Turning Intention to Lasting Change

18 January 2021, 10:06 am
Speciality Bites by Paul Hargreaves

It is around this time of year when a sense of guilt sets in for some. The New Year resolutions we set ourselves only a few weeks ago may have failed already and we feel ourselves slipping back into the same old patterns. Maybe this isn’t the case for as many this year with there being less to distract us during lockdown. On the other hand, maybe it’s worse than other years.

Why is it that intentions only take us so far, and then often fail? Well, one reason is that they come from the thinking part of our brain, the neo-cortex. There is nothing wrong with intentions whatsoever, we have to start there. But for lasting change there must be an emotional component too, as that is where our real drive comes from – the passion to continue in adversity.

Take, for example, someone who smokes and sets an intention to stop smoking. Success is much more likely if they have been given a health scare or have a close friend who is having serious health problems due to smoking. This will create an emotional response within them, and now it is an intention backed up by a powerful emotional desire to succeed.

In his book, Descartes’ Error, Antonio Damasio proves neurologically that decision-making is intimately connected with the Limbic area of our brain, i.e. the part where our emotions stem from. This is obvious if we think about it – all successful brands are trying to engage our emotions in their marketing, as this will increase the likelihood of our decision to buy. It is an intention plus the emotional content that leads to commitment that succeeds.

During 2020, many business leaders set an intention to run their businesses in a different way. To not just primarily focus on profit, but to also to run a business that improves the world socially or environmentally. The pandemic has certainly shifted the worldview of some business leaders. However, I believe that some of these good intentions may run out of steam within business if they are not also accompanied by an increase of love and compassion within the leaders who are driving change. It is those leaders who are angry about injustice, emotional about the climate emergency and passionate about people that will have the drive and determination to see lasting change.

Let’s be those this year who are open to being changed ourselves with love and compassion as we help change our businesses and organisations.

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