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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Intentions Vs Goals: What’s The Difference?

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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”.

Check out Jade’s video on Goal vs Intention to learn more about this topic:

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 September 27, 2021

8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

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8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

The importance of effective goal setting cannot be overstated on our personal journeys towards success. This is why there are countless articles out there on how to set your own SMART goals and even why it’s a skill commonly taught to a small degree in classrooms.

Learning the importance of goal setting and the benefits of sticking to those goals can be the defining factor determining whether we truly embrace the importance of goal setting. The more willing we are to embrace this method, the more likely we become to reach our personal definitions of personal and professional success.

Thus, this article is going to walk you through some of the benefits you’ll see from learning to set goals for yourself and answer the question — why is goal setting important?

1. Goals Guide and Align Our Focus

It’s hard to get to where you want to be in life if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. Some people believe avoiding goals means living a more care-free life. How many times have you heard the phrase “If I have no expectations, then I can’t be disappointed”?

But is that really what our lives have come to? Living just to avoid disappointment? It doesn’t seem like an overly optimistic view in my opinion. And since you’re reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you agree with me.

Without goals, we lack a degree of direction and focus. Sure you may be able to avoid disappointment, but just avoiding disappointment doesn’t mean you are necessarily happy.

Without goals, we will pointlessly waste our time, energy, and efforts. Listen to anybody who is the top of their field and they’ll tell you something like this,

“Yes talent is important, but often your success depends much more on what you decide to do with that talent.”

And what you will do with your talent largely depends on your focus.

Your goals give you direction. Your goals give you something to shoot for. This direction and target you create in your mind will help you to progress towards your main life goals rather than simply wander around aimlessly. These goals will help you align your actions and behaviors as you continue moving forward.

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So, why is goal setting important? Because it gives you direction, alignment, and purpose!

2. Goals Help You Avoid ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

Basically, shiny object syndrome is always being in pursuit of the next big thing, constantly switching your goals based on what you feel is most fun and interesting at the given moment, but never actually giving yourself time to accomplish any of those goals.

You don’t get anywhere because you continually change the direction you are heading in. This is one of the consequences that may result if you decide to live a life without goals.

Your goals can sometimes help you to create mental barriers, or blinders, that help you to remain focused on what you think is important and avoid the things that are second priority. When you outline goals for yourself, you are better able to avoid things that distract you from achieving and accomplishing those goals.

Setting goals helps you to step around the other shiny objects because you’ve taken the time to make some mental notes that remind you what it is that you want from your life. Your goals act as subconscious deterrents to anything less than your main priorities. This is what helps you to reach your personal definition of success.

So, why is goal setting important? Because not only do goals tell you what you want from life, but they also help you realize what you need to give up and avoid to achieve that.

3. Goals Turn Our Largest Goals into Manageable Steps

A lot of us have big hopes and dreams. It’s one of the things that make our lives exciting!

But a lot of us never take the time to figure out how we can effectively get from point A to point B. So, sadly, we never fully achieve those goals. We look at our dreams and convince ourselves that only a select few people ever achieve them, so we write ourselves off as people not meant to reach that level of success. Looking at the end product of a goal can be intimidating, daunting, and discourage us from even pursuing them.

Thankfully, goal setting helps us break large intimidating goals into smaller ones. These small steps and more achievable goals will help us to build momentum and will encourage us to keep working towards the next phase of our goal. The form the foundation from which we can begin building the life that we truly hope to have for ourselves, our families, and may even for our communities depending on how big your goals are!

Whenever I get talking about this aspect of goal setting, I can’t help but think about the mountain climbing analogy, and that the easiest way to climb a mountain is simply step by step.

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So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting gives you a list of manageable steps that you can take in order to take your life from where it is now to where you want it to go both effectively and efficiently.

4. Goals Encourage You to Take Action

This builds on the last benefit of goal setting. Not only does effective goal setting help you break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones, but it also encourages you to actually begin taking action on those goals. After all, a plan is completely worthless if you aren’t willing to invest the effort required to execute it.

Setting your goals and putting your plan in place motivates you to begin taking action towards achieving them. These goals give you something to plan and work towards. Essentially, they help propel you forward.

What I like to do is write out and place my goals somewhere that I’ll regularly see them. This constantly serves as a reminder of my top priorities. It allows me to focus on taking small progressive actions towards achieving these goals daily.

This ensures that I don’t fall into the trap of setting a goal, beginning to work towards it for a while, but then having my motivation fade resulting in me falling off track. This is exactly what many people see happen when it comes to their “New Year’s Resolutions.”

