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What's the Difference Between Goals and Intentions?

The beginning of a new year is an exciting time. It’s typically a specific time when many people set goals (or New Year’s resolutions) which may include losing weight, getting fit, reducing stress and anxiety and overall life balance. I typically set my “big” goals around my birthday. This always seemed more fitting to me. Regardless of when you set goals, just set them. Today, I want to talk about goals versus intentions and why they aren’t mutually exclusive.

A goal is specific as it involves the expectations, actions, and results you want to achieve. Something in the future. We can describe intentions as our overall willingness to do something. It’s the energy we put into action at the start of the action. Your intentions keep you focused on being in alignment with your values now. The present. With your intention in mind, you have the flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing present!

I like to say, “Health is not something you attain and then you’re done. It’s a constant journey”. Let’s say you have a goal of losing 20 pounds or getting off your diabetes medication. Your “success” is based on that external result with many obstacles in the way between now and then. If you attain that goal, the satisfaction is often temporary and then you create a new goal. And then if you do not attain that goal, you feel discouraged, disappointed, or maybe even ashamed and are likely to give up.

What would it look like if you changed the focus of that weight loss from the future to the present? What if each day you have the intention of eating mindfully in order to feel good now. You make conscious decisions about when, what, how and how much to eat by weighing all your available options in that moment. I coach my clients to make the best choice they can in any given situation. This seems to ease the anxiety and stress of the overall goal. Doing this creates awareness which is truly the beginning of change and ultimately to a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong. Effective goal setting is a valuable and important skill that may help you take the necessary steps to achieve a desired result in the future. I encourage goals unless they cause you to miss out on the present or to get down on yourself because your willpower is not working.

As my experience with mindfulness evolves, I realize that achieving my goals is only a small part of creating a life I love. My intention to live fully and vibrantly makes that life a daily reality.

Lida Johnson, Health Coach, Certified Nutritionist, and Personal Trainer at Head-to-Toe Coaching or 203.260.2880.

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