Looking beyond your intentions

There’s no warmer place to hide than in the belief that you just wanted to help.

Photo by MIKHAIL VASILYEV on Unsplash

But… I didn’t mean to…. I just wanted to… I didn’t intend to…. How did this happen?

Our intentions tell us who we are as people. They help us know what values we have. They show us what’s truly important to us. And in general our intentions are noble. We want others to improve. We want things to go well for ourselves and for others.

Intentions are focused on self. What you mean to do. What you plan to accomplish. And even what you wish to influence. And when they are positive it’s easy for them to go unchecked. When they go unchecked, they compromise our growth, our modesty, and our perspective.

Our growth is stifled

When we’re convinced that we mean well and it’s all we focus on, when things go wrong, it’s hard to see what we could have done better. We feel good that things aren’t really our fault. We’re okay with things going badly because we’re convinced that we didn’t negatively contribute to the situation.

That’s a shame because failure can help reveal our weaknesses. We all have them. No one is perfect. I know, it’s cliche. But think about it. If no one is perfect, it means no one can do a job perfectly, in the objective sense. You then have to ask yourself: ‘If perfection is impossible, what level of quality is attainable? How do I get myself to that level?’

You do well to notice that being good at what you do isn’t a right. It’s not something you’re entitled to. Being a good professional is hard work. It’s something you attain over constant work and reflection. You work, you reflect, you improve. You work, you reflect, you improve. When we focus on why we were not to blame because we meant well, the most part of the cycle, the reflection of where we can improve breaks down. This is because we don’t see where we have to improve if we haven’t done anything wrong.

Our modesty is compromised

When we’re convinced that we mean well and it’s all we focus on, it’s hard to be modest. In my personal experience, lack of modesty is by far the biggest factor in self-imposed stress and unnecessary frustrations. This holds true for professional and personal relationships.

When we just want to help, oh how we underestimate the effort needed! And then there’s time. Goodness me. Time is not a concept humans understand intuitively; maybe we don’t understand it at all. But when we want to help someone, we tend to think we have great control over time. We act like we can fill our 24 hours with an infinite amount of tasks. We don’t factor in fatigue. We don’t factor in unexpected events. We don’t factor in the millions of times before things didn’t work out when we tried to do too much… Yet, we keep committing. But that’s not the worst part.

The worst part is that we’re surprised when we can’t do everything. And when we start everything we’re shocked that we couldn’t finish everything. And when we finish everything we wonder why things aren’t done properly. We think people are ungrateful for our lackluster efforts. We feel like they don’t appreciate the fact that we tried. We start to think if they could just see it from our point of view, they would appreciate the billions of hours we’ve had to work to get this work done.

But what if we did less? What if we gave ourselves a chance to do things properly? To have enough time to spend time with our loved ones? To have enough time to produce the right quality of work? What if we said no to more things? What if we had difficult discussions about what it really takes to accomplish our work? It’s hard, but the results are worth it.

Being modest is great for your mental health.

Our perspective is shallow

When we’re convinced that we mean well and it’s all we focus on, it’s all about us. Our world view is self-centered. We paint ourselves as the most important person in the world. How so? In our minds, it’s always about how we’re right and everyone else is wrong. This is troubling because it limits our empathy.

When we can’t understand the feelings of others, it limits our effectiveness as problem solvers. It limits the benefits of our leadership. It severely affects the good we can do for others. When we aren’t empathetic, it makes it difficult for people to talk to us. That stops us from being effective communicators. That in turn means we have shallow relationships.

No one can count on someone who only sees things from their point of view. Even if you want to be there for someone, your inability to see things from their point of view means you can never give them exactly what they need.

When you can focus on more than your intentions, you start to see the effect you have on who and what you love. And when you can see simple cause and effect, it’s much easier to know where you need to adjust. You never become perfect. But you greatly improve your relationship with yourself and with others.

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Limichilwe Simwanza

Limichilwe Simwanza

Developer. Dabbler in design, writing, and all things creative.