If you want to learn about how to take action towards achieving your goal, here’s how: How To Take Action Towards Your Goals Right Now

So, why is goal setting important? Because goal setting actually motivates you to stop thinking about your goals and actually get out there and achieve them!

5. Goal Setting Helps You Continually Improve

This is something that a lot of personal development and self-improvement writers talk about, continual improvement. For those of you who are not aware of the term, continual improvement is exactly what it sounds like — taking small steps towards improvement as frequently as you can to develop into the person you want to become.

What’s the point in improving a little bit each day if you’re not improving in the areas that you want to improve in after all?

The goals that you define for yourself will inevitably shape you into the person who you want to become. They’ll shape your character. Your goals can help you measure your progress as you strive for this type of development.

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Essentially, having goals helps you determine where you started, where you are now, and how much further you need to go. In this manner, your goal setting can serve as milestones and benchmarks that help you determine how well you’re progressing towards your most important goals!

So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting helps you make improvements each day that will slowly transition you into the person you want to become.

6. Goal Setting Keeps You Accountable

Not only does setting goals help you measure your progress, but it also is a means through which you can keep yourself accountable. Too many goals fail because they lack this crucial aspect of outlining accountability.

For example, if I have the goal to do 50 push-ups, that’s great. Most people would support that goal. However, this goal lacks accountability. When do I want to accomplish this goal by and what steps do I take to get there? These are important questions that the original goal leaves unanswered.

A much more descriptive and specific goal could be to do 50 push-ups within the next 3 months by starting at 5 push-ups, and then adding 5 each week. This goal outlines the deadline as well as the steps I’m going to take to achieve it. This plan will keep me accountable because if I fail to retain my progression schedule, I will know that I’m not going to achieve the goal on time.

Additionally, it can serve as a marker helping to signify when something is impeding my progress that I may not have initially accounted for. This tells me that I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing and figure out what adjustments I can make to facilitate my success.

So, why is goal setting important? Setting goals is key to keeping ourselves accountable and on-track towards accomplishing our goals according to the schedules and deadlines we set for ourselves.

7. Goals Make You Feel Good

Trust me, the progress you feel as you set and achieve goals can become super motivating and super addicting (in a good way)! The dopamine release you get from achieving your goals is like a little reward for our brains that continually motivates us to try and hit that next goal!

Having some clearly defined goals will help you to feel better about yourself and your life in general, especially when you stick to those goals, actively work towards achieving them, and end up accomplishing and surpassing your initial expectations. I’m not the oldest book on the shelf myself, but I can attest that there are not many feelings quite like the one you experience when you truly get on a roll!

Additionally, our goals give us an endpoint to shoot for. Rather than progress for progress’s sake, you can actually see where you’re heading! That’s so much more rewarding. Think about a long car trip as a kid. You ask “if you’re there yet?” ever 20 minutes. It seems like the drive drags on forever.

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If you don’t know where you’re going, you risk the journey becoming tedious. It doesn’t tend to be much fun wandering around aimlessly. Goals make us feel good about where we’re directing ourselves.

So, why is goal setting important? Because setting goals and accomplishing them plain and simply make us feel better about ourselves and our lives!

8. Goals Help You Live Your Best Life

I’ve talked a lot in this article about how goal setting helps us progress towards our top priorities and live the way we truly want to live. So I think it’s fit to end the article with this goal because, in the end, I feel it’s the most important one.

Setting your goals and clearly defining what they mean to you will help you live a life that is tailored to your beliefs and values. Your life will become directed towards the things that you most want to achieve.

Life is a tricky game and only in very rare circumstances are things handed to us on a silver platter. Often it takes a great degree of work, planning, and effortful execution of both.

There is no point clinging on to things in your life if they don’t bring you happiness or help you accomplish something that, in some way, aligns with your goals.

Simply put, setting goals helps us live a life that allows us to pursue the challenges and rewards that we truly want to achieve.

So, why is goal setting important? Because our time is always limited, and setting clearly defined goals can help ensure that you make the most of your life and live to the fullest! Find out more here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the benefits of goal setting that outline why it truly is so important. If you take a moment or two, I bet that you can even think of a few more benefits yourself that you could add to this list.

If I could leave you with something, it would be this:

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Goal setting has the potential to take us to some amazing places in life because we all have talent and ambitions. To achieve your biggest dreams, you need to be willing to sit down and create a life design uniquely tailored to you that will help you achieve them!

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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