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The Power of Setting Intentions Instead Of Goals

I originally published this blog in January 2016; I thought it would be a great reminder as we head into 2022.

I’ve always been a goal-oriented person and concrete, measurable goals were important to me to set out and achieve. I still believe that goals are important and indeed necessary to get things done in life, however I now work out my intentions first, and to me, intentions are much more relevant and important than goals alone.

Intentions are different than goals in that they are based on how you wish to be in the present moment, regardless of outer circumstances, and regardless of how near or far to your goals you are. Intentions are a way of being, of acting, of thinking – no matter what is going on around you. Intentions are a guiding principle for how you want to be, live and show up in the world.

I found an interesting article that nicely explains the difference between goals and intentions.

  1. Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.

  2. Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination.

  3. Goals are external achievements. Intentions are your inner-relationships with yourself and others.

As a simple example, you might have a goal of getting outside more this winter to enjoy the fresh air and get some exercise. You might have committed to cross-country ski lessons or made plans to snowshoe with your friends the next few weekends. Great goal! Now think about how you’d like to be during these outdoor sessions. Perhaps your intention could be to be really open to all your senses during your day out – how does your body feel, what do you smell, what amazing sights do you see? Or maybe it’s an intention to be grateful for the time with your friends and let them know how much they mean to you. An intention could be to be joyful, to appreciate nature, to let go of negative thoughts, or to be at peace with where you are right now. In this way, even if the day is foggy, or cold or there’s lots of traffic on the highway – if you keep bringing yourself back to your intention - you’ll keep yourself in a positive frame of mind, appreciating the moment and being true to what is important to you despite what is going on around you and without external circumstances influencing how you’re going to feel or act.

Here are a few ways to help you set intentions:

1. Choose a few life areas that you’d like to focus on right now. Areas that could use a bit more balance or that you feel you need to improve upon. (Life areas can include career, friends, family, marriage, romantic relationship, financial, spiritual, health)

2. Think about why this area is important to you. For example, if you chose finances, think about is important for you here – is it buying a house, going on a vacation or paying off your debt?

3. Where are the gaps in your life? What areas of your life need more attention and focus? Remember that gaps go both ways. There are some areas of your life that you may be giving more energy than you’d ideally like and there are some areas that you are not giving as much energy as you’d like.

4. When you write an intention for an area of your life think about how you want to be in this area of life. What kind of person do you want to be? What type of mindset do you want to have? Is there a particular word that resonates with you that will remind you of how you want to be? Is there a mantra that comes to mind?

Here are some thought-starters to help you get started in forming an intention:

  • What matters most to you?

  • What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?

  • What would you like to let go of?

  • Who would you like to forgive in your life?

  • How do you feel when you are your happiest self?

  • What makes you proud?

  • What word(s) would you like to align yourself with?

  • What fears would you like to release?

  • What are you grateful for?

5. Now rewrite your intentions in the present tense. i.e. “I have a wonderful job”, “I am healthy and vibrant”, “I am in a loving and caring relationship”. Writing intentions in the present tense allows your mind to free itself from time constraints.

6. It's important to acknowledge that there will be bumps along the way and that sometimes we’ll stray a bit from our intention. And that’s okay. Remember to be kind to yourself, be compassionate, and forgive yourself each night before you go to bed. Tomorrow is a fresh new day.

As Wayne Dyer said, “Our intentions create our reality”. So get out there, live with intention, and live your best life! xx

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