Intentions vs Goals: Unlock Success with This Ultimate Guide

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Intentions and goals both have the power to help us create crazy successful lives. Whether you want to be financially free, travel the world, write a best selling novel, or simply start waking up at 5AM – goals and intentions are the path there.

However, all of us have set goals and intentions that have failed to move the needle at one time or another. I recently read a surprising statistic about New Year’s resolutions. Did you know that only 8% of us who make them actually see them through? There are multiple reasons why the other 92% fail – maybe the goal felt too big, caused too much anxiety, didn’t feel like something we deserved, or we just simply ignored it.

Here’s the thing. The failure to achieve our goals can almost always be attributed to one thing – not having a clear picture of where we want to go or where we want to be.

At the same time, creating a vision for ourselves is often the hardest part. We can’t always see the path from point A to B, and sometimes we can’t see point B at all. Which is why everything else – the anxiety, fear, guilt, etc. are usually just symptoms of our vision not being clear.

Speaking from personal experience, I know how it feels – it pretty much sucks. Especially when you are feeling lead to chart a new course and take the next step, but you don’t know what direction to go or what to focus on. It’s beyond frustrating.

This is why I’m so excited to share this information with you today. I’ve taken away a ton of the guesswork. And it’s the guide I wish I had several years ago when I was longing to transition out of my teaching job, but couldn’t see the path forward.

In this guide we’ll take a closer look at intentions vs goals and how they actually work their magic together. Then we’ll dive into the step by step process of setting goals and intentions that have the power to unlock success and bring you closer to your dreams.

If you’re looking for practical information you can take and run with, you’ve found it. My step-by-step guide featuring actionable examples for every area of your life awaits.

How are Goals and Intentions Different?

Goals and intentions have a lot in common. They both do their work in the area of our psyche related to our desire for an intended result. Because they are both results focused it can be easy to assume they are the same. Many times when we think about an intended result we typically only focus our energy on what we want in the future, the end goal. However, we are intending results all the time, with every thought and action.

Let’s break this idea down a little more, because it really is the most important concept for how this whole unlocking success with goals and intentions thing works – it is the KEY.

The main difference between goals and intentions is the timeframe they work their magic. Intentions work their magic on the present moment while goals work their magic on the future.

When we think of it this way, it is easy to recognize why 92% of goals made as part of New Year’s resolutions are not achieved. They are missing the key ingredient, our intentions. We need intentions to influence the actions we take, moment to moment, on a daily basis to get us to our goals.

Goals + Intentions are Your Superpower

Ever imagined what it would be like to have a superpower? Move things with your mind, fly above the clouds, or activate your force field as you plow through obstacles (or just evening rush hour traffic)? While they won’t give you telekinesis or invulnerability, when effectively used together, goals and intentions can make you feel like you’ve tapped into some magical force in the universe.

They supercharge each other. Setting goals without intentions can leave you in an endless cycle of looking for the next best thing or full of ideas and half baked plans that never go anywhere. On the flipside, intentions without goals can keep you in a state of unconscious creation or in feelgood jargon-land thinking you just need to tell yourself more positive things to automagically change your life.

This is why working with them both is so powerful. Goals propel us forward, give us a destination, a specific outcome, and achievement to aspire to. In turn, our intentions guide our thoughts, the choices we make, and the actions we take in on a daily basis – in every moment – to shape our experiences and align them with our goals.

Pitfalls of Setting Goals Without Intentions

People who are highly goal driven and experienced at pushing themselves to reach them often express they feel empty after their goal has been achieved. This can lead to a cycle of setting one goal after another in an attempt to fill a void. The reason behind this is actually scientific. 

When we achieve milestones and make progress towards a goal our body releases dopamine which makes us feel good.

However, when the main goal is achieved the dopamine release drops. We no longer feel as good and go in search of the next thing to feel happy again.

However, at the other end of the goal setting spectrum, when we approach goal setting without milestones, a plan of action, or the drive to push forward no matter what – the goal is often not achieved. Our actions and steps taken on a daily, weekly, scheduled basis are not aligned with what is needed to achieve the goal.

Pitfalls of Setting Intentions Without Setting Goals

Setting intentions without some focused goals can be little more than affirmations even when we have a clear vision of what we want. They can make us feel good in the moment, but if we desire to get specific results from intentions they are much more powerful when aligned with a future focused outcome.

On the other end of the intention setting spectrum, when we set intentions without a specific vision or intended outcome, our intentions are often not very intentional, meaning they are mostly unconscious and much less likely to move us closer to what we desire

Remember, we are intending results all the time – energy follows thought. Our thoughts and actions play a huge role in creating our reality.

