to deal with the shock of a fountain of keys suddenly being showered all over her. If we play with the idea of taking responsibility for the impact of accidentally hurling keys over an innocent customer, then maybe we would then be open to thinking more consciously about how we enter small unfamiliar stores with more caution, care and awareness. That learning could be really useful to us and to other people in the future.

 


Mind the Gap

 

As we always say at 4D Human Being, there is pretty much always a gap between our intention and our impact. But by taking responsibility for our impact then we can start to close that gap. And when we close the gap between intention and impact, we really put ourselves in the driver’s seat of our lives. We take a massive step towards living more consciously and with more awareness.

After all we are not the story we keep locked in our heads. We are the story we tell and communicate to the world. Whether that is through words, tone, actions, body language or facial expressions. When we become aware of our impact physically, emotionally and intellectually then we can start to manage how we show up in the world and we can bring our intention and impact closer and closer together.


System 2

 

The problem with solely focusing on intention is that we spend a lot of time operating on autopilot or what Daniel Kahneman calls ‘System 1’. According to Kahneman, System 1, sometimes known as intuitive thinking, “operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and sense of voluntary control.” Whereas System 2 “allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.” Switching on system 2 is what bridges the gap between intention and impact. However, operating with this much more conscious intentionality is tiring and time consuming. Autopilot is efficient and easy and will more often than not take over, which is why our intention and our impact are so often out of alignment. This is why awareness is only the first step.

 


Unconscious Bias

 

With autopilot comes unconscious bias, where our ‘unconscious intention’ will be dictated by unconscious beliefs. Not because we are a bad person. But because we have been conditioned and socialised in certain ways. We’ve just always done our presentations like that. That’s how our first boss did them when we started in our first job, so that’s how we learnt to do them and even though they are mediocre at best, we simply don’t know any other way. Similarly, unconscious bias – when it comes to gender or race or any other area- will be dictated by what we have absorbed up until that moment. From society, education, family, parents, peers, communities and our own continued self-reflection. Some of which may need some serious updating because it too may lead to some behaviours and impact that just isn’t good enough anymore.


Feedback

 

Feedback on our impact is vital if we really do want to close the gap between intention and impact and if we really do want to become the person, we know we can become and communicate at a whole new conscious level. (And this is also true for those of us who find positive feedback difficult to accept or believe!)

Being ashamed of receiving feedback on our impact is the very thing that will hold us back from becoming better. Whether that’s becoming a far better communicator or becoming far more conscious about daily micro-aggressions and learning how to simply stop doing them.

Feedback on our impact is precious. As writer, Robin di Angelo talks about in her book ‘White Fragility’ – feedback is hard to give and so we need to cherish it and thank the person giving us the feedback – for the courage they showed in giving it to us. When people stop giving you feedback on your impact, you should be worried. It means they are either frightened of your response or they have given up on caring about your human potential and development.  Get feedback and get fabulous. You already are…you just might need to close the gap a little!


Impactful Awareness

 

Awareness is our superpower. It enables us to be curious and stay open to the idea that we may not be perfect. From here we can start to close the gap between our intention – how we think we’re being – and our impact – how others experience us.

From there we as individuals can then impact the wider system as we model a more conscious way of being and help others begin to do the same. 

 

If you choose to be interested in growing, learning and welcoming of those who care enough about you and who trust you enough to offer up feedback, your intentions and impact will start to fall into alignment. From here, life will start to feel a little bit less like an uphill climb and more like a dance in the moment. It’s a day-to-day practice and a journey that will help you to become someone who can consciously create the impact you choose – every day!

The Fresh Start Effect

The Fresh Start Effect

Why new beginnings bring new energy to life

 

 

In this article, 4D’s Matt Beresford is exploring the power of Fresh Starts. Why do beginnings have more energy, than ‘middles’ and ‘ends’? And how might we capture some of this fresh start energy, wherever we are in our careers or relationships? Fresh starts and fresh approaches can help us to see our lives in a whole new way. What might you discover, if you start something new, or step in, as if for the first time?

 

Join Matt as he begins again…

Spring has always had a special place in my heart. For many of us, the longer, warmer days that follow Winter bring a sense of anticipation for the seasons to come and a promise of sunshine, colour and harvest. I am also a keen gardener, so after the enforced rest of Winter, I always find myself keen to get back into the garden, planting and sowing for the year ahead.

Plants aside – my birthday is also on the 20th March, and often coincides with the first day of Spring. So there’s always a lot to celebrate! And this year there’s been an additional fresh start to celebrate as I finally took the leap from a career in the IT industry to a vocation working full time with the team at 4D Human Being. I am hugely excited about the harvest we will reap in the months and years ahead as we grow the business and continue to develop ourselves, our work and the impact we have on the lives of those we work with.

Of course, at forty-four, this is also a step I make with some trepidation!

 

The Second Mountain

 

Whilst I have been planning this career move for some time, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to make the ‘leap’ this year. As I may have only 21 further springs in my working life (!), I’d like each of them to be spent in pursuit of something that I deeply care about rather than a career which ‘pays the bills’.

David Brooks’ recent book ‘The Second Mountain’ concerns itself, amongst other things, with exactly this challenge:

Some people get to the top of that first mountain, taste success, and find it … unsatisfying. “Is this all there is?” they wonder…At this point, people realise, Oh, that first mountain wasn’t my mountain after all. There’s another, bigger mountain out there that is actually my mountain. The second mountain is not the opposite of the first mountain. To climb it doesn’t mean rejecting the first mountain. It’s the journey after it. It’s the more generous and satisfying phase of life.”

