Monday, May 21, 2007

Goals v. Intentions

My title looks like a court case to me. It isn’t, or is it? Does anyone else have trouble with setting goals? I mean, measurable, tangible, so-I’ll-know-it-when-I-get-there, capital G, Goals?

I am on a kick of reading through some of the latest success literature, particularly relating to Internet e-businesses, and one of their number, a gentleman life coach, named Drew Rozell, Ph.D., made a distinction in an interview between Goals and Intentions which intrigued me.

When asked about his future plans for his life and his business, Dr. Rozell said,

“To me, goals are about the future, and limited in scope.”

My belly got tense and did an internal flip-flop. Something has always felt weird to me about goals although I’ve never bothered to look at what exactly that is. Here’s what it is:

Goals are about the future.

Of course they are! This is why the goal wizards tell us to write them in the present tense as if we already have them.

Coach Rozell provided a valuable answer to me. Goals are about the future—and, despite the fact that I am an intuitive, I don’t know what the future holds. Not only don’t I know, but I can’t know because it’s not mine to know. What I “know for sure,” to quote Oprah Winfrey, is: my future could hold anything.

And besides, I stay very focused on the current moment, so that I’m showing up, present, accounted for, and awake to whatever happens.

So Coach Drew goes on,

“I’ve replaced plans with intentions of what I want.”

My belly relaxed. This feels better to me than goals. He goes on to explain why,

“If I’m in planning or goal mode, I try to operate from a script as to the way things should happen. I tend to agree with the old saying — ‘If you want to make God laugh, make plans.’ Like most folks, I end up feeling frustrated when things do not go as I planned. And I’ve found the truth to be that when I’m trying to stick to some plan, I’m not noticing all the opportunities the universe is placing before me.

“I get what I want much easier if I do not plan too much. I just follow whatever gives me energy.”

AHA! Intend, yes. Plan, no. Intentions, yes. Goals, no. My whole body relaxed. This has to be the truth for me. How about you?

I turned to the OED for confirmation.

For goal, the first three words in the etymology are “a difficult etymology!” I laughed. No wonder we have conflict about goals. Then I looked in my own God’s Dictionary.

There it was: goal is from Anglo-Saxon roots meaning—get this—to hinder!!!!

Next I checked intention which is not in God’s Dictionary. Back to the OED, intention’s first etymology is a verb: intend which comes from Latin roots meaning to stretch.

Do some word magic with me:

Do you know the British English word for American English jail? It’s spelled gaol. Swap the vowels of goal, which means to hinder, and you wind up in gaol!

Now intend is a verb, an action to take, instead of a goal to make. It means to stretch, and we see the same root in our word tendon, that which allows us to stretch our muscles.

No wonder I like intentions better than goals!

Let’s go back to coach Drew Rozell, who may be found at,
and requote him, “I just follow what gives me energy.”

This is a principle taught by many spiritual masters. For me, following energy often involves a stretch which lets me know that I’m reaching for my best intentions.

Here are two for my guest blogger spot on beliefnet’s Chattering Mind this week:

1. The list for free Seeds subscriptions is quadrupled.
2. Connections happen which begin my next radical adventures in life.

Feel the stretch? So do I.

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