Management Articles


It's Late September and I Really Should Be Getting Back to School ... Maggie
About EQ

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

The young man in this song, who lets Maggie keep him awayfrom things he should be doing, is not practicing Intentionality.

Intentionality is one of the higher level emotional intelligence skills. It means saying what you meaning what you say. Keeping your word, in other words, and doing what you set out to do.

A Work Horse

To be intentional, you have to stay focused on the goal at hand and filter out distractions. You have to be a work horse. Here's a picture of a team of work horses: When the farmer gets ready to go to work, he puts the harness on the horse, and then the blinders. Both of these cue the horse in that it's going to work, and keep in focused on the task. The blinders cut off peripheral vision. All the horse can see is the task right in front of him.

This is a picture you can keep in mind when you're setting about to do a task. Get yourself "hitched up," get the blinders on, and get ready to focus.


The harder part of Intentionality is that you're held accountability for your intentions -- your motives. If you own your Intentionality, there's no saying "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," or "That's not what I meant." If these phrases are being said to you a lot, you need to check up on what's going on. Here's a quote from John Wayne that's to the point: "I've always followed my father's advice: he told me, first to always keep my word and, second, to never insult anybody unintentionally. If I insult you, you can be goddam sure I intend to. And third, he told me not to go around looking for trouble."

When you do "get in trouble," there's always a large element of having gone looking for it; and this is intent.

What Does It Take To Get It?

Having Intentionality means getting your emotions and your thoughts working together. "A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all," said George Bernanos, French novelist and political writer. And sandwiched in there are your emotions -- those feelings that draw you away from your task. Wanting to run off and go play, or wander down the hall and talk to a colleague, or thinking you must take a phone call, and letting yourself getting into the rabbit-chasing mode instead of staying focused on-task.

How Do You Develop It?

Learning a new emotional intelligence skill like Intentionality takes practice, daily practice, sometimes moment-to-moment, because it's for sure there are lots of things to distract you if you let them.

It's also easy to get lazy about your "motives."

Before you enter a meeting, for instance, stop and consider what your intentions are. Do you intend to contribute and make it a good meeting? Do you intend to fight again with Harry because he always drives you nuts? Do you intend to cut Marcia off because she never makes any sense? Do you intend to respect the others in the meeting, and their time? Or do you intend to wander around and waste your time and everyone else's?

It sounds silly that you might actually intend to waste people's time, but it happens, and being intentional means making sure if it happens, it's because you meant for it to, not accidentally!

It Takes Discipline

Before you go home after work at night, consider what your intentions are. Do you intend to let the traffic get your irritable so you walk in the door angry? Do you intend to  soothe yourself so you're at your best to greet your family? Do you intend to bolt your dinner and go off in solitude as fast as you can? Do you intend to enjoy your time with your family?

You can't control the events that happen -- the traffic, a bad day at work, your toddler's misery with an ear ache and constant crying -- you can only control your reaction to it, and more than that, your response to what's going on.

Reactions are automatic and can't be helped. A toddler who cries in pain for 1 hour causes lots of negative emotions. To soothe yourself so you can soothe the child, and be pleasant yourself, takes emotional self-awareness and self-discipline. If it's part of your intention to be a good parent, it's your responsibility to do this, to learn how to do this if you don't know how, and to practice it daily.

The Rewards of Intenionality

It's only when we practice Intentionality we can make the things happen in our life that we want at the deepest level. Make the plan, tell yourself you're going to do it, and then do what you need to make it happen. It's simple ... and not easy.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2003

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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