If this is your first time jumping into learning about goal setting, one important thing to take note of is intentions vs goals. It’s an aspect that many people struggle with, especially if you are the type of person who sets New Year resolutions every year and ends up giving up on them in the coming months.
Knowing the relationship and differences between these aspects will allow you to better identify what is an intention and what is a goal for you.
Furthermore, understanding these can allow you to better leverage them on your path to greater success.
What Are the Differences Between Intentions vs Goals?
Before jumping into the key differences, you need to understand that both intentions and goals are good for you. Both have clear advantages and disadvantages to one another.
That said, only one of these two is going to help you see real change in your life, and that being your goals.
I’ll get into detail why that’s the case further down this post, but for now, knowing the differences between these two will save you a lot of struggle in the future.
The first thing to note is how you can describe each one since there are some notable differences between intentions vs goals.
Goals can be best described as the results that you are looking for. It’s the result of something that you’ve put together based on your thought process.
On the other hand, intentions are more or less the energy that you put in at the very start of something. It’s not quite like motivation, but it is your overall willingness to do something.
To see this in action, an intention can be along the lines of telling yourself “I want to lose weight,” or “I will be a better partner for my spouse.” Goals are the specific actions that you’ll be taking to lose weight and build a better relationship with your partner.
Another key difference between these two is their timing – as in what times they are referring to. From the example mentioned above, you can already piece together where goals and intentions lie.
Intentions are concerned about the present moment in your life. It’s relying on how you feel right now.
Goals are future projections. These are things that you want to achieve at some point. You can achieve that when you put enough energy into taking action to achieve your goals.
What They Prioritize
The third difference is what each one cares about and allows you to prioritize.
When you are setting a goal, the emphasis is placed on the result and the journey along the way. You’ll focus on the milestones that you placed out and assess the results that you’ve received thus far and the final results, too.
Another way to look at it is that goals prioritize external achievements.
Intentions prioritize the emotions that you are feeling. Yes, that’s part of the journey as well, but intentions dig deeper. They prioritize the relationship that you have with yourself and the task at hand.
Difference in Scope
The fourth and final difference to bring up is the scope of these two aspects. The scope shapes how you set them in the first place.
When it comes to intentions, there are broad aspects and how you form them varies from person to person. Generally speaking though, intentions are designed to be vague. They’re phrases that mention a general result or maybe it’s a single word. Examples are ones mentioned earlier or using keywords like “growth”, “love”, or “patience”.
Goals are the actions, the expectations, and the results you want to achieve. As such, these are narrow. If you want to have more patience, a goal would be something like meditating for a period of time or trying not to interrupt people.
Which One Is Better for Success?
If we are to look at these two by themselves, there is a clear winner between which one will lead you to success, and that is setting goals.
Another way to see goals is the manifestation of your intentions into a more concrete plan. With goals, you want to achieve things, and you’ll be putting more thought into them. You’ll be talking about how you’ll get there and how you’ll measure your results.
Intentions are vague and focus on the immediate short-term. It’s easy to have intentions in your life, but these don’t lead to action. Or if they do, people lose motivation.
Don’t get me wrong, intentions are strong on an emotional front as they can bring more satisfaction to completing goals. ((Yogi: The Difference Between Intention vs. Goals)) This can be used as extra motivation at the beginning as you are determining your impulses and drives to complete your goal.((The Psychologists: Motivation Cycle))
But with this in mind, it stands to reason that instead of focusing on one over the other, it might be worth considering striking a balance between the two of them.
Why Combine Them?
Another angle to look at intentions vs goals is that goals are what you want to be doing in your life. Intentions are the aspects that you want to be. These are both very strong desires in ourselves as both goals and intentions impact us on an emotional level.
By itself, a goal could manage well on its own. But time and again, people run into problems after achieving goals. There are so many cases where people feel empty, even after finishing a big goal.((Inc: Why You Might Feel Empty After Reaching a Huge Goal (and How to Move On)))
There is also the dreaded question of “what’s next?” A question that many people struggle to answer.
That changes entirely when you already have an intention in place. It’s not something that directly drives you forward, but it can serve as training wheels so you don’t fall off the path.
After you complete a goal, it makes sense that you go back to your intentions and begin to deepen your relationship with what has transpired and with yourself. By doing this, you are also figuring out where you want to go next. This is the case since your intentions aren’t going to be shifting a whole lot.
If your intention is to grow, then what does growth look like?
There are many ways that a person can grow beyond mindset development – growth in wealth, physical capabilities, communication, and more.
How to Best Leverage This
The best way to leverage this relationship is by first starting with an intention. To get the most out of it, it pays to start with a broad intention and sticking to a single word to manifest that intention.
I used examples like love, growth, and patience, and these are great starts. After all, there are many approaches that you can take with these, so having many options that resonate with you will help.
After that, you will want to go through the goal-setting process. When it comes to goal-setting, there is no wrong method as authors have written hundreds of books on the subject. Go for a method that suits you best.
From there, you want to be striving to achieve your goal and remind yourself of your intention. You can use it in a sense as an affirmation by this point.
For example, if your goal is to grow on social media, your intention can be something like “I will post moving content that engages my audience.”
The intention can help you as you can look at your efforts and match that with how you are feeling. Look at the post you made or the work you’ve done, and ask yourself whether this is something that makes you happy or you could do better for next time.
In a sense, you can use your intentions to be setting SMARTER goals and relying on it during the ER steps, which are “evaluate” and “reassess your goal”.
All by themselves, goals are the superior way to achieve success. There are many possibilities and systems in place that can replace intentions entirely
That being said, if you are setting intentions in the first place, you can put further emotions into your work and establish deeper connections.
These deeper connections can allow you to keep building your habit further and further until it becomes your second nature. As such, intentions are worth considering as a compliment to your goal setting system for success.
More on Goals and Intentions
Goals vs Objectives: What Are Their Differences?
15 Daily Intentions to Set for a More Driven Life
How to Write SMART Goals (With SMART Goals Templates)