We’re all familiar with setting goals, right?
- Lose 5 pounds this month
- Exercise 45-min, 4x a week
- Cook meals at home M – F
But when’s the last time you set an intention?
Goals are a must, but they don’t completely pave the path to getting what you want out of life or feeling happy at any given time, even if you work each day to finally reach them.
The thing is, we think about goals today, but the results actually happen later. (And this is exactly why sticking to them is so hard!) A goal is, by definition, the end. A result. A milestone. An achievement. But, what about those long days in between, the days before you get there?
That’s where intentions come in.
WHAT IS AN INTENTION?
Intentions communicate your core, personal values in any specific area of your life. They are your foundation that helps guide you to make everyday choices, set priorities and spend your time in a rewarding way that communicates and fulfills your personal values. Intentions provide a mindset, and it’s a daily practice.
INTENTIONS vs GOALS
The beauty of intentions is they provide an opportunity to feel good, accomplished and fulfilled every day. No waiting! When you set intentions, you give yourself a compass – a clear direction – to how you want to feel and what you want to put out into the world on a consistent basis. You’re driven by purpose.
While intentions help you prioritize how to spend your time and energy, they do not leave you tied to specific expectations or outcomes. Letting go of actions for the sake of specific results feels completely freeing, particularly if you’ve had a lifetime of beating yourself up over goals. For example, let’s say you set the intention, Nourish my body. In practice, this probably means you eat more vegetables every day and fewer processed foods. It probably *also* means you choose to eat a slice of veggie-loaded pizza over plain cheese. (Good job, btw!) In any case, the intention does not mean you will definitely lose two pounds this week by choosing more nourishing foods. The intention is to provide your body with more nutrients to be healthy and feel better, not to be “skinny” or lose weight. (That’s a goal, and we’ll work on those, also!)
Think about intentions as your Strategy, while goals are your Tactics. Your specific tactics will change with time, circumstances or when you achieve a goal and work toward something new. On the other hand, your strategy will be your foundation for a much longer, sustainable amount of time.
HOW TO SET AN INTENTION
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to setting intentions. You may create as many as you want, and for as many areas of your life you want. That said, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Communicate your personal values
- Provide a flexible, enduring foundation
- Not tied to specific outcomes
- Actionable today
It’s helpful to set enough for the major areas of your life to give you direction and focus, but not so many that they feel like a chore or you overthink everything and abandon the intentions all together. Personally, I have set six that primarily cover the self-care, relationships and career areas of my life.
If you’d like some inspiration for your own intentions, I’ll be sharing mine in the next post.