- Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment and how you want to live into your future.
- Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day independent of winning the goal or destination.
- Goals are external achievements. Intentions are your inner relationships with yourself and others.
- Goals are good for short term planning, while intentions sustain your desire and commitment for the long-term.
Goal setting is a valuable skill that helps you stay on track and get things done. They are essential for completing immediate tasks, such as clearing your office or learning a new computer skill. They can increase your energy to get things done.
But goal-setting can also work against you. For example, when you set a goal you may silently wonder:
· Will I reach my goal?
· Will I be happy once I reach the goal?
· If this goal is not the right one, should I set another goal?
· What will others think if I don’t reach my goal?
Overly focusing on achieving goals can also create a feeling that what you currently have isn’t enough, so you put off happiness until you successfully reach your next goal. With this approach to life, you are investing happiness in the next external milestone.
Worried about whether you will ever be happy, your unconsciousness mind stirs up a lot of anxious mental activity. No wonder New Year’s resolutions rarely work!
Over-reliance on goals can set you up for a win-lose mindset, which fuels the internal Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). For example, if you don’t reach your goal, the inner-Persecutor is activated, and you become critical of yourself. With an active inner-Persecutor the Victim part of you feels even more discouraged and you may hear a voice inside your head say: “Why try anyway? I’ll never be successful.”
Living your intentions, on the other hand, is much different than having a goal-oriented focus. Being intentional allows you to focus on how you want to be in the moment, independent of whether you are winning or losing. When intentions guide your moment-to-moment focus, you live from your values and what matters most to you.
Focusing on your intentions does not mean you give up your goals or desire for achievement. By partnering goals with intentions, you will become one of the few people in life who enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Here are four differences between goal setting and intentions:
The purpose of goals is to win at whatever game you are playing. The purpose of your intentions is to enjoy playing the game. This approach is less about a specific accomplishment—it is more about continuous improvement and learning with each experience.
A metaphor may help show the difference. We live in the Pacific Northwest with many wonderful day hikes that allow spectacular views. Our goal may be to hike to the top of a small mountain to see the extraordinary view from the summit. We also set our intention to be present to the sights and smells along the trail, noticing the beauty of the plants and unexpected vistas with each twist in the trail.
Halfway up the mountain a rainstorm washes out a stream and blocks our path. We return home not feeling victimized that we did not reach our goal of reaching the summit, but as Creators, fulfilling our intention of being present to the beauty of the natural world.
When you fall in love with your intention, rather than the goal, you don’t have to wait to feel fulfilled.