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Intention-Directions vs Goals

Doodle from my journal

‘I don’t set goals, instead I focus on being me, loving myself as much as possible, taking opportunities that present themselves to me and watching my life unfold before me’.

This is a paraphrase of what was said by a woman for whom I have a huge amount of respect. Louise L Hay is author of the famous book You Can Heal Your Life, and founder of mind-body-spirit publisher Hay House. In 1990 I was on the last training course that she personally delivered; I went on to become the first person in Europe to lead study groups based on her book, throughout the nineties.

So I’ve always had rather an ambivalent relationship to what you hear about at this time of year:  goal-setting. Looking forward and deciding what you want to achieve during the year, what you want to experience, what resolution you are going to make.

Instead I have developed what I call Intention Directions (ID’s for short – a nice pun there!) Originally this was for small business owners, whom I also work with.

If you have a small business, or are still working, then an ID is the general direction in which you would like to go this year in your life. It’s an intention because it’s got a focus, and it’s a direction because when you are running a business, or want to progress in your career, you need to keep your intention pointed down the road you want it to take.  Otherwise it’s only too easy to get lost in numerous cul-de-sacs, dead ends and going round and round roundabouts.

But it also applies to other things too, in fact anything that you want to achieve, get done, or apply your talents to. It could be taking up a new hobby, getting fitter, transforming your social life – or indeed, it could be (of course!) taking care of your end-of-life plans.

So just what is an intention? Well, I think of it as a focused statement with blurry edges.  That may sound a bit odd, but let’ s compare it to a goal. A goal is pointed, and you will either reach it or not. If it’ s a goal, according to the SMART mnemonic, it will be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  There is no room for anything other than reaching exactly what you said you would do, or better. If you don’ t attain the goal, you have failed. No two ways about it.

There’ s nothing wrong with goals, though. They can be brilliant motivators.  But just as often I see them as de-motivators, when you don’ t achieve them. It’ s too easy to fall into self-blame (‘I just didn’t think positively enough, that’s why it didn’t happen’), or fault-finding (‘If only I didn’t have so much on then I could have done it), or shame (‘I feel really embarrassed; I said I was going to make that goal, and I’m still miles away from it. How could I do that?’).

Now what I do (sometimes!) is set intentions.  An intention, combined with a direction, gives me a general path down which to go to reach any result that I want to welcome into my life. It’s a determination that helps you to keep on track and not get swayed off that by shiny objects saying ‘come and get me!’

This is crucial in the setting of intentions, as opposed to goals.  With goals there are often measurable steps to be taken, so you can see how you are progressing.  With intentions, yes, you check in from time to time to see how you are doing, but you also allow space for movement and change.

This means that events that have occurred which might affect your intention get an airing; you are able to adapt your intention to fit in with these without feeling guilty that you are changing your goal, instead of achieving it; and perhaps most importantly, there is space and time for miracles and magic to show up.  With a tightly focused goal, there is little space for this.

As per Louise’s statement above, it could be said that her direction was to love herself, and her intention was to take opportunities when they arose.

So this year, have a think about how having your ID (intention-direction) might benefit your life. Ask yourself the following:

–       Where do I want to be going this year? (Your direction)

– What is the aspect of my life I am most passionate about and would like to be doing more?

– What intentions do I have for it?

– Am I willing to show up in each situation, trusting that I will be guided to the next best step for me?

If one of those answers includes getting your end-of-life plan sorted, then wonderful, you are in the right place with Before I Go Solutions!  Let us know in the comments box what your intention directions are, and I look forward to reading them

One Response to Intention-Directions vs Goals

  1. Catie WOOD January 9, 2019 at 8:52 pm #

    Thankyou Jane,
    Intentions rather than goals is my kind of life… l’ve always felt that goal setting had a huge potential to put undue pressure on myself and set me up to fail, rather than succeed.
    Intentions they will become.

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