Goal setting is a valuable practice that helps you get things done. Goals are essential for completing tasks, whether it is developing a new business skill or cleaning your closest.
While setting goals can motivate you, they can also produce a feeling that what you currently have isn’t enough. A sense of unease can come over you if your goal-oriented life discounts all that is good in the present moment.
Questions may start haunting you: Am I going to fulfill my goal? Will I be successful or not? Will I be happy once I reach the goal? Should I set another goal to keep the pressure on? Am I a failure if the goal is not reached?
A winning-or-losing mindset can operate in the back of your mind, which fuels the internal Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). If you don’t reach your goal, your Victim mind may say: “Why try anyway — I’ll never be a success.”
The controlling Persecutor in you may take over and interfere with other important aspects of your work and/or life. You might accomplish your goals, but the rest of your life might fall apart. In short, over reliance on goal-setting can become a winner-take-all plot that dominates your thoughts. This helps explain why so many New Year’s resolutions are not fulfilled.
Living your intentions, on the other hand, is much different. Being intentional allows you to focus on how you want to be in the moment, independent of whether you are “winning or losing.” Creators, the central role in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® balance their desired outcomes with intentions first, based upon their values and what matters most to them. Goal-setting, using Baby Steps, then naturally follows.
A metaphor may help illustrate the distinction between intentions and goals.
We live in the US near a national forest which has wonderful day hikes that allow spectacular views. Our goal may be to hike to the top of a small mountain with the wish to see the extraordinary view from the summit. It’s a worthy goal that gets us excited and motivates us to schedule a hike.
Before we begin the hike, we set our intention to be present to the sights and smells along the trail, noticing the beauty of the plants and unexpected vistas that arise with each twist in the trail. Even if the forest fog unexpectedly rolls in and prevents us from hiking to the summit or to see the far-off view, our intention to enjoy one another and nature’s beauty can still be fulfilled.
If we are just focused on the goal of reaching the summit—and the fog prevents that—we can return home feeling victimized by not reaching our goal. As Creators and focused on our declared intention of being fully present to the experience, we can return home satisfied that we fulfilled our intention.
Focusing on intentions does not mean you give up your goals or desire to achieve. Here are three differences between goals and intentions:
- Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.
- Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of achieving the goal or destination.
- Goals are external achievements. Intentions are about your relationship with yourself and others.
By setting your intention first, and combining it with goals, you will become a Creator who enjoys both the journey, as much as the destination.