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Published on June 25, 2020

Intentions Vs Goals: What’s The Difference?

Intentions Vs Goals: What’s The Difference?

If this is your first time jumping into learning about goal setting, one important thing to take note of is intentions vs goals. It’s an aspect that many people struggle with, especially if you are the type of person who sets New Year resolutions every year and ends up giving up on them in the coming months.

Knowing the relationship and differences between these aspects will allow you to better identify what is an intention and what is a goal for you.

Furthermore, understanding these can allow you to better leverage them on your path to greater success.

What Are the Differences Between Intentions vs Goals?

Before jumping into the key differences, you need to understand that both intentions and goals are good for you. Both have clear advantages and disadvantages to one another.

That said, only one of these two is going to help you see real change in your life, and that being your goals.

I’ll get into detail why that’s the case further down this post, but for now, knowing the differences between these two will save you a lot of struggle in the future.

Their Descriptions

The first thing to note is how you can describe each one since there are some notable differences between intentions vs goals.

Goals can be best described as the results that you are looking for. It’s the result of something that you’ve put together based on your thought process.

On the other hand, intentions are more or less the energy that you put in at the very start of something. It’s not quite like motivation, but it is your overall willingness to do something.

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To see this in action, an intention can be along the lines of telling yourself “I want to lose weight,” or “I will be a better partner for my spouse.” Goals are the specific actions that you’ll be taking to lose weight and build a better relationship with your partner.

Their Timing

Another key difference between these two is their timing – as in what times they are referring to. From the example mentioned above, you can already piece together where goals and intentions lie.

Intentions are concerned about the present moment in your life. It’s relying on how you feel right now.

Goals are future projections. These are things that you want to achieve at some point. You can achieve that when you put enough energy into taking action to achieve your goals.

What They Prioritize

The third difference is what each one cares about and allows you to prioritize.

When you are setting a goal, the emphasis is placed on the result and the journey along the way. You’ll focus on the milestones that you placed out and assess the results that you’ve received thus far and the final results, too.

Another way to look at it is that goals prioritize external achievements.

Intentions prioritize the emotions that you are feeling. Yes, that’s part of the journey as well, but intentions dig deeper. They prioritize the relationship that you have with yourself and the task at hand.

Difference in Scope

The fourth and final difference to bring up is the scope of these two aspects. The scope shapes how you set them in the first place.

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When it comes to intentions, there are broad aspects and how you form them varies from person to person. Generally speaking though, intentions are designed to be vague. They’re phrases that mention a general result or maybe it’s a single word. Examples are ones mentioned earlier or using keywords like “growth”, “love”, or “patience”.

Goals are the actions, the expectations, and the results you want to achieve. As such, these are narrow. If you want to have more patience, a goal would be something like meditating for a period of time or trying not to interrupt people.

Which One Is Better for Success?

If we are to look at these two by themselves, there is a clear winner between which one will lead you to success, and that is setting goals.

Another way to see goals is the manifestation of your intentions into a more concrete plan. With goals, you want to achieve things, and you’ll be putting more thought into them. You’ll be talking about how you’ll get there and how you’ll measure your results.

Intentions are vague and focus on the immediate short-term. It’s easy to have intentions in your life, but these don’t lead to action. Or if they do, people lose motivation.

Don’t get me wrong, intentions are strong on an emotional front as they can bring more satisfaction to completing goals. [1] This can be used as extra motivation at the beginning as you are determining your impulses and drives to complete your goal.[2]

But with this in mind, it stands to reason that instead of focusing on one over the other, it might be worth considering striking a balance between the two of them.

Why Combine Them?

Another angle to look at intentions vs goals is that goals are what you want to be doing in your life. Intentions are the aspects that you want to be. These are both very strong desires in ourselves as both goals and intentions impact us on an emotional level.

By itself, a goal could manage well on its own. But time and again, people run into problems after achieving goals. There are so many cases where people feel empty, even after finishing a big goal.[3]

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There is also the dreaded question of “what’s next?” A question that many people struggle to answer.

That changes entirely when you already have an intention in place. It’s not something that directly drives you forward, but it can serve as training wheels so you don’t fall off the path.

After you complete a goal, it makes sense that you go back to your intentions and begin to deepen your relationship with what has transpired and with yourself. By doing this, you are also figuring out where you want to go next. This is the case since your intentions aren’t going to be shifting a whole lot.

