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Intentions v’s Goals

Yesterday I had the honour of giving a corporate group, who are working on a highly stressful yet critical project, a morning yoga practice. As part of a one day executive retreat, their facilitator asked that I set them up for the day with movement and breath work in addition to asking them to set an intention for the year ahead.

Setting an intention in a yoga class is nothing ground breaking or new but when it’s a group of mature, professional men who have never rolled out a mat in their lives – it gets tricky. How do you communicate the benefit without sounding ‘herbal’ and fairy-like? And how do you explain what an intention is in this environment? I came across an interesting article in Yoga Journal about setting intentions but more specifically –  the difference between intentions and goals. The author summed it up perfectly and I ended up reading this out to them whilst in they were relaxing in savasana (corpse pose). It’s a valuable insight to staying true to yourself whilst reaching your goals and great to start thinking about if you’re booking into our February event.

Goal making is a valuable skill; it involves envisioning a future outcome in the world or in your behavior, then planning, applying discipline, and working hard to achieve it. You organize your time and energy based on your goals; they help provide direction for your life. Committing to and visualizing those goals may assist you in your efforts, but neither of these activities is what I call setting intention. They both involve living in an imagined future and are not concerned with what is happening to you in the present moment. With goals, the future is always the focus: Are you going to reach the goal? Will you be happy when you do? What’s next?

Setting intention, at least according to Buddhist teachings, is quite different than goal making. It is not oriented toward a future outcome. Instead, it is a path or practice that is focused on how you are “being” in the present moment. Your attention is on the ever-present “now” in the constantly changing flow of life. You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.

Goals help you make your place in the world and be an effective person. But being grounded in intention is what provides integrity and unity in your life.
- Phillip Moffitt 




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