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Here’s Why Intentions Are Better Than Goals

I am a giant nerd for planners, goal-setting, and productivity tools. And yet, for as much as I like to dream big, my most important goal-setting tool has nothing to do with achievement. So while I have things I’d like to accomplish—writing a book, traveling the world, and people I’d like to see—I don’t focus as much on the outcome as I used to.

What I do instead is set—and then work to embody—a clear intention.

I believe that setting clear intentions is one of the most powerful practices we can use to begin creating a life that feels more authentic, more meaningful, and more fulfilling. And we can begin today. Setting an intention doesn’t cost a thing. It doesn’t take any special training.

Before I begin my day (or any major undertaking), I set an intention.

What do I mean by “intention”?

Well, it’s not a goal. It’s not an outcome or a wish I’m hoping will come true.

Instead, it’s the tone that I’m setting for a particular phase of time. It’s the quality I want to embody. My intention is how I’m choosing to show up in a specific scenario, regardless of what happens. It’s how I ground myself and stay close to my heart.

When I set my intentions, I’m really asking myself, “How do I want to show up for this?” And while I still love goal-setting, I even think intentions can be even more effective than goals at times.


Because goals often rely on exterior circumstances. Our intentions and how we embody them? That’s entirely up to us.

Intention allows us to experience what we want, on an interior level, regardless of what’s going on outside of us. They allow us to be present with ourselves in integrity, without needing a particular outcome. So, regardless, we can remain our whole, grounded selves.

Intention is the heart of integrity.

It keeps us rooted in our values and our truth. It doesn’t change. That intention is the spark for skillful response and action, no matter what. And blessedly, when we remember our intention, we can stay out of reactivity.

It lives independently of any contingency. It is ours to choose at any moment, at any time. If you want to live a life that feels more aligned, integrous, and sacred, begin with clear intention. It gives you a touchstone that you can return to again and again, aiming yourself in the direction of what feels sacred to you.

So how do we create these intentions that lead to a more sacred life? For me, it is a process—an ongoing journey and practice.

Doing it is simple—just three brief steps:

Choose your intention.

Close your eyes.

Breathe deeply.

Choose a single word or short phrase for how you want to show up in your body and in your life for the next hour. Maybe after some practice, you stretch this out. Choose an intention for your day or week. Some people find value in choosing a word for the year.

The real action here is in the deciding. Your word or phrase doesn’t have to be perfect. Let it sum up the overall experience, but don’t worry about getting it just so. We naturally refine our sacred vocabulary over time.

Match and align yourself with your intention.

Throughout the time you’ve chosen, bring your mind back to your intention.

How is it going?

Are you aligned with that intention?

What could you say/do that would match the tone of the intention?

How could you bring more of its spirit into your words, choices, and actions?

No need to aim for perfection. Allow the intention to be a guiding light. Allow it to illuminate areas of unconsciousness or places where your life is out of alignment with what you find to be most sacred. This kind of feedback is meant to serve you and the sacredness you’re cultivating.

(No guilt or shame if you’re not 100% aligned out of the gate. You’re human.)

Refine your tone.

Once you’ve had some experience setting your intention and then matching that tone, begin to refine it. Maybe some words serve you better than others. Maybe some times of day feel more aligned for setting your intention.

Allow it to be an experiment. Invest in letting it be a process. Again, it’s not about the outcome but continually bringing mindfulness and clear-hearted integrity to your daily life. Over time, you’ll develop an intention-setting practice that works for you.

It will point you in the direction that you want to go until you get closer and closer to that which is most sacred to you.

So when it comes to creating more of what’s meaningful to me, I don’t begin by reaching for the sage or the crystals or even my planner. I begin crafting more of what’s sacred from the inside out. Intentions are my best recipe for success.

activist, educator, writer, mama, Buddhist. www.christytending.com

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