For example, if you frequently tell yourself things like “I’m no good at (fill in the blank)” or “I can’t control (fill in the blank)” like it not – you are setting intentions. The universe works by giving us back what we ask for and what we intend. If you are telling it you can’t control “this or that” or are no good at doing “this or that” – it’s going to mirror that back at you and reinforce it.

Wonder Twin Powers – ACTIVATE!

OK, I know I’m showing my age here with that Super Friends cartoon title from the 80s. But goals and intentions really can feel like two powers coming together and activating. 

Goals need intentions. Intentions help connect and align your values with your actions on a daily basis. When they are set intentionally and are heart felt, they make you feel good. Instead of looking at how well you’ve met deadlines or reached milestones as a measure of success, you begin to measure your success based on how well your are living according to your values, purpose, and how you feel. 

Intentions give you mini wins on a daily basis so you’re not relying on a dose of dopamine from the end goal to make you happy.

Additionally, you are less likely to feel empty once the goal is achieved because you’ve learned to use your intentions to feel good on a daily basis.

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How to Set Intentions + Goals That Produce Results

Intentions. We all have them. However, we often set ones that are too vague, like “I’m going to do better on my diet” or “I’m going to read more books”. Thing is, we can’t just throw intentions out there and expect to get the outcome we desire without being specific. 

There are a couple main concepts used to describe the idea that our intentions produce the best results when they are “good” or “pure”. What does this mean?

Yoga practitioners often refer to setting “good or pure intentions”. Stating when our intentions work towards the happiness of others, as well as the happiness and good of ourselves, the intention is pure. This idea stems from a belief that everyone and everything is connected. When we help others we in turn help ourselves, and when we help ourselves, others are helped in return.

The popular Sanskrit term “namaste”, often used to end a yoga class, speaks to this idea as it translates to mean “the divine in me, sees the divine in you” or “we are the same – we are one”.

Life coaches also use the idea of setting “pure intentions”. However, the pureness of the intention in measured by its clearness and how specific it is to the intended vision, outcome, or result. From this perspective, pure intentions require you to have a plan and a clear picture of where you want to go and what you are aiming for – a goal.

It is a truly wonderful thing when we can align our intentions with both of these ideas. I personally believe that positive intentions show us our best path.

Because they are in the present moment – intentions NEVER miss their mark.

Our thoughts really do alter and guide our reality. Therefore, a “set it and forget it” attitude with our intentions doesn’t work when they are too broad. Our intentions need to be pure. Meaning they are specific, heartfelt and from a place of connection, and emotion based.

How do our goals come into play here?

Goals can help you get specific with your intentions. You may have noticed that the idea of being “specific” keeps coming up. When you look up the definition of specific you find definitions like being exact, precise, and detailed. When you have a goal, you have an idea of your intended result which allows you to break it down and consider the steps needed to get there and achieve the goal. To figure out how to be exact, precise and detailed with the actions needed to get you there. Knowing the steps will help you get clear and specific with your intentions.

The great thing about this process is you don’t have to have a big goal or know where you want to go on a massive scale, you only need to have a vision for the next step. Once you start moving along the path that is aligned with your values, the vision will become clearer and the full picture will start to reveal itself. You just need to start and take the first step.

Examples of Intentions + Goals a.k.a, Fire Up Your Superpowers

Below I’ve put together what I believe to be the ultimate guide and resource for aligning intentions with goals to bring out your intention setting superpowers. You’ll find practical examples for all areas of your life that you can take and start implementing today.

Steal them, hack them, and make them your own!

In addition to the intention and goal, I’ve also included handy affirmations that compliment each one. Affirmations are positive statements that help you counteract negative thoughts and keep you on track.

How to use this guide. As mentioned earlier, if you’re just getting started you don’t have to have the “big picture”. Choose one or two examples from this guide and implement them. Once you start to see results, reflect on your progress, and pick two more. Overtime, your vision will become clearer, your intention and goal setting abilities will strengthen, and you’ll be able to use what you learned to craft powerful goals and intentions own your own.

Nutrition

IntentionGoalAffirmation
give my body the best nutrientstake a daily vitamin supplement and eat 3 nutritious meals everydayI am giving my body the best nutrients by eating nutritious meals.
look and feel great from the inside outallow 2 cheat meals or indulgences a week, but no moreIndulging in the occasional cheat meal helps me maintain a balanced diet.
eat a balanced dietfollow a realistic, balanced meal plan M-F or 80% of the timeThe occasional treat helps me maintain a balanced diet.
eat local and organically grown foods in my meals as much as possiblereplace 2-3 items a week on my grocery list with organic or locate a farm, farmers market, or CSA in my area to buy my (vegetables, milk, eggs, cheese, bread, coffee, etc. there instead of the grocery store)I’m doing my part to support local organic food.
have a healthy strong body free of (disease, pain, stress, etc.)completely avoid substances that do harm and stress my bodyI’m keeping my body healthy, strong and free of disease by avoiding harmful substances.

