I shifted my focus from “goal setting” to “intention setting” when I discovered that my goals were getting in the way of achieving my desires. Sounds a little backwards, right? Let me explain.
Usually, when we set a “goal,” we choose something very specific that we want to accomplish. Depending on our current desires or frustrations, that might look like:
“I want to lose 30 pounds”
“I want to stop fighting with my significant other”
While these might seem realistic, they are common goals that miss the point. Here’s why…
I want to lose 30 pounds.
I would guess that if you want to lose 30 pounds, you have pretty specific reasons. Do you hate the way you look in the mirror? Is your partner showing less interest in you? Did your doctor tell you that you need to reduce your cholesterol level? Are you just plain eating like crap so you never feel well?
These are all valid concerns that might lead a person to consider losing 30 pounds. But. The goal does not necessarily help solve the underlying issue. For example, if you’re dissatisfied with your body, then the real issue is that you’re struggling with your body image. If that’s the case, losing 30 pounds is going to interfere with your ability to actually work on that problem. You’re trying to solve a problem by assuming there is only one solution – and this is where we mess this all up.
Imagine you’ve lost the weight. Now you’re noticing that your skin is loose, you have stretch marks, your hair is frizzy, you’re not tan enough, you’ve got freckles in weird places and nipple hair. You’re still looking in that mirror thinking, “I don’t like my body,” which means that initial problem is still there! So it’s not about losing 30 pounds at all. That was a potential solution for a specific problem. Instead of focusing on our real problem, we tend to take a short cut and devise a fix, without taking the time to sit with our issue and figure out what it really means for us.
The solution lies in the intention. In this case, you would want to set an intention to focus on feeling better about your body and having more respect for it. Consider healing yourself from the inside out. Write down what you WANT…
“I want to feel confident and comfortable in my own body.”
Focus your energy on the intention of feeling more self-confident about your body image and you’ll notice yourself being led down a path that will get you there. And I’m not even saying that won’t include losing the weight. I’m just saying don’t put yourself in a box because you’ll likely miss out on what you really need.
I want to stop fighting with my significant other.
Yup, relationships can be pretty tough. But damn, if they’re not our life’s greatest teachers. I have learned the most about myself through my relationships. The good stuff enhances our strengths and the difficult stuff shines a light on our insecurities and baggage. Relationships are a battleground for endless lessons to be learned.
So you want to stop fighting with your significant other. But I want to help you take the focus off the fighting for a moment and consider the underlying cause of the fighting. That is where the need is. Whatever is causing the endless arguments…set an intention to focus on that piece and try to fix it, preferably with some honest and vulnerable communication.
If you have no idea what that is yet, here are some examples of things that commonly get overlooked when we’re stuck in this pattern: stress due to work, school, children or illness, unresolved issues from our previous relationships, projections of our own discontentment, loss of connection, lack of emotional or physical intimacy, poor modeling from our own childhood, lack of boundaries, or simply trying to make something work that just ain’t cutting it anymore.
When it comes to relationships, it’s all about priority. Set intentions around your relationship that include what’s best for you FIRST. If you can identify an area of lack within yourself (like one of the examples I gave above), try working on that and see how it impacts any issues you’re having with your partner. And as always, communicate! Share your intentions with each other for additional support.
I’ll wrap this up with one of my favorite relationship quotes, said by author, Steve Maraboli: “Let’s not forget that it’s you and me vs. the problem. Not you vs. me.”
What does setting an intention look like?
Now that we’ve identified some issues with setting goals that don’t align with our needs, let’s talk about how to set an intention. Unlike goals, which often include a sense of shame or guilt when we don’t reach a goal or we fall back into old patterns quickly, intentions help us tap into our true desires and ask us to consider the question, “What do I need right now?”
For example, about a year ago, I made an intention based on my own needs and desires. My intention was simple, “I want a career that allows me to take care of myself better and spend more time with my son.” I could have been very specific and pinned myself down to a few ideas of what I thought that career should include. But I decided to remain open and non-judgmental.
I wrote my intention down. I thought about it often. I remained focused on it throughout the year. I noted examples of how bad I felt during specific times when my job interfered with my health and my ability to have a fulfilling life as a parent. I created a vision in my mind about what life could look like and I imagined how good that would feel. I walked through doors when they opened and I left some shut when it didn’t feel right. I stayed true to my integrity, focused on caring for myself first, and kept that intention in mind always. I struggled through doubt and confusion and I had to learn how to stop trying to plan light years ahead.
Eventually, each baby step I took and each experience I went through led me to a place where I was living my intention daily. I was outta that job and into a brand new way of life, which I continue to build with my intentions in mind. I set daily intentions when I wake up and I remind myself of the big ones, regularly.
Now. I do have goals. I don’t want to mislead you into thinking goals are bad. However, my goals grow from my intentions. Once I began living with intention, I was able to organically establish goals that align with my true desires. I’m constantly asking myself, does this goal align with the intentions I’ve established for this area of my life? It’s important to maintain that fluidity and also allow for the flexibility to reassess. The point of setting an intention is to provide a focus for our actions and thoughts to better enable us to stay in alignment with our purpose.
7 Simple Steps to Set an Intention
- Identify a problem that you want to fix.
- Do some mindset work (journaling, meditation, yoga, therapy, an honest conversation with a friend) to figure out what needs are hidden within that problem.
- Write out an intention in the form of, “I want….”
- Hang it up in a place where you’ll see it often (bathroom mirror, closet, cell phone home screen, work computer, the ceiling above your bed…put it in your bra every day so it falls out when you get changed, I don’t care…just make it work).
- Think about your intention daily.
- Remove limitations and judgment.
- Learn to trust your gut when opportunities cross your path. Ask yourself, does this align with my intention?
Put these steps into practice, and I promise you will notice results. In January, I’ll be hosting a month long program (totally free) to help you jumpstart the new year and build a foundation for a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. Join our community now so you don’t miss out! You can follow me on Instagram @Leanne.Mercure or join my email list for more posts like this and to stay updated about what’s to come.
Until we meet again,