Schuitema’s model of Intent, or the Intent Thematic, shows how each person operates on a continuum that is bounded by two moments: unconditionally here to get, and unconditionally here to give. As we engage with the world, we are constantly faced with a choice to act on our needs or on our values. This can often be thought of as doing what is easy vs. what is right. While our intent is not visible, our behaviour is. And those around us watch us to determine our intent.

The Manner of Malevolence and Benevolence

When we act on what we want to get, we are acting in an immature (or malevolent) way. This can cause others to perceive us as being subjective, closed-minded, impatient, and only concerned with self-interest. When we act on what is right, we are acting in a way that others perceive as mature (or benevolent). They see us as being objective, open-minded, patient, and concerned with the interest of others.

Do take note that acting on the basis of what one should give does not equate to being nice. There are times when we are required to be generous, and other times when we are required to be courageous. Generosity may need us to be hard, while courage may need us to be soft. For this reason, being ‘here to give’ means acting appropriately in each and every situation. This is known as being ‘transactionally correct’.

The Secret Lies in the Intention

We have very limited ability to gauge where we sit on this continuum of ‘get’ vs. ‘give’, as our subconscious needs often conflict with our conscious desire to do what is right. We are very good at fooling ourselves, causing some blind spots in our lives. Not often do people come to work with the intention of leaving a path of mayhem and unhappiness behind them. But as they leave the office at the end of the day, they have had a negative impact on those around them. In the same way, not often do people see the full impact of their positive actions and the ripples of joy that spread out from each of their engagements with others. The consequences of our actions spread far faster and wider than we would often care to admit.

The way that we act invites others to act in the same way in response to us.
In a sense, we experience what we are.

At the heart of transactional correctness is personal humility. We are able to put aside our own agenda and see things as they are, to realise how blessed we are and how benevolent the universe is. This causes an emotion of gratitude within us that propels us to act with generosity toward others. Gratitude is backward-looking, which enables us to trust that we will continue to be blessed. When we trust in a benevolent world, we have the courage to accept the situation at hand and reflect power. We tend to see each situation and every person as significant.

At the heart of the opposite side of the model is pride and independence. We may feel that this universe is trying to do us harm, or that we know better. This causes us to act on the basis of our own agenda, which usually consists of preconceived ideas and prejudices. We become resentful of others because we don’t get what we want, and act selfishly toward them.

When you act on the intent to give or serve as leaders, within teams, or personally, the result is success. Understanding Schuitema’s Intent Thematic and being able to correctly apply it to your role transforms your performance, and the performance of your team. It is in this intention that the secret to human success lies.

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