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5P's of Processing Pressure - PRESENT (I intend to)

The brain

The brain is a complex piece of kit. I love Steve Peter’s simplicity as he describes 3 core parts, the Computer (Parietal) that stores all of your past experiences and learned actions; the Chimp (Limbic) where all of your keeping safe and emotional processing takes place and the Human (Frontal Lobe) where all the level headed calculation goes on. The brain is intelligent and learns and stores processes to make it more efficient. It knows that lots of thinking in the Frontal Lobe can take up a lot of energy and so it learns processes and stores them in the Parietal system. Quick learned responses. If you have ever tried working a lot on new things, you know how tiring that is and so the brain tries to store responses. That is why, when you have learnt something eg driving a car, that it becomes automatic.

When we are under pressure, the brain releases Cortisol, some of which has the function of reducing access to areas like the frontal lobe, to enable the fight or flight response in the Limbic system to try to keep safe.

I Intend to

All of this storing process is great for brain efficiency but it can have a downside in that some automatic responses might not always be the best for us. It can sometimes lead to a blind response that can cause errors. David Marquet, in his brilliant book ‘Turn the Ship Around’, talks about a simple process and phrase that can help reduce the chance of error in pressurised moments. It is the simple phrase, ‘I intend to’.

By saying the phrase ‘I intend to’, we are giving ourselves and those around us, the chance to hear our plan of action. It allows us a few seconds thinking time to process what is normally an automated reaction. In my coaching work, I talk to clients about three simple steps to help ‘respond not react’ and it is

  • Pause

  • Reflect

  • Respond

Using ‘I intend to’ we are pressing pause on our automated system. When we hear the words, it gives us that moment to reflect on if there are any consequences of this choice that are not helpful. The following questions can help you in that moment as you reply to yourself after saying ‘I intend to XXX’.

  • What might be the positive consequences of that choice?

  • What might be the negative consequences of that choice?

  • If this were shown on TV, would the audience view it as the best way forward available to you at the time?

If our reflection deems the benefits outweigh risk of negative consequences then we can choose to respond in this way.


When we share the phrase ‘I intend to’ with others, we invite them in to be ‘Guardians of our Galaxy’. They have opportunity to give us feedback on our intention. If our head is filling with cortisol and our frontal lobe is not processing the situation efficiently, then there is a chance that some of those present may see a consequence that we have not seen. That allows them to add a challenge and perspective. There is, of course, an important element that underpins the potential success of this. Have you created a culture where it is ok for people to speak up?


Matthew Syed, in Black Box Thinking, starts his book outlining the consequences of creating a culture where it is not ok to speak up. Whether this is a culture of hierarchy and it is deemed not ok to question those in power, such as the example he gives of a theatre nurse questioning a consultant surgeon, or whether it is because an individual has narcissistic tendencies and has shouted down anyone who raises a challenge and surrounded themselves with ‘yes people’. ‘I intend to’ won’t work in those contexts as people will be too afraid to speak up.

It is therefore no surprise that ‘Present’ comes as the fourth of five of the ‘5P’s of processing pressure’.

  • Pause

  • Ponder

  • Partner

  • Present

  • Practise

We need to have established a culture of partnering with each other first. As a leader, we can create the culture and it starts by us modelling it. When we practise and model the ‘pausing’ and ‘pondering’ and invite others for feedback, it can create a culture of this.

Stand together confidence

I mentioned in my last blog, the value of this as I intended to tell staff of the death of one of their colleagues at the end of the day, but my senior team gave their view on my ‘I intend to’ that first thing in the day was a better idea. We stood together as I took action on their feedback and that gave me confidence in an uncertain situation.

Stand with yourself

If no guardians are available, then even telling yourself what you intend to do, allows you chance to reflect and stand with yourself on a decision. In any one moment there may well not be the perfect solution, but saying ‘I intend to’ allows us to reduce the risk of the best solution you can find in the moment going wrong.

If you would like help to review and reframe your pressure, contact us at Everyday Leader. We can empower you to gain clarity with some simple questions to help you understand and manage it better. Give us a call at 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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