I have been thinking a lot about intentions: Merriam Webster dictionary defines intention as “a determination to act in a certain way”, and goal as “the end to which effort is directed”. When I ask myself what my intentions for the day/week/year are, versus what my goals are, I come up with very different answers.
Last week, I had a few days in my office. My desk was overflowing with documents that were once urgent but had now become simply interesting and the mountains of paper threatened to topple at any moment. My goal was to bring some order to my office work space, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the lovely maple desktop buried deep under the detritus.
I confess, that has been my goal for over a year! But the difference this week was my intention. I was determined not to get frustrated or impatient with the task, or let myself be beguiled into doing something I enjoy more (like connecting with my clients and colleagues). Thus, my intention was to enjoy the job, and be grateful that I had the time to do it and my wonderful executive assistant, Deborah Hill, to help me.
What a difference that intention made! Papers were filed or tossed or shredded and my desktop now glows under a fresh coat of polish. I attained my goal, but it was my intention or my “determination to act in a certain way” that finally brought it into being.
We all have dusty corners in our lives that we tolerate because we get used to them and no longer “see” them. Yet the effort of ignoring them drags us down bit by bit, draining us of emotional and even physical energy. Each time I walked into my office I would think, “I have to get those papers filed!” and feel a pinch of remorse and frustration that I still hadn’t gotten it done.
Surveying it now, I feel energized and content. My once-messy desk is a tiny example of goals versus intentions – and a good working definition of the difference between them.
Authors David Emerald and Donna Zajonc, MCC, put it very succinctly in this Ted* blog:
“Focusing on your intentions does not mean you give up your goals or desire for achievement. By partnering goals with intentions you will become one of the few people in life who enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Here are three differences between goal setting and intentions:
- Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.
- Goals are a destination or specific achievement; Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination.
- Goals are external achievements; Intentions are your inner-relationships with yourself and others.”
Your intentions allow you to focus on your values in each moment. When you are faced with one of the distressing tasks that fall to a leader – like having to close a program or eliminate positions – your goal may be to reduce expenses and balance your budget. However, your intention can be to reach that goal with grace, integrity and kindness; and that intention will register and resonate with those impacted by your decision. We all have to make hard choices but if your intention is to do the right thing then understanding will prevail.
Highly intentional people create highly intentional organizations. Remember, like attracts like, and your intentions send out a beacon that will reach people, resources and events that hold the same or similar intentions. So I ask you to consider:
What are 5 intentions you have for the coming year? I’ll look forward to hearing about your amazing results!