Exercise

IntentionGoalAffirmation
have a well toned bodystrength train for 30 minutes 3 times a weekMy body is becoming more toned due to my devotion to strength training 3 times a week.
be strong & energetic and have the flexibility to perform physical tasks with easefollow a fitness program 3-5 times a week that incorporates strength training, stretching and aerobic exerciseI’m getting stronger and more energetic each day by following a fitness program.
live a physically active lifestyleget outside for a 20min walk or other physical activity at least 3 times a weekMy lifestyle is active when I get outside at least 3 times a week.
maintain my weight and fitnessfind a health program or fitness app to monitor progress and stay on trackI’m maintaining my weight and fitness level by using a fitness app.
lose weight and keep it offuse a food tracking app to track weight and what I eatI’m supporting myself in losing weight and keeping it off by tracking what I eat.

Stress Management

IntentionGoalAffirmation
be able to cope with and easily manage stressidentify the root cause of my stress and find resources to support making any needed changesI find resources to help me get to the root cause of stress so I can manage and cope with it as it arises.
feel calm, centered and focuseddo a 10min guided meditation each morningI make feeling calm, centered and focused a top priority by doing 10min of guided meditation each morning.
maintain work-life balanceschedule 1-2 “me-time” activities each weekI schedule 1-2 “me-time” activities every week in order to maintain optimal work-life balance.
have time for myself and my family and friendscreate a schedule that balances time for family and friends as well as workI balance my work schedule with time for friends and family so I have time for myself and my relationships.
control my anxiety when I’m in stressful situationslearn strategies to manage and cope with anxietyI move through stressful situations with ease when I use coping strategies.
worry lesspractice acceptance-based mindfulness meditationPracticing meditation helps me worry less.

Relationships

IntentionGoalAffirmation
experience relationships that are supportive and mutually beneficialevaluate my relationships and identify areas I can be more supportive to others, spend more time with positive supportive people and remove negative relationships from my lifeMy relationships are becoming more mutually beneficial since focusing on time with positive supportive people.
maintain a loving and joyful relationship with my partnerschedule 1-2 fun activities together per weekScheduling 1-2 fun activities a week with my partner keeps our relationship joyful and fun.
attract a partner that I’m physically, emotionally and spiritually in tune withfocus energy on loving and taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually and attracting someone who does the sameI’m attracting an emotionally and physically attractive partner by loving myself.
love and accept myself in all my relationshipswork on building my self esteem by focusing my energy on relationships with people who appreciate me as I amI choose relationships with people who accept me as I am.
support and uplift those I connect with including family and friends without sacrificing self careschedule 1-2 “me-time” activities each week at a min for self careI have the right balance of “me-time” and connecting with and taking care of those I love.

Finances & Wealth

IntentionGoalAffirmation
have enough resources to be financially free and securedetermine the dollar amount and resources needed to feel financially free and make a plan to achieve themThe resources and money to live financially free is within my grasp.
have a healthy relationship with moneyfind resources and learn skills to remove self-limiting beliefs regarding moneyMoney is a form of energy and I allow it to flow freely in my life.
create wealth and abundancemake a vision board of what wealth and abundance looks like for meI am actively attracting and open to receiving wealth and abundance into my life.
manage my money successfullyevaluate my finances using the 50/30/20 rule (50% to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to saving) and make adjustments where neededI allocate my flow of money in a way that supports financial success.
stick to a budgetuse a budgeting app to create a realistic budget and stick to itI stick to my budget because it allows me to afford the things I want with ease.

Work & Career

IntentionGoalAffirmation
have a career that I enjoy that also supports me financiallyactively focus on finding a job that makes good use of my skills that pays in line with my financial goalsI am easily finding a career that supports me financially and makes good use of my skills.
do work that allows me to grow and continue to learnset monthly milestones for new skills and/or work knowledge I want to acquire and work towards meeting themI’m continuing to learn and grow with my work by meeting my monthly milestones.
use my creative skills and talentsfind work that allows me to be creative and rewards me for my talentsMy creative skills and talents are attracting a rewarding career in ______.
work with like-minded people where I feel supportedbe supportive to coworkers and help create strategies where everyone feels supportedMy coworkers and I are helping to create an environment where everyone feels supported.
find meaning in my workdetermine what I value and ways to reflect my values in my workI’m redesigning my work to align with my values and that which I find meaning.