This is where I had been for some time – enjoying the people aspects of my role in the IT industry more than anything else. Through my time managing Google for Tech Data, I found myself increasingly interested in finding ways to connect it to the people who would be impacted by the technology that I was promoting – the schools and businesses I believed would become better connected, more collaborative and more creative by using Google Chrome.

 

For Brooks, that’s a crucial way to tell whether you are looking to start climbing your Second Mountain. “Where is your ultimate appeal? To self, or to something outside of self?”

Many of us, of course, also have substantial responsibilities that we cannot simply drop to follow a dream – we have mortgages to pay and families to provide for. I certainly still want nice things, nice wine, holidays, trips to the theatre…

So, the Second Mountain could be a major change, the banker who is now a teacher, for example, but it needn’t be – for many of us it may be a shift in emphasis:

“Still others stay in their same jobs but are transformed. It’s not about self anymore. If they work in a company, they no longer see themselves as managers but as mentors; their energies are devoted to helping others get better. They want their organisations to be thick places, where people find purpose, and not thin places, where people come just to draw a salary. “

 

 

Transformation through Work

 

One of the challenges of making ‘big step changes’, like a change in career, is that it will inevitably change you as well. My new role will require a new routine and will see me primarily working from home and interacting with different people. And that will transform me too – perhaps quite dramatically.

“Never underestimate the power of the environment you work in to gradually transform who you are. When you choose to work at a certain company, you are turning yourself into the sort of person who works in that company. That’s great if the culture of McKinsey or General Mills satisfies your very soul. But if it doesn’t, there will be some little piece of yourself that will go unfed and get hungrier and hungrier.

Martin Luther King, Jr., once advised that your work should have length—something you get better at over a lifetime. It should have breadth—it should touch many other people. And it should have height—it should put you in service to some ideal and satisfy the soul’s yearning for righteousness.

 

 

Your obvious is your talent

 

If you have been feeling this tug towards another path it’s worth asking, ‘What are your unique set of skills?’ For me, it was years of directing and performing in theatre, twenty years of business experience, a lot of energy, a love of learning and wide, eclectic interests. You will have a set of skills that might build into an offering that is perfectly unique to you.

Scott Adams in ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big’ says: “Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value. I have a long history of profiting from failure. My cartooning career, for example, is a direct result of failing to succeed in the corporate environment.” Adams likes to make the point that whilst he wasn’t great at any one particular thing – drawing, comedy, middle management – by combining the three he could create Dilbert, one of the best known and best-loved cartoons of the last twenty years.

 

 

What is your portfolio of ‘failure’ from which you have learnt something? What set of skills, experiences and relationships are unique to you and that can help you identify the talents you might bring to your Second Mountain?

At 4D we like to say: “Your obvious is your talent” – a favourite saying of improvisation teacher Keith Johnstone. What seems to you to be the most simple and basic skill may be one that many others have to work very hard to emulate. This might be something as seemingly ‘obvious’ as powerful listening, being organised, or being able to host a dinner for customers. What do others value you for that you barely give a moment’s thought to and that, by doubling down on, might unlock new opportunities for you?

 

A System of Living

 

When making a fresh start it is tempting to set oneself lofty goals for what one wishes to achieve – the weight we will lose, the language we’ll learn or the money we’ll earn. The 4D2C model provides a great tool for thinking about communication, whether 1-1 or 1 to many, with a much broader lens than the one we normally bring. It can also be a way of thinking about one’s life and how to ‘be’ and ‘grow’ in all four dimensions. It provides a system of living, rather than a goal with an end destination.

 

Instead of setting ourselves goals and being in a constant state of what Scott Adams calls “a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst’ we can use the 4D2C ‘system’ to provide a way of committing to a set of behaviours or attitudes that we believe will provide success in a given endeavour.

We cannot control what is out there in the world, however as Adams says:

Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The system-versus-goals model can be applied to most human endeavours. In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system”

The 4D2C model provides a useful way of checking on how I am choosing to grow and behave, within what environment and with what people. It encourages us to ask questions like: is this an environment and culture within which I can learn, grow and create the kind of impact I want to have on the world? And will it allow my 4-dimensional self to develop and find creative expression?

 

When to Start

 

If you’re thinking of making a fresh start in your life, in whatever field, Daniel Pink’s recent book, ‘When’ provides some great ideas for starts (as well as middles and ends!)

“The recipe is straightforward. In most endeavours, we should be awake to the power of beginnings and aim to make a strong start. If that fails, we can try to make a fresh start.” Pink also celebrates what he calls Temporal Landmarks for making those starts:

“The first day of the year is what social scientists call a “temporal landmark.” Just as human beings rely on landmarks to navigate space—“To get to my house, turn left at the Shell station”—we also use landmarks to navigate time.

First days of the year, month and week are commonly used for these Fresh Starts. Other landmarks are personal – say for example landmark birthdays and anniversaries. These dates “allowed people to open “new mental accounts” in the same way that a business closes the books at the end of one fiscal year and opens a fresh ledger for the new year.

Spring Beginnings

 

Whether it’s dedicating your working life to a different vocation, training for an Ironman or learning a new language, as George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be who you were meant to be”. 

So, do join me in embracing a Fresh Start this Spring. Whether big or small, it’s the ideal time to find a landmark and make a change that will move you closer to being who you were meant to be. If that also involves growing your first vegetables, I am happy to provide advice!