If your intention is to grow, then what does growth look like?

There are many ways that a person can grow beyond mindset development – growth in wealth, physical capabilities, communication, and more.

How to Best Leverage This

The best way to leverage this relationship is by first starting with an intention. To get the most out of it, it pays to start with a broad intention and sticking to a single word to manifest that intention.

I used examples like love, growth, and patience, and these are great starts. After all, there are many approaches that you can take with these, so having many options that resonate with you will help.

After that, you will want to go through the goal-setting process. When it comes to goal-setting, there is no wrong method as authors have written hundreds of books on the subject. Go for a method that suits you best.

From there, you want to be striving to achieve your goal and remind yourself of your intention. You can use it in a sense as an affirmation by this point.

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For example, if your goal is to grow on social media, your intention can be something like “I will post moving content that engages my audience.”

The intention can help you as you can look at your efforts and match that with how you are feeling. Look at the post you made or the work you’ve done, and ask yourself whether this is something that makes you happy or you could do better for next time.

In a sense, you can use your intentions to be setting SMARTER goals and relying on it during the ER steps, which are “evaluate” and “reassess your goal”.

Final Thoughts

All by themselves, goals are the superior way to achieve success. There are many possibilities and systems in place that can replace intentions entirely

That being said, if you are setting intentions in the first place, you can put further emotions into your work and establish deeper connections.

These deeper connections can allow you to keep building your habit further and further until it becomes your second nature. As such, intentions are worth considering as a compliment to your goal setting system for success.

More on Goals and Intentions

Featured photo credit: Bookblock via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on August 10, 2020

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

Change begins with the hope of what’s possible in your life. Hope leads to a sense of expectancy Combine this with setting short-term goals, and the likelihood of being more happy and successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short-term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short-term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

Short-term goals are ‘short’, meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes, a day, or as long as a week or a few months. Well-formed short-term goals begin with the end in mind.

Quick tip:

Write down the specific result you want to achieve and the date when it should happen. Then, work backward from this date, describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you take the first step.

A short-term goal is the smallest step you need for you to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

Passionate desire‘ is the key.

As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.[1]

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short-term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin oxytocin, and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence, and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

The Benefits of Setting Short-Term Goals

Regardless of the area in your life where you set your short-term goals, it will have a ripple effect across all your life domains.

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  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity also shifts.
  • Improve your body shape through managing food intake and your energy improves in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude changes around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your health and your desire for self-improvement lifts.

6 Steps to Success With Short-Term Goals

Setting short-term goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but can you achieve that?

Take the following steps and you will start achieving your dreams:[2]

Step 1: Know Your Best Hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

For example:

  • What are your best hopes for your finances?
  • What are your best hopes for your relationship?
  • What are your best hopes for your career?
  • What are your best hopes for your health?

This process involves ‘chunking up’ your ideas to imagine the results more clearly. In this process, you try to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you but also the changes in your behavior and mindset as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Notice What’s Different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

‘Noticing’ helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more ‘real’ your preferred future becomes.

Step 3: Ask: ‘What Else?’

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often, our ego gets a little defensive about it and protective of it. But if we dig and resurface the truth, then weight can be lifted, allowing you the freedom to move forward.

Step 4: Ask: ‘Who Will Notice the Difference?’

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and your partner are important. Seeing the change they’ll notice helps put another perspective on the differences they see in you.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know something changed about you as a result of achieving this goal.

Step 5: Imagine a Miracle Happened Tonight

Imagine that if you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened; and you were the very best version of yourself and that you had achieved your best hopes.

When you woke up tomorrow morning after the miracle happened, what would you notice that would tell you you’ve achieved the change you’re seeking?

Step 6: Describe Your Day as If the Miracle Had Happened

Go through your day, moment by moment. Begin with what time you would wake up and then describe the differences you would notice in every tiny action you do.

Notice in detail what’s different about this day – a day when you are at your very best because you’re living your best hopes.

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How to Track Your Short Term Goals Success

When you set a short-term goal, establish a measurement system to track your progress:[3]

1. Create a Running Tally

One of the best devices to keep your short-term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 kilos by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart either in your diary or somewhere visible and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short-term goal. It won’t be long before your goal of losing 5 kilos is met.

