This whole year the topic of goals vs. intensions has been on my mind. Nearly every news story reinforces to me how important this is and prompts me to reaffirm it in my own mind.

I’ll begin by saying planning ahead is never a bad idea. Deciding where it is I wish to go and then working out how best to get there helps to focus on an objective while minimizing missteps. In a nutshell this is how we achieve our goals. Then the question arises; with what qualities of heart and mind will I choose to proceed? How do I wish behave, think and feel through the process. How do I wish to treat others? Do these things matter?

These are important questions. Most of us are familiar with the process of deciding what we want, whether a tangible thing, a personal achievement or accolade, or some other predetermined result. Next is figuring out a way to make it happen. In other words setting a goal. What we often are not so clear about is how do we intend to conduct ourselves in the process. Do we just want what we want and aren’t too concerned about how we get there? Are our actions a true reflection of our personal values and highest aspirations? Do our actions reflect our sense of ethics? Do we proceed with honesty, fairness, compassion, respect and personal integrity? I would say that it’s how we choose to conduct ourselves while we move through life that defines and expresses our deepest intentions. These choices set the tone, color and tenor of all we do.

Here’s an example. You wish to start a new business selling organic ice cream. You of course hope the business will be “successful” (in other words be profitable). There are many decisions to be made as you formulate your business plan; what form will this product take? Who is your target market? What location would best serve that market? How do you plan to advertise your product? These are some of the many things to consider as you formulate the road map to achieve your goal. With all these practical and logistical considerations in mind what might your intensions be for the business? You may think, “well, to make a lot of money so I can have a nice house, a car, go on vacation and support my family.” Those are all fine. And those are goals. Intensions are the qualities you infuse your actions with. Maybe you’ll endeavor to offer a healthy product that you vow never to compromise and you’ll be honest in your marketing about it. You’ll treat employees fairly and have stores that will help build community. These are qualitatively different from a business who’s primary intention is to make as much profit as possible even if that means deceiving clients by using cheap ingredients that aren’t even organic (even though your marketing says they are). Squeezing workers with unpaid overtime and stiffing investors on business loans. The goals of having a prosperous business and a comfortable life may be the same, yet the underlying behavior based on intensions is radically different.

I think often on how we can set intensions for ourselves in both big and small ways. How intensions act as guidelines for a singular interaction or be the underpinnings for all we do throughout our life. With this attitude we see that it matters how others are impacted by our actions and how what we do can truly benefit those beyond us.