Goals vs Intentions – which should I choose?

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Some people love setting goals, making plans and sticking to them.

They love being driven to achieve and feeling great when they tick that box.

If that works for you and is getting you to where you want to go, by all means keep doing it!

But my experience with working with many people is that goal setting doesn’t work for them. And it doesn’t really work for me either.

For clarification, I see a goal as a specific target to reach by a specific time.

For example, “I want to be able to run 5 km in 30 minutes by the end of May, 2015”.

Then I start training!

An intention, however, is more of a way of life than a set target.

For example, “I intend to enjoy exercising regularly and keeping my body fit and healthy”

There are certain benefits in setting goals, but the hard and fast, “driven” approach doesn’t work for me.

Here are the differences between the two approaches in my opinion.

Controlling vs Inviting

I find goals a little controlling. As an intuitive person, I like my life to remain fluid. Perhaps it is from all those years at school and Uni where there were so many requirements and deadlines.

Whilst there is certainly room for goals in my life, I find setting intentions more pleasing and inviting. It feels more like what I want for me, rather than what someone else wants for me.

Being vs Doing

Are you a human being or a human doing?

The Law of Attraction specialists such as Esther and Jerry Hicks talk about your energy as a human being, as far more important than what you are actually DOING in order to attract what you want.

To me, intentions are a way of being, and goals are all about doing. There is definitely room for both in our lives, but I think in general we are skewed toward doing and not enough “being”.

What do I mean by “being”?

I mean enjoying yourself, meditating, laughing, painting, sitting on the beach, going for long walks, all the things that seem counter-intuitive to reaching goals!

But the key to these things is that they raise our vibration, and the higher our vibration, the more likely we are to attract abundance into our lives.

Head vs Heart
(These distinctions I am making are all a different way of saying the same thing I guess. But I know different thoughts resonate with different people, so I’ll say them all anyway.)

Goals are generally set from a “head” space. They are about achievement and it is the ego which wants us to achieve. Goals that are set this way often leave us feeling hollow, even when we achieve them. We think that achieving a goal might make us feel good about ourselves, boost our self esteem.. only to discover that whether we achieve them or not, we are still the same inside.

When I was studying Sport Psychology, we learned of a post Olympics “downer” phenomenon. Even athletes that won or performed at their best were emotionally and physically flat after the Olympics. Not all, but a good proportion of them. If an achievement lacks a greater meaning or purpose, it can leave you feeling quite depressed afterward.

Intentions, however, are set from a meaningful “heart” space.

Our heart is like our spiritual centre, guided by our emotions and intuition rather than our thoughts. If you don’t know what you want, you are probably trying to think it through, rather than feel what you want.

Close your eyes, take a few slow deep breaths and tune into your heart. Get a sense of the feeling deep in there. Ask your heart what it wants, stay quiet and listen for the answer. Don’t judge the answer, don’t force it. Be quiet and it will come. It might not be what you expect!


Future vs Present
Goals keep us focused on the future. In order to be most productive, we need to focus on there here and now.

Intentions bring us back to the present moment, the way of being, and provide an answer for the question, “What can I do today to be the best version of myself?”

Journey vs. Destination

When we set goals, we are looking toward a certain destination. The trouble is, that destination is often just a fleeting moment. As with the Olympics. We can train for 4 or more years leading up to the Olympics and our event and medal ceremony (if we get that far) is over in a few minutes.

If you do like setting goals, it is imperative you enjoy yourself along the way, or you will risk burning out.

Intentions for me are about the journey, choosing to live each day of my life as I feel like it.

Prescribing vs Allowing (for Intuition / Divine Guidance)

Setting goals can actually restrict or limit our possibilities. If I set the goal to run 5km in 30 mins by a certain date, I may be limiting myself to this, when I could in fact be running further and faster.

I do like to create grand visions. You could probably call them goals. But when I do so, I allow for many possibilities within those visions. I allow for something better to come along. I am open to opportunities that might take me in a completely different direction which might actually be better than I had conceived!

How many times have you heard someone say,

“Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be here doing this!”

I don’t know if you believe in God but I believe that some higher source has plans in store for us that we don’t know about yet.

I have learned that being flexible and true to myself is allowing me to be steered in the direction I need to go.


So this New Year, when you’re thinking of making a change, being a better version of yourself, here are my recommendations:

Enjoy each and every day

Be flexible with your goals – understand that the Universe may have something WAY better in store for you than you can imagine

Fun, laughter and relationships are far more important than achievements.

KNOW that you are perfect just as you are.


Have a wonderful, joyful, abundant New Year.