The Way It Is
Word Play

Start Your Engines . . . With Goals and Intentions

Good morning!
Grab a cup of coffee and join me to chat about . . . goals and intentions.

Begin cup

So, you say. Here we are on a Monday morning . . . in late January . . . and the topic is goals and intentions???


Sure. Why not.

I mean, I know we’re all much more interested in that topic at the beginning of the new year. But . . . January 1 is just an arbitrary date, y’know? It’s ALWAYS a fine time to set your intentions and goals! Any day works!

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
        --- John Lennon

So. Let’s start here:

What’s the difference between . . . a resolution, a goal, and an intention?

A resolution is something you determine to do from this day forward. Example . . . “Starting today, I will get in shape.”

A goal is focused on a specific achievement or destination in the future. Example . . . “I will run in the Capitol City 5K in September.”

An intention is focused on the inner relationship you have with yourself, here in the present moment. Example . . . “I am active and healthy.”

In other words, intentions reflect how you want to BE; how you want to live your life. They provide integrity and unity in your life right now, in the present moment. Goals are all about an outcome, getting you where you want to be in some future moment. (And we’re just going to let resolutions sit right where they are . . . in the bottom of your champagne glass back on New Year’s Eve.) 

You need both. Intentions AND goals. (Also strategies and habits and a plan for how you’re going to get there, but that’s for another day.) Your goals and intentions should line up. If your intentions reflect what matters most to you, and your goals align with your intentions, well . . . you have a much greater chance of success at achieving your goals! (And you’ll be happier along the way, too.)


As for me . . . I spend quite a bit of time throughout the month of January each year figuring out what I hope to do during the months ahead (my goals) -- and then plugging those goals into my personal intentions. While I do review my intentions in January, too, I find they really don’t change much from year to year. Then, as the year rolls along, I review my intentions and goals with each new moon cycle to see how I'm progressing.

For the last several years, my overarching intention has been to . . . Live my best life for the rest of my life. (I like it. I haven’t seen any reason to change it.) Then, I come up with 8-10 “mini-intentions” to support it. (I try to compress my intentions into the fewest words possible that still support my meaning.) My goals for the year plug in to at least one of my intentions.


It’s a process that works for me. I know what I want to do (my goals) . . . and I know WHY (my intentions). That “why” part? That makes the goals much more likely to happen -- or, if the goals need to be changed or released or expanded during the year, it doesn’t throw me off so much.

(Those photos above are from my "root" journal for the year. You can see my overarching intention on the little envelope in the first photo. The envelope is filled with the cards you see in the second photo -- those are my "mini-intentions" for the year. On the back of each card, I've written out some of my goals for the year.)

So I’m curious.
What do YOU do?
What’s your process when you think about setting goals and intentions for the new year?
And does your process work for you?

Share your tips, suggestions, and frustrations in the comments. It's never a bad time to set (or review) your goals and intentions!


Want some more information about goals vs. intentions?

The Heart’s Intention by Phillip Moffitt from the website Dharma Wisdom. This article is a bit long, but does explain the differences between goals and intentions really well.

The Science of Setting Goals by Nadia Goodman from the website This article is more about setting good goals and the interplay between goals and intentions.


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As always, there's so much for me to ponder here. To reread. I love--really love--how you tie your review to the moon cycles. Your whole approach is inspiring! I don't have any such process as remotely inspiring. My One Word definitely serves as my anchor (and, while I've never thought about it--but that would be worthwhile!--I suppose every one of my words has reflected my intentions for how I aim to live my life). And my 'seasonal dreams' are a way of linking goals to that. (I think there's something in me that resists using the word 'goals'--and I suspect it's an underlying fear of failure!). I was charmed by your envelope and cards. Do you get a new one each year?


I love that you've not only thought hard and deep about your goals and intentions but also found a clever and beautiful way to physically capture them.

I haven't always been so good about being specific about my goals and intentions, but I think my 21 in 2021 list does a decent job of capturing it and of relating to my OLW for the year. My intentions are, broadly, to continue to make meaningful physical activity a part of my life so I can stay strong and healthy, to find joy in a variety of pursuits, to spend meaningful time with my family, and generally to find moderation in all aspects of my life.


I always appreciate it when you share your process. I am all over the place. For so many years, my life has been run by the timing, schedule, and tasks of my work life. This is my first calendar year when my life is my own (pretty much). So I am going round and round with intentions and goals and lists. I want to settle it on paper but it just doesn’t feel ready yet. I’ll get there. I guess my intention is to allow time for the process to unfold.


My intention is to be as authentic as possible with myself and with others. I have goals that go along with that, things related to ongoing therapy, vulnerability, creativity, and self-awareness. I don't have anything as concrete as what you've shared and I've got to admit I like this. I may try to incorporate this into my OLW practice this year as it will create a monthly check-in. XOXO


Thank you, Kym, for sharing about your process! I'm holding all my "goals" loosely right now and looking a month at a time on smaller things - hoping to be in a place by the end of 2021 to put some bigger plans in place (I turn 60 next year!) anyway - I like to tweak my intentions every year, along with choosing a new word. I start thinking about All That in November (my birthday month) and usually by mid-January, I feel like I'm pretty settled on what I want to focus on for the upcoming year.


Thank you for sharing your process. I'm not very good at setting intentions or goals; the closest I have come to it is making a 21 Things to Do In 2021 List. I have finally realized that I need some sort of plan or else I just wander through the year, somewhat aimlessly. Right now I'm with Juliann, allowing time for the process to unfold, seeing where I want to go. and how to get there.


I try very hard to tie my intentions to my word for the year, along with keeping previous year words as well. It helps me stay connected and makes for a better year! Goals though... oh boy. I have not set goals this year. I should... you sharing your process might help get me on track!


Very thoughtful post Kym. Your "root" journal is going to be very rich with your intention.


An interesting and thoughtful post Kym. And I agree that your Root" envelope (filled) will be interesting. For me, I'm just not the writing down type of person. I definitely do not make New Year's resolutions. As far as goals and intentions, they are in my head and I think of them (periodically), but that's it. Your system seems to work for you though.


oh goal setting has changed so much for me over time. I am now all about habits, building habits, breaking habits, creating a self that is defined through actions requiring habits.
So when i have a theme for the year I really invest in what that means for my habits, what that means for the kind of person I want to be and then I come up with some habits to help me feel like the habits are real.
This usually results in some concrete check lists which i inevitably fail to complete BUT the consistency of effort results in real habits forming and concrete changes to who i am and how I live my life.
January has already thrown a very dramatic wrench in my habit forming, but I feel ok about it b/c I can't actually fail at this, it's a journey, so maybe it's a more concise journey than I had planned, it is still a journey that is/will/has happen(ed)

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