The Power of Intention

By Martin Thoolen,
Published at 4 April 2023.
Lezen in 6 minuten.

How your intention can destroy and heal everything.

Your intention can destroy and heal everything. In people and between people. An ego-intention destroys more than you care to imagine. And a pure intention from the heart can heal everything. In all your business and private relationships. From which intention do you show yourself to others?

“Intention can destroy and heal everything”

You may have developed all kinds of social and leadership skills. On balance, everything comes down to the intention from which you do or say something. Such as asking questions, active listening, giving feedback, exploring when negotiating and dealing with conflict, and leadership skills. You can teach these and other useful social and communication skills, just like I gave my first training in this field at Utrecht University 35 years ago. But it won't make you a better person!

“Social and leadership skills won't make you a better person”

In fact, you can even subconsciously or consciously misuse these skills. It’s a potential pitfall, especially for coaches and trainers who use these skills in their work and private life. I’ve experienced this for myself a few times recently. Watch.

After years of being in a creative cocoon, at the end of 2022 it was time to come out, including the publication of my life's work (the book “Spirited Personal Leadership”). Out of pure joy about my discoveries, I wanted to share the information and I started looking for former colleagues and various agencies to work with. It was striking how many ego-walls I ran into.

Unconscious ego intentions

For example, during a conversation with a former colleague who had read my book, I did not receive a single compliment, but instead only critical questions about it: "Did you come up with that yourself, those five tasks of the soul?" (Answer: “Yes”); “What is actually new about your book?” (Answer: "That it explains all three forces (ego, soul and spirit) in an understandable and applicable way and provides insight into how these forces determine all your choices and behavior, and how you can consciously use them").

Apart from these questions themselves, I was particularly curious about the intention behind the questions. It seemed that the questioner's ego had more of a hold on them than they realized. By only negatively criticizing the other person (me, in this case), you don't have to take them as seriously. In essence, you push the other person down to make yourself less miserable, which I call the "see-saw effect" in my new book: pushing the other person down energetically, physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, in order to make yourself feel more elevated, and certainly not lower or less. Such an unconscious ego coup stems from five or so universal fears of falling short yourself, or of receiving or having received too little from the outside world:

  • Attention
  • Love
  • Being special/having added value
  • Inclusion
  • Recognition/appreciation

How do these universal fuels affect your actions?

The moment you meet and admire someone, you run the risk of (un)consciously pushing them down, even with an open question that is interview-technically fine in terms of form. Why? So that you don't feel inferior to them. From the fear of not being seen enough, you try to level yourself up by pushing the other person down.

The moment your ego, unbeknownst to you, has taken the driver’s seat, power games and greed take control of you. So that you feel like you still matter, and don't have to feel less valuable yourself. Your own physical, material, emotional, mental, or spiritual neediness takes over. In this case it would be the emotional need for equal appreciation or recognition.

Do you think these are exceptions? I experience it to be more the rule that the ego has a much stronger influence on people, coaches and trainers than is often recognized.

In Practice

Two weeks ago I was discussing a possible collaboration with an temp agency. The founder whom I was supposed to talk to wasn’t there and two younger ladies took his place. I sat down and waited for them to introduce themselves, which never happened. They remained silent for about fifteen seconds, looking straight at me and saying nothing. I decided to break the silence and explained how I ended up there. At the end of my introduction, I was cut off, and one of the young directors said in a directive manner: “We want to conduct the conversation as follows: first we will share something personal about ourselves and then you will have 15 minutes to ask questions.”

When we got to the point where I was ‘allowed’ to ask questions, the following happened:

Me: “What does interim work look like for you?”

Agency: “Ordinary.”

M: “Can you clarify that?”

A: “Well, it’s nothing special.”

M: “If I tagged along with you for a day, what would I see you do?”

A: “All kinds of stuff.”

I discovered that my open and probing questions did not yield any new and valuable information. They also shared information about their hobbies, like modeling with clay and Thai boxing, which didn't give me any of the vital information that I asked for. A fragment:

A: “I am into Thai boxing.”

M: "Oh, that's pretty cool.” (said with a positive tone of admiration of strength)

A: “Well, don't you think that's normal then?” (said in a hen-pecked way)

Apart from the fact that basic conversation techniques were poorly applied, a distant and even hostile atmosphere towards me was particularly noticeable from the moment I stepped into the room. There was noreal openness, but instead power games were being played from the start. I was about to leave the 'meeting' early, because sometimes it's cowardly to go, but sometimes it's cowardly to stay.

Among other things, it raised the question for me: To what extent are people, including experienced coaches, trainers and interim managers, themselves aware of their own intention from which they speak, ask, do or don’t do something?

Which keg do you tap from: ego or spirit?

The intention can be directly tested against the characteristics of an oversized ego, or the characteristics of consciousness/spirit, as you see in my book. If not your ego, but spirit (or consciousness) has the upper hand, then you do or do not do something out of, among other things, curiosity, sincerity, openness, love and kindness. How could the previous two ‘meetings’ have turned out if the other conversation partner(s) had applied more spirit than ego?

Intention from spirit instead of ego

Another colleague, talking about my book: “Gosh, what a job you have done. Can you tell me, how did you come across the five tasks for the soul?” (said with a sincere and friendly tone of curiosity). This way you get a much more open and real conversation, without ego clouding things up.

As yet another colleague (a senior coach/trainer) let me know, not from ego, but from spirit: “I was fascinated! It is written in an inviting way, not pedantically. It really makes an impact with the examples and exercises. Nicely designed too.

I'm going to use it as a manual. To recover from time to time or to reflect on a difficult situation, or just to be inspired.”

Temp agency manager: “Thank you for coming in on time. We would like to have the conversation in this way. Is that okay with you? What do you hope to get out of this conversation? What can I do to achieve that?" This way you get an adventurous exploration and a more pleasant exchange.

You can see how you can create much better work and private relationships and collaborations in no time coming from a different intention, namely spirit instead of ego.

But then, even as an experienced coach/trainer/interim manager or whatever, you must dare to keep looking in the mirror and learning.And doing that sometimes falls by the wayside over the years.

Are you aware of the intention from which you ask someone a question? From your heart or from power, from love or from fear? If you are completely honest with yourself, you can do a twist that makes the immediate world around you better and a bit more fun.

Want to know more?

Take a look at my book 'Spirited Personal Leadership' here. For more effective work, meaningful living and a better world. View or order a copy here:

See the promotional copy and find out whether my book could help you.

Would you like to personally experience how you can gain more control over your work and life?

Check the new Master’s Course – Spirited Personal Leadership - here:

©2023: Martin Thoolen

#spiritedpersonalleadership #personalleadership #spiritedleadership #mastercoursespiritedpersonalleadership #coaching #training #egomanagement #ego #soulwork

Martin Thoolen

My 30 years of professional experience as an awareness coach, clinical and organisational psychologist has enabled me to help thousands of clients in Personal or Collective Leadership. Both groups and individuals, in coaching sessions, training courses, leadership development and organisation development programs, retreats and seminars.
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