Of course it is important to have goals. Unfortunately, we rarely make use of them in a way that helps us achieve lasting change and affects the way we go about our life. We have a tendency to set goals that are future-based. For example, we may say “I am going to lose fifteen pounds by spring,” or “I am going to cook for my family every day.” One problem with this approach is that we become focused on the end result. In turn, our ability to be flexible suffers. For example, we may forbid ourselves from having a dessert but spend the whole evening eyeing the chocolate cake from the corner of our eye. Similarly, we may find ourselves yelling at the kids who are tired and hungry after we decide to cook despite getting home late from a long day at work. When we approach our desired changes in this way, we may find ourselves miserable, and let’s face it, unpleasant to be around, while we set our sights on this future imagined goal.
Another problem with this approach is that we are still a failure if we lose ten pounds or manage to cook three times a week. Though in reality we have been successful at some change, we have indirectly invalidated ourselves to the extent that it is less likely we will keep up our progress. The message we leave with is that we set a goal, we tried, and we failed.
Goals do have their place. Making goals helps us envision how we want things to be in the future. In contrast, creating an intention allows us to live in the moment and therefore experience all that is worthwhile in our lives and continue to build a capacity for ongoing change, growth and development.
To set an intention, tune into your values. Perhaps you hold core beliefs about the importance of health, family connection, and spiritually-aligned living. Next, observe your current actions and discern what you might focus on doing differently to better match your actions with those values. Thus, with the previously considered goal of losing weight, you may instead set an intention to make healthy eating choices and integrate a fitness routine into your normal daily activities. To further illustrate the difference, let’s explore the goal of cooking dinner every night. As you examine this goal, you may realize that what is important to you is less about making elaborate cooked meals than it is about nourishing your family physically and emotionally. Thus, in line with your values, the intention may be to plan healthy meals with your children and focus on having everyone participate. In that regard, even a simple meal of rice and beans becomes a successfully met intention because of your focus.
In summary, goals are about getting more done. Intention is about living more congruently with your values. With this more realistic and enjoyable way of creating change, we are more likely to be able to take pleasure in the process and experience growth!