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Intentions Vs Goals : What Are The 3 Main Differences ?

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There is no doubt that goals play an important role in our life.   They are like guiding lights that show us the way to where we want to be.   But goals, on their own, are often not enough to get us there.  We also need intentions, and intentions can change the way in which we approach each of our objectives.   Let’s take a look at 3 main differences between intentions vs goals

What Are Intentions And What Are Goals


A goal is an objective or vision  you set for yourself for the future. 

It could be the near future or a more distant future like 12 months to 5 year time frame.

You can look at your goal as the place where you are going.

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It determines the destination of your journey.


An intention is connected to a goal, but it expresses itself in the present. 

It is the way in which you choose to engage with whatever you are doing and how, not when, you intend to accomplish something. 

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An intention is also about you proclaiming this with all of your might that your vision or goal will come true and you will do what it takes to manifest it into your reality.

You will be clear, you will be specific and you will have a lot of emotional value placed on your vision or goal.

Many shift their behaviors and some of their old belief systems to set their intentions and pure focus, visualizing like their goal or vision is already within their environment.

It’s a bit like a mantra, where you continually affirm and envision this goal and start to believe you have already achieved it.

Intentions vs Goals : What Are The 3 Main Differences

There are important differences between intentions and goals that can help understand the difference between them. 

Here are these central differences.

1. Present vs. Future

An intention is something that you start implementing immediately. 

An intention is applicable to the how, which means that it determines how you implement it in the moment, during the day, during the week, throughout the whole task, etc. 

So you might use some type of creative visualization and some strategies on how this will manifest into your life.

An intention is directed at the here and now.

Meanwhile, a goal is necessarily a future achievement. 

It is something that will help you orient yourself as to where you want to go, but it will not determine how you will live through the experience or the approach you need to take.  

For example, an intention can be to enjoy the food we are eating, while a goal can be to eat less than 2000 calories on this day. 

We might set the intention before we start eating and implement it right away.

2. How You Feel vs. What You Want To Achieve

The intention is focused on what you are experiencing and how you feel, what your mindset is, and how you will approach a situation from an emotional and cognitive standpoint. 

A goal is focused on what you want to achieve and refers, usually, to something that can be measured and finite. 

For example, an intention can be “I will be mindful and fully attentive throughout my conversation today”, while a goal can be “I will have ten conversations with strangers by the end of the week to feel confident.”

3. On-Going vs. Momentary

An intention can be viewed as a continuous practice. 

Think of intention like an ongoing form of energy or momentum to create this vision or goal you want to deliberately manifest.

It is a state or an energy we try to experience for some time. 

You need to give it some time for nurturing it into existence, it’s a bit like watching a plant grow, there is time spent nurturing it to get it to the way you would like to see it to its full potential.

On the other hand, a goal is something that can be achieved and completed. 

Losing 5% of your weight, exercising every day for a month, or running a marathon are all finite goals that can be, eventually, checked off a list. 

A  goal refers to what you are going to do, and an intention refers to how you intend to approach it.

How Do You Set Goals And Intentions

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An intention can support your goal, and a goal and intention often go hand in hand.

 Let’s take a look at how you can set an intention. 

Let’s start with the idea of goals. How do you set a goal?

First, you need to focus on what you want to achieve. 

The more specific you get, the better. 

For example, if you want to read more, you might want to consider how many books or even which books you will read. 

The goal usually includes a deadline or a time period. 

A very specific goal that allows you to track progress can provide a strong guide that will lead you to accomplish it. 

A goal can be a specific expression of a general intention, too.

The Keys For Setting Goals Are:

  • Be specific 
  • Measurability 
  • Focus 
  • Deadline

How About Intentions?

To set an intention, you need a different approach.  

An intention tends to be a bit more vague and follows your inner experiences more than an external intention. 

How you form an intention can vary, but it should be something that makes sense for you. 

You might include keywords related to emotion, experience, relationship, or the self. 

Growth, kindness, focus, mindfulness, and other similar concepts will be best when setting an intention.

The Keys For Setting Intentions Are:

  • Emotion 
  • Experience 
  • Meaningfulness
  • Personal relevance

What Will Support Your Success, Goals Or Intentions ?