Recreation & Play

IntentionGoalAffirmation
experience playful activities and funschedule time for fun activities 1-2 times a weekI’m scheduling fun activities 1-2 times a week to make time for play.
seek out opportunities to be creativeattend a creative Meet Up group or take a classI’m attending classes and/or Meet Ups that foster creativity.
have experiences that are adventurousgive experiences to do together as gifts instead of things and get out moreI’m enjoying adventurous activities with friends and loved ones.
stay active and take up a sport or hobbyjoin a local community sports team or community group for a craft you enjoy that meets oftenI’m staying active by taking up a hobby or sport.
travel to new placescreate a list of 20 places you want to visit and implement a plan to visit at least one in the next yearI have a list of places I’m passionate about visiting.

Health Care

IntentionGoalAffirmation
stay healthy mentally and physicallyprioritize health by scheduling activities that challenge me mentally and physically every weekI feel healthy mentally and physically when I schedule activities that challenge my mind and body.
make healthy lifestyle choicescreate a list of healthy choices and implement 1-2 of them a weekReplacing unhealthy options with healthy options improves my lifestyle.
make sure I’m covered if I need medical caresign up for a health care plan if it is available to me and implement a plan to save a percentage of my income to cover health care costI prioritize planning for my health care so I feel secure and covered.
take preventive healthcare measuresassess my current health and identify areas I can make simple changes to improve, maintain and prevent sickness and diseaseI practice preventive health care strategies to improve and maintain my health.
receive care when I need itprioritize health and wellness by becoming knowledgeable on the health resources available to me and the people in my life who can help my heal if neededI’ve built a supportive group of people and access to health resources around me.

Environment & Community

IntentionGoalAffirmation
spend more time in natureget outside in nature daily, even if just a 10 min walkTime in nature is important to me so I make a point to get outside everyday.
help others who can’t help themselvesseek out a local program that helps others in the community and commit to participatingI have a giving spirit and devote time to helping others in my community.
help keep my community cleanfind a local organization that allows me to help keep the community clean by volunteering my timeI volunteer my time to help keep the community I love and live in clean.
have a home environment that is calming and peacefuldeclutter my _____ and create a beautiful space for ______Calming and peaceful space is important to me so I keep my home clutter and distraction free.
be more sustainablerecycle and research low waste swaps and start replacing products I use on a daily, weekly, monthly basis with low or zero waste versionsI feel great about recycling and swapping out products to zero waste options because it is more sustainable and helps the environment.

Life Purpose & Values

IntentionGoalAffirmation
express my true self and live authenticallydevelop a practice of listening to my inner guide by asking myself what would “my true self” do in this situation and then follow through with that actionI follow and listen to inner guide who is brave and wise.
live with passion and joyfind mentors, teachings and sources of guidance for living my passionHaving mentors and seeking out guidance for living my passion supports my goal to live with passion and joy.
feel like I’m doing something with my lifeset mini goals and/or realistic monthly milestones for projects I find meaningfulProjects I find meaningful are finding their way to me.
live according to my valuesdefine what my values are and identify areas in my personal and work life that I can practice them frequentlyI’m filled with joy when I practice ______ frequently.
practice self care and grow personallyschedule 1-2 “me-time” activities each week that focus on personal growthScheduling 1-2 personal growth activities a week for myself is a form of self care.

Self Esteem & Self Efficacy

IntentionGoalAffirmation
be an inspiration to otherspractice what I preachLiving true to myself and practicing what I preach is inspirational.
practice self acceptance and self lovereplace negative self talk with intentions and affirmations that reinforce self acceptance and self loveI use positive affirmations to reinforce self love and acceptance.
surround myself with positive peopleseek out experiences and activities filled with positive people and get to know themI am open and receptive to positive people.
release negative mindsets and self limiting beliefsimplement a daily meditation or mindfulness practice that focuses on developing a positive mindsetDaily meditation and mindfulness exercises make me feel more positive and capable.
see the beauty in myself and otherspractice self reflection to release old negative thought patterns and past conditioningI see the beauty in myself and others.

Spirituality

IntentionGoalAffirmation
feel connected to divine source (God, universe, Source, etc.)plan my life in a way that places my spiritual life a top priorityThe connection to source is always accessible and available to me.
have faith that I am guided and supporteduse items of symbolism that remind me on a daily basis of my faith (religious jewelry, home altar, crystals, etc.)I have faith and know I am guided and supported.
be an instrument of love and lightGive love to others on a daily basisI am an instrument of love and light when I give to others.
connect with spirit oftenimplement a daily spiritual practice that helps me feel more connected to spirit (God, Divine, Wisdom, etc.)I have a daily spiritual practice to connect with spirit often.
find support through faith when I need itseek out a local place of worship or spiritual group in my community that meets on a weekly basisFaith and spiritual support are all around me in my community.

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Jodie Locklear
Jodie is a former art teacher turned Graphic/UX Designer and QA Manager. She's applied her knowledge of visual design and software testing on many projects over the years, ranging from small businesses to large well known brands and organizations. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, blogging, and travel. View About Page

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