From Goal Setter to Chaser of Intention


For most of my life, I was a goal setting junkie.  Now? I am a chaser of intention. I spent the bulk of my adult life as a goal setter. Personally and professionally, goals were my thing. SMART goals with benchmarks and indicators. Lists, reflections of what was and wasn’t working. I often said that I was a “goal-oriented person.” I needed goals for motivation and to keep myself accountable.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with goals.

But a subtle change in perspective opened me to the world of setting an intention. And now? Intentions are my jam.

The problem with goal setting

It took my fourth and fifth marathons – where the goal of running 26.2 miles under 5 hours still eluded me – to realize that maybe I was on the wrong path.

Maybe it wasn’t actually about the finish line. Maybe the ultimate goal wasn’t really to “achieve.” Maybe the real magic happened along the way. And maybe...or definitely...I’d been so focused on the end goal that I’d missed out on all the growth, learning and gratitude that was sprinkled along the way.

As recently as this year, I set out for a week of retreat bliss with one goal: to learn to surf. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be very good, but come hell or high water – I was going to learn to stand up on the surfboard (and look cool doing it).

But then I learned that surfing wasn’t about standing up. It was about catching waves. And guess what? You can catch a wave while staying horizontal on your board. Does it look as cool? No. Butt somewhere between wiping the spray of salty ocean water out of my eyes and paddling my way back out I began to understand the meaning of “determination without expectation.” What it felt like to truly be so present in the moment that the outcome didn’t really matter. Ok fine, I was all smiles the moment I did actually pop up on my board. But also? I was equally as joyous when I was tumbling off my board, epic belly-flop style.

The magic of intentions

Maybe the only difference between a goal and an intention is semantics, but there is something magical about setting an intention. And not just setting an intention, but living it. Deeply.

The power of setting an intention is more than just the energy that comes from putting something out in the universe. Because I can put a lot of things out into the universe without any effect.

But an intention comes from deep inside you – from your intuition and your heart. It is as if the sun and the moon and the earth are waiting to hear us express ourselves and come together to line our path with synchronicities.

Did I lose you on that one? Did I stray into the “woo-woo?” Well, so be it. Because I’m a believer in the woo-woo of intentions.

Let me back up for a moment….what is an intention exactly?

Intentions spring up from deep within us – the place where our heart, mind and soul come together as our truest self.

While you may believe with all of your being in the intention “I will win the lottery” – I’d invite you to consider your purpose, your why and your heart to uncover the true seed that lies behind that desire. For instance the intention of “I am open to receive” implies that you are open to whatever comes, accepting that which you might expect AND that which might be a surprise.

Deepak Chopra defines intention as “a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines intention as “a determination to act in a certain way.”

An intention denotes purpose. You are planting a seed. A starting point. A place of determination without expectation. An intention is focused on the NOW (whereas a goal is focused on a future outcome). An intention offers us a compass and a measure of purpose.

Most importantly of all, intentions do not manifest themselves within a specified timeline. Seeds take time to sprout. They need water, sun and air. Similarly, intentions need nurturing and yes – effort. You need to do more than talk the talk when it comes to setting an intention. Intentions are living, breathing things that come to life because of our actions, our thoughts, and our purpose.

Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map says, “...when you’re clear on how you want to feel and you set about generating those feelings, you take charge of your life and your happiness. This is the most consciously creative act of being human.”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve set an intention only to be bombarded with reminders or messages from the universe. Granted, maybe I become hyper-sensitive to messages just by creating the intention, but I cannot deny the presence of synchronicities that seem to line my path when I stay true to an intention.

“You can’t always choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you feel about it.” --Danielle LaPorte

What is a chaser of intention?

No, I'm not setting intentions and then going about my day trying to chase down symbols and messages that are a match.

But the synchronicities are coming to me. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not even that day. Maybe not in a way that is obvious at first, but they do come.

For example, I’ve been focused on the intention “I am open to receive.” I was on vacation in Mexico and exhaled my intention out into the salty air while standing on my yoga mat, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A few minutes later, my daughter appeared – in her oversized bath robe – trying to chat with me while I practiced. Normally, I’d have shushed her, wanting solitude in the moment. But I opted to be open to receive and invited her to practice with me or sit and read.  As there she sat – reading her Kindle and watching me out of the corner of her eye while I practiced. Instead of driving her away, I'd "allowed" her to be a witness to my practice – full of strength, gratitude and mindfulness on my mat. It was kind of beautiful. Had I shooed her away, wanting to be alone – I never would have observed the respect I saw in her eyes. And over the course of several weeks, messages seem to appear out of nowhere to reinforce the domino effect of being truly open without expectation.

Synchronicities have appeared to me in music  – on the radio in the car and while listening to Pandora. They’ve greeted me on my yoga mat, in my email inbox and with messages printed on my herbal tea tags. I’m still in awe every time a new synchronicity that reinforces an intention presents itself because it doesn’t seem possible on a rational level.

But it is real. Organic. And yes, woo-woo amazing.