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A question to address is which of these two is better to reach success and grow and change within your life. 

I hate to tell you this, but the answer to this question can vary.

For one, goals can be more effective to define your next steps and create concrete plans of action. 

They can provide a useful guide as to what you want. 

But goals divorced from intentions don’t mean much. 

A goal, ultimately, is grounded in an intention and your path to that goal matters just as much as the objective itself. 

Your journey matters as much as the destination, and the experience you have while working towards something is as important as that something. 

Intentions have more staying power. 

They can also determine how much satisfaction we derive from the process, how motivated we stay, and how we approach the obstacles we face. 

Overall, to succeed we need both.

Why Setting Intentions Are So Important

Once you reach a goal, you might feel a boost of motivation and satisfaction. 

But often, that feeling and experience fades, and you are left planning for the next goal or wondering whether you pursued the wrong thing. 

This is a normal experience. 

It only means that we can’t wait to be happy until we achieve something to make us happy. 

We can’t wait for our goals to push us towards joy, love, kindness, or anything else. 

We need, instead, to integrate those experiences into the journey, and that is when intentions are especially important.

How To Support Our Goals With Our Intentions

Our intentions provide a way to do things – joyfully, mindfully, giving our best, at a calm and gentle pace, with no judgment, etc. 

This allows us to focus on the journey as we move towards our goals.

Paradoxically, this makes us more likely to stick to our goals, because we are not as concerned with achievement and performance. 

Our attention is directed towards a specific experience and towards our feelings.

When we have goals, it can feel a bit like having an endless checklist. 

It makes us concerned with not only doing but doing well, performing to a certain standard, or hurrying up.  

We might even worry or plan for the future or regret choices we made. 

An intention can help us refocus our attention to be present in the current moment, which will improve both our performance and our experience.

Setting Intentions Every Day Allows You To Live More Fully

Daily intentions can help us shape our experiences. 

It’s also important to have some type of an intentions to goals, journal to guide you along your life’s journey in helping  you manifest your vision into physical reality- so here are 3 great journals and  styles to get you going, they have special prompts inside to help you achieve your goals.

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Law of Attraction Life & Goal Planner - A 30 Day Journey Creating Your Dream Life

positive mindset - Meditation Hypnosis - self-care tips

Life Planner to Increase Productivity, Time Management and Hit Your Goals – Organizer, Gratitude Journal

positive mindset - Meditation Hypnosis - self-care tips

Law of Attraction Planner - Life Organizer, Gratitude Journal, Stickers & More Inside This Journal

How do you want to spend this one day, unrepeatable and unique? 

What do you want to focus on today? 

You might consider what type of experience you want to have today and start the day with this in mind. 

Do you want to be kind? Present?  Optimistic? 

It is all up to you.  

An intention is a tool to live better and more present every day, and an intention is entirely up to you, as it concerns your own experience.

Drawing Goals From Your Intention

Your intentions don’t always need to connect to a goal, but they often provide a useful platform for developing your goals. 

Intentions can offer an insight into what you seek. 

For example, if you often find yourself setting the intention of eating things that make you feel good, you might develop a more concrete goal based on said intention – should you change your habits? 

Stop eating out so much? What goal will fit your intention the best?

Final Take

Goals and intentions are two very useful tools  for improving yourself and following your dreams. 

One is all about the destination, the other is all about the journey, so they complement each other very well. 

An intention is something that enhances your experience, while a goal is a guide that shows you where you want to go. 

By combining both, you can be more motivated and more successful.

Dane, E. & Brummel, B. (2014). Examining workplace mindfulness and its relations to job performance and turnover intention. Human Relations. 67. 105-128. 10.1177/0018726713487753. 

Gollwitzer, Peter & Sheeran, Paschal. (2006). Implementation Intentions and Goal Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of Effects and Processes. First publ. in: Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 38 (2006), pp. 69-119. 38. 10.1016/S0065-2601(06)38002-1. 

Lawlor, K. (2012). Smart Goals: How the Application of Smart Goals can Contribute to Achievement of Student Learning Outcomes. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 39.

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