Game-changer: The Difference Between a Goal and an Intention

by Cheryl Brewster

What is the difference between a goal and an intention? The answer can be a real game-changer when it comes to personal and professional effectiveness. The 5 strategies to effective intention setting are listed further in this article but let’s begin first, with understanding the differences.

A goal is a fixed outcome, while intent is the energy behind the goal; the desire, process or the “why” that gives meaning not only to the goal itself, but the experience we have in the process. Intentions are based on values, principles and “ways of being” that happen in the now, while goals are measurable, specific outcomes in the future.

The etymology of the word Intention comes from Old French (4c.) meaning “stretching, intensity, will, thought” and from Latin (12c.) “a stretching out, straining, exertion, effort; “to turn one’s attention,” literally “to stretch out.”makeithappen

Intention, then is:

  • the “juice” or the “why” behind the goal – the deeper meaning and importance, the stretching of our imagination, creativity, innovation and “what if” thinking.
  • the focus or mindset behind the goal: attention to the wow factor that excites, inspires and beckons us forward; in other words, big rather than little thinking.
  • creating something out of nothing, or totally transforming a heavy “have-to feeling” to something totally transcendent and profound, creating a greater result or experience than was previously imagined.
  • comes from the infinite intelligence or universal consciousness that has all the solutions we need.
  • the reason or “mindfulness” behind the goal. Mindfulness defined is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally” (Jon Kabbat-Zin).

“Intention operates outside the boundaries of normal space and time; it is the great organizing and unifying force of the universe; infinite in scope and duration. It allows us to imagine beyond the boundaries of what local mind sees as “possible,” to think” outside the box and to believe in miracles.” – Deepak Chopra, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire

From these perspectives, we begin to see where goals without intention can actually be limiting or even harmful:

  1. Too often, we set goals without digging deeper to define the why, importance or relevance of the goal, thereby missing out on the bigger picture and putting our energy in the wrong places. Goals lacking lustre won’t sustain themselves, setting us up for failure or negative experiences.
  2. Goal setting can reinforce a scarcity rather than prosperity mentality, (oh my gosh, how am I going to achieve this?!), trigger performance anxiety and keep us stuck in the “how-to or where do I begin cycle.”
  3. Goals without intention can carry a dangerous “all or nothing” mentality and end up hurting rather than harming. Example; a stressed-out mother who’s expecting company and needs to get the house tidy… the goal in itself is valid, but if it is achieved at the expense of yelling, screaming and scaring her kids half silly in an attempt to get everything done on time, then the goal has been achieved but at what cost? The mom has totally missed the far reaching impact of intention… values in the experience she wants to have, and principles of a healthy example to her children. The same can be said of business and sales quotas…Too much emphasis on the goal at all costs, and soon the greater potentials of creativity, innovation and flow become victim to deadlines and policies that end up hurting the company, diminishing results and even putting its existence in jeopardy. Intention then, invites integrity and greater awareness in both setting a goal and completing it with sustainable outcomes and methods that avoid burn-out and negative consequences.

Intention aligns us with our inner creative intelligence… we begin to let go of our egoic-controlling ways and surrender to the greater answers inside us… over time, the more we work with intention, the more we let this greater intelligence “take the lead” in our lives. We begin to have the revolutionary experience of realizing that we are “not” the doer, but rather the vehicle through which the great Doer (creative intelligence) moves through us.

Goal setting has its place for sure, especially in business and working with groups with a common cause. However as we work with intention, we find goals become more organic… They appear as ideas and inspirations that take on a life force of their own, literally completing themselves. They offer a reprieve to any heavy “must, have-to, resistance” feelings that traditional goal-setting can bring. If anything, intentions ensure our goals come from the heart and soul of who we are; they instill a sense of wonder and awe in their accomplishment so that even the tasks we don’t like take on a richer hue; they can even become things we’re excited about, rather than things we dread. We begin to see the correlation between mindset and intention… previously difficult or unattainable goals are seen in a new light and negative spirals go from “I can’t to I can” through creative, inspired, positive action.

