Humans 101

You Can Do More When You’re Unafraid

The power of positive intentions and a generative mindset

Photo: visualspace/Getty Images

We never really know what the day holds for us. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing. Other times we get surprised and run into challenging situations, complex issues, and ornery people. Sometimes we’re the ornery ones.

The way we handle any challenge significantly impacts our emotional, mental, and physical well-being. When we resolve an issue skillfully, we’re able to move on with our lives. The alternative, however, might leave us feeling stressed and stuck wasting our time and energy. The residue of those unresolved challenges stays in our minds and bodies.

There are two keys to feeling at peace with an outcome: a generative mindset and positive intentions.

Generative mindset

Our state of being, our orientation to ourselves and the world, is our mindset. It influences how we think, what we say and do, and how we feel. Researchers often describe mindsets as pairs of opposites on a continuum: open or closed, positive or negative, humble or arrogant, fixed or growth. I like to think of them as fearful and generative.

A “fearful” mindset wants to punish, seek revenge, show someone up, be right, defend its position, or tell someone off. When we are fearful, we engage the reptilian brain, and activate our stress responses. We go into survival mode, believing we are at risk. We are tentative, overly cautious, vindictive, afraid, narrow-minded, and selfish. Fear inhibits us from being our best.

We either fight (aggressive) or do nothing (passive). Flooded with adrenaline and emotion, we become less rational, and simple issues become complicated. We say and do things we regret. When we’re hijacked by our emotions, our rational mind is no longer in charge.

A “generative” mindset, however, is open, curious, humble, calm, rational, caring, and focused. It wants to create dialogue, offer an opinion, give honest feedback, make a suggestion, or negotiate solutions. It’s easier to handle difficult situations by being generative — our generative minds engage our hearts and tap into the best version of ourselves. Our best selves are creative, considerate, and deeply humanistic.

We can face more difficult situations when we are confident in our own being.

A generative mindset also allows us to have positive intentions, whereas a fearful mindset produces negative intentions. Intentions influence our behavior.

Positive intentions

Our intentions are what we aim to do — our purpose. They are invisible to others but clear to us. They influence our actions and our words. A generative state of mind produces intentions that are helpful, kind, and respectful. When we’re negative, agitated, angry, defensive, or distracted, our intentions are more self-protective, critical, judgmental, self-serving, and fearful.

Consider these two ways to express an intention with a colleague:

  • “You are a well-respected team member. I have a few ideas that might help you contribute even more. Would you like to hear them?”
  • “How many more times are you going to repeat yourself in team meetings?”

The first conversation will likely go smoothly. The second will not.

Sometimes we wake up in the morning ready to conquer whatever issues might arise. On days like these, we might come across the exact piece of inspiration or advice we needed, right when we needed it. We’re off to conquer demons with newfound motivation and skill. Success!

Other days, it’s not so easy. Some issues are complicated, emotionally charged, or confusing. Before you give up or launch right into them, ask yourself:

  • Is the psychic effort of doing something worth it?
  • What don’t I know about this situation?
  • What are my assumptions? What story have I created? What is my contribution to this situation?
  • How can I handle this without creating more chaos so that I can feel proud of my behavior?
  • What outcome do I want?

A moment or two of reflection will help you decide if you want to deal with the situation or not — and create a more generative mindset.

We know when we’re dodging an issue needing resolution. It haunts us. We think about it when we go to sleep at night and in the morning when we awaken. That fear makes us smaller. We shrink — our shoulders hunch. Our voice becomes tight and muffled. We postpone and avoid tough conversations because we aren’t in the right frame of mind.

However, being generative makes us taller. We grow. We’re confident without being arrogant. Our voice is strong and clear. We can face more difficult situations when we are confident in our own being.

When we approach situations with a generative mindset and positive intentions we’re more likely to:

  • Ask what it might be like for the person we are speaking to.
  • Make a request or a suggestion that is well-received.
  • Ask about the other side of the story.
  • Suspend judgment of others.
  • Forgive.
  • Lead by example.
  • Own our contribution and communicate clearly to others.
  • Agree to disagree and remain friends.
  • Respect different points of view.
  • Love ourselves for who we are, not who we want to be.
  • Realize everyone is working through their wounds.
  • Take a stand and say no—respectfully.
  • Be firm and loving.
  • Live in the flow of nonresistance.
  • Apologize sincerely.
  • Ask what we can do that might make a difference.
  • Say what we believe and accept the outcomes.

There doesn’t seem to be any end to life’s dilemmas, issues, and challenges. They can be large and overwhelming or tiny and annoying. Dealing with them is easier when we embrace a generative mindset.

10 years as a monk, 49 years meditating, 30 years in the shark-infested waters of corporate America |

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