Learn Oprah's business practice of setting intentions

Oprah Winfrey attributes the success of her television show as #1 for 25 years in large part based on her business operations tactic to infuse every show with a loving intention. She got this practice from Gary Zukav's book Seat of the Soul. As we choose new ways to operate at work to become better versions of ourselves out of this quarantine, infusing loving intentions is a practice to add to the list. This blog explains what intentions are and how you can use them to enhance your career success and satisfaction.

What is an intention?

Everything you say and every action you take begins with an intention. Intention is the energy that infuses the word or the deed. It is the real reason behind what you say or do. And when you drill down deep, in essence, there are only ever two possible intentions: love or fear. Intentions of love are about contributing your gifts to serve the needs of others. Intentions of fear are about making yourself look good and to avoid pain.

Why intention matters

Gary Zukav explains why intention matters when he writes: "Every action, thought, and feeling is motivated by an intention, and that intention is a cause that exists as one with an effect. If we participate in the cause, it is not possible for us not to participate in the effect." This means that when we act with an intention of fear, the effect that we create is more fear, and when we act with an intention of love, the effect that we create is more love. This is aligned with the idea of karma: the energy that we send out is the energy that comes back to us.

Oprah believes deeply in this idea of sending out loving energy. According to Oprah, she required that her producers present a loving intention for why they wanted to do each show before she would approve it, and the intention had to be authentic for and resonate with her. She would not do a show simply to advance ratings or look good by featuring a big celebrity - that would be based in fear. The loving intentions she infused into each show ensured that the work was done to genuinely contribute to the audience. And obviously, that operational tactic paid off for her with great love and success coming back her way.

How to infuse loving intention into your work

In practice, consciously choosing your intention before taking action gives you the power to create your reality and to bring good results to you.

Here are 2 examples:

Scenario 1: Taking on an extra project because you don't want to disappoint the person asking. This is acting from fear. As Oprah calls it, this is: "the disease to please." This might sound surprising to you. You might assume when you don't want to disappoint someone you are acting with a loving intention. It is fear because when you really drill down, you're afraid that the person who asked you will judge you or abandon you if you say no. You're actually being manipulitive in saying yes - doing something you don't want to do to be liked and avoid pain. When you give from love, you give freely because you really want to share. If you can create genuine sharing of your gifts in this situation, maybe by changing something about the project so that you truly feel like it is an act of service, you can infuse the situation with loving intention. If not, you can lovingly say "no."

Scenario 2: Creating a new product to increase revenue.

Acting for money alone is acting from fear when deep down the energy comes from a desire to look successful, be admired, or to avoid the pain of not having things money can buy. You can always add a true sense of contribution to business by identifying a need of others and creating the product to be helpful. As a comparison, it's not that Oprah always turned down celebrity guests who would be good for ratings. Rather she would do such a show when the producers could infuse it with love and some force for good in the messaging and the interview. In creating a new product then, you want to be sure you and your team infuse a loving intention into it. Or, you can lovingly drop the project and find something you can create that would be from a sense of genuine service and contribution.

To help you determine whether you are acting from fear or love, here are a few clues:

You can start to infuse this practice into your work right now by first observing yourself. You might pause and ask several times a day: What is my intention here? Am I acting in love or fear? If you're not Mother Theresa and you're not yet operating 100% from love, your first step would be recognizing fearful intentions behind your actions. Catching yourself acting from fear is insightful! You don't need to beat yourself up for this; simply observe and be curious. With time, you'll become more proactive. You can improve on the quality that goes out and the responses that come back by consciously choosing intentions around your meetings, product ideas, new hires, and everything else. Eventually, infusing loving intentions can become an everyday operational tactic that engages your whole team in quality and goodness going out and coming back.

About the Author

Gina Marotta is a career coach and speaker teaching and inspiring people to unleash their genius. She is a former defense attorney for some of Chicago’s highest profile criminal cases, served as Managing Director for a national nonprofit catalyzing career advancement for women and girls, and has been featured in media outlets like: Thrive Global, The Huffington Post, and WGN Radio. She has also been named 50 Under 50 and among 100 Women Making a Difference.