2. Keep a Journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things that are different because you’ve set a well-formed short-term goal.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

Take a look at this guide if you’re starting out journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide).

3. Share Your Progress With a Trusted Friend or Coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself move towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing.

And you’ll be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing your confidence, motivation, and positive changes to your brain to succeed.

Here’re more reasons why you should get yourself a life coach: 7 Reasons Why You Should Find a Life Coach to Reach Your Full Potential.

4. Visualize Your Progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change.

Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing, including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization and then ‘step into’ your day.

Short-Term Goal Example: A Career Short-Term Goal

How to advance your career with short-term goals? Specifically, you will need short-term goals to help with your career. This is also how many people want to utilize short-term goals.

Start by Planning Your Career Visually

Walt Disney was sacked for lacking imagination. Oprah Winfrey was told she’d never make it on television. Careers are destroyed by naysayers intent on keeping you small. The successful person designs a career goal and then creates incremental steps to ‘ladder up’ with short-term goals.

Justin Dry from VinoMofo, a successful Australian wine distribution company, always begins his goal-setting process with visual planning. He says,

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I need to see it all in front of me like a puzzle I’m putting together. It kind of looks like the workings of a madman with lots of weird and wonderful shapes and lines connecting the words.

Whether you use masses of post-it notes that cover a wall, large sheets of paper to spread your ideas on or a journal to map your path – messy planning gets your ideas out of your head so you see different possibilities and pathways available to you.

Begin this process by asking, “What are my best hopes for my career?”

Write them down and place them somewhere you’ll notice them every day.

Make You Think Like a Start-Up Entrepreneur

While successful career planning starts with a messy and random process to let those ‘idea gems’ – the embryos of well-formed short-term goals rise, the next step is taking these nuggets and using them to set your direction.

Think of yourself (and your career) as if you’re the CEO of your successful start-up – one with a clear vision of what you want and how you’ll get it. Rather than waiting for a boss to give you goals, be proactive, and set your own.

Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot says,

Set a vision, and be focused on the intent of these goals. Create actions which not only build on those of yesterday but also improve what you do tomorrow. Your pathways will need to be flexible, challenged, and accountable.

Begin by listing the bigger steps needed to achieve your goal. Then chunk these down into smaller steps with specific actions needed to achieve them. These action steps are the workhorses of your short-term goals.

Create a specific time frame to complete them and maintain accountability – as if you’re reporting to your ‘higher up’.

Begin this process by asking yourself: “What difference will I notice when I take these steps?” Then ask: “What difference will my boss/es notice when I take these steps?”

Establish ‘Triggers’ for Your Daily Habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941) legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit.

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.[4]

To do this list, create a trigger point – the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action as Twyla Tharp did. What will be your ritual of ‘getting in the cab’?

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Get You to Talk About the Future

Melanie Perkins CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for ‘frequently talking about the future’.

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.
  • Whisper them to yourself throughout your day.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy, which continue fueling not only your desire but also the expectation of achieving it.

Manage Mental Resistance

When you begin with ‘hope’, you activate a sense of ‘expectancy’. A belief that what you want is not only possible, it’s within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life.

When you’re ‘moving forward‘ with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards your desired future. When ‘moving away from‘ something you perceive as painful you’re activating ‘fear’, which can also be a strong motivator helping you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Sarah, a manager at a busy merchandising company saw her doctor because she was feeling tired. After a thorough examination, the doctor advised Sarah to lose 15 kilos as this was contributing to her tiredness. The news felt overwhelming as Sarah worked long hours and rarely found time to shop for fresh food, so she relied on fast food to keep her going.

For Sarah, the doctor activated her fear by describing what could happen (heart attack and/or diabetes) if she didn’t manage her weight by shedding 15 kilos.

While ‘moving away from’ motivation can be successful, a way of amplifying positive motivators that will see Sarah begin ‘moving towards’ her goal is by talking about what outcomes Sarah would notice by losing 15 kilos.

For example, managing her weight may see Sarah being more efficient at work, getting out more socially, or feeling more able to manage work pressures and deadlines.

To do this with your own goal setting, think about what’s important to you about achieving your goals. Write down your answers. Ask: “What will you notice that will be different in your life when these changes happen?”

Summing It Up

Change is possible. Short-term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by ‘passionate desire’ so you achieve your desired outcomes.

More Tips About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

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