In drawing on the  dependable, infinite creative intelligence that is ALWAYS here, we are assured of effective, tangible results with these 5 key action steps:

  1. Have a very clear image not only of the outcome you want to create, but what you want your experience to be RIGHT NOW.
    In other words, rather than focus on the goal, focus on the consciousness or mindset behind that goal… how would this mind of infinite possibility think? Bring that future event into the present by thinking the thoughts and feeling the feelings NOW that would create this kind of result. This is the “stretching-out” of your imagination and aligning with the power of the subconscious through thought and feeling. Examples could be:
    “I love having this mindset that gets things done in ways that effective, fun and efficient!”
    “I love what happens when creative intelligence takes the lead to accomplish these tasks!”
    “It feels so good having this “I can do it!” mindset… wow… I can and I AM doing it!”
  2. Have fun visualizing the details!
    Science tells us that the brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality… as you visualize this as already happening, you are firing up the cortex in your brain so this mindset becomes the norm rather than the exception… you are expanding success consciousness. The subconscious accepts what’s impressed upon it with feeling. So have fun FEELING the joy, excitement and passion of accomplishment now. Mind first; ideas become physical matter through visualization. You know this intellectually so don’t fool yourself… knowing and doing are two different things!
  3. Act as if your goal has been achieved already and repeat, repeat, repeat this amazing feeling throughout the day!
    The conscious mind needs to be reminded that the creative intelligence inside now has the lead… all things are truly possible… this kind of consistent focus, with with repetition action yields cumulative results. Since your self image is determined by what the subconscious has accepted as true, you are power-housing your self image… you begin to truly own your own value…you have not only accomplished this goal, gotten a result; you have changed at your core… you have created and reinforced success habits that are in alignment with your values and integrity.
  4. Kill the ANTS! (Automatic Negative Thinking System) 
    Coined by Dr. Daniel Amen, known as the Brain Doctor, recognize the army of ANTS (Negative Thoughts) that are released from the limbic system when you are stretching your comfort zones…. First, Identify the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and talk back to them – i.e. challenge them, get rid of them! Exterminate the ANTS:
    ANT 1:  Always / never thinking (no one, everyone, every time, everything)
    ANT 2:  Focusing on the Negative (seeing only the bad)
    ANT 3:  Fortune Telling (predicting the worst outcome)
    ANT 4:  Mind Reading (thinking you know what others are thinking)
    ANT 5:  Thinking with your feelings (believing negative feelings w/o question)
    ANT 6:  Guilt beating (Should, must, ought to, have to)
    ANT 7:  Labeling (attaching negative labels to yourself or others)
    ANT 8: Personalizing (thinking other’s behaviors have something to do with you)
    ANT 9:  Blaming (fault finding and not taking responsibility for self)
  5. Create Your Day and Celebrate It!
    Nothing is more inspiring than waking up each morning and creating your day from this place of Inspired Intention. A wonderfully light mindset begins to emerge… it’s like reminding ourselves… “oh right, I can really live my life like the adventure that it is.” Too often we allow ourselves to get bogged down and distracted rather than keeping a very clear intention of “how” we want to live.  Goal setting definitely has its place, but if not initiated by our creative intelligence, it becomes just another “to do” on a very long list of potential life-sucking demands.  By creating your day in the morning with intention, imagination and inspiration, things happen, synchronicity occurs, challenge that once drained your soul now feeds it, and obstacles that were once difficult take on an “I can do it!” attitude. Celebrating these mindsets, goal accomplishments and attitude changes are important too… they’re like internal soul markers in the sand… lines drawn that say, “see this?! I did it!” Whatever the reward is, it’s important to have it in mind at the beginning of Intention or Goal Setting and enjoy looking forward to it.  Can you imagine living each day with this type of mindset, built up over time, intending, celebrating and enjoying the many riches of this extraordinary life!

We don’t all start out living our lives this way… I know I didn’t! Each day is a decision to live from the divine within… Intention setting and accomplishing goals takes practice, effort and a willingness to surrender into something far greater than our current experience. It can be extremely challenging, but it’s so worth the effort, the “juice” that fuels the action, and that’s the true Game-Changer: The difference between a Goal and Intention!

If you enjoyed this article or have insights, questions or success stories that you’d like to share, contact us!  Cheryl 2009

Cheryl Brewster is a Personal and Business Intuitive who inspires Conscious Changemakers to bring their unique greatness into the world. In her coaching and workshops, she teaches intention setting, the power of synchronicity and intuition in life and business and brings a refreshing approach to business groups and entrepreneurs committed to making a difference in their worlds.  Learn more at TheIntuitiveLife.com

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