Having intent is merely coming home to yourself. Living in the moment.
A conversation with a friend, while strolling through my neighbourhood, led to a discussion about the difference between intentions and goals. Both Chris and I share the belief that through our thoughts we create our reality. We also agreed that conscious awareness of our thoughts allows us to choose the behaviours best suited to moving in the direction of health and happiness. Both intentions and goals help us to focus our attention and energy — but which is most useful for holistically navigating life’s complexity?
Some years back another friend in a similar conversation stated, “Our job is to answer the question ‘what’, so the universe can do its job and provide the ‘how’.” This is the co-creation process existing between life and us. In keeping with my job, below are some of the ‘what’ questions I pondered over the years.
What is my purpose?
What is my passion?
What contribution do I want to make?
What is my heart (truth) telling me?
What do I value most in life?
In uncovering the answers to these questions, I realized I was setting intentions for who I wanted to be. For example:
- What is my purpose? I intend to transform fear into love for me, from me, for all.
- What is my passion? I intend through awareness to learn, love and laugh my way to inner peace.
- What is my contribution? I intend to be all I can be in service to all that is.
- What is my heart (truth) telling me? I intend to take responsibility for my thoughts, words and deeds.
- What do I value most in life? I intend to choose peace, love and joy over fear — no matter what emerges from life.
As I answered these questions, I also discovered the setting of intentions is a heart-felt process inspired by intuition and loving kindness. Intentions purposefully focus us on the present as we align our thoughts, words and deeds with our values. They become our present moment practice because the universe, now knowing what we want, provides us moment-to-moment with opportunities to practice our newly chosen ways.
On our part, there is no planning for an outcome. We surrender this ‘how to’ job to life’s much larger perspective of the whole. As humans with unique but limited perspectives (we cannot see all the possibilities), we are well suited to know our inner experience and then partner with life’s emerging possibilities to best co-create our inner experience in the outer world. By remaining aware in the present moment, we can immediately align our intentions with life’s offerings.
This partnership of human intention and emerging possibility is how we realize our contribution in service to self and others. Our intentions centre us in our heart.
[Intention] does not come from the reasonable you but from the alive you.
It is not created out of fear but out of love.
Goals, on the other hand, focus us on future outcomes rather than the present moment and centre us in our heads or our intellect. Goal setting is based on analysis, reasoning and step-by-step planning; all of which delude us into thinking we are in control. Instead, by planning every step of the way, we inadvertently bypass all the supportive steps life has in store for us, for which we did not have to exert energy to create. In this way, goal setting is often a labourious process consuming tremendous energy not unlike pushing a boulder up hill. Without the filter of the heart, goals can become self-serving, opportunistic and limiting.
Are you aware of your own inner battle between your heart and head? In the head’s (mind’s) battle to control the heart (to control our fear), we have imposed reason over heart’s desire. There was a time in my own life when I read Osho’s words below and thought they were heresy. Today, both my intuition and intellect tell me otherwise.
All private goals are neurotic. The essential man comes to know, to feel,
“I am not separate from the whole, and there is no need to seek and search
for any destiny on my own. Things are happening, the world is moving . . .
They are happening of their own accord. There is no need for me to make
any struggle, any effort; there is no need for me to fight for anything. I can
relax and be.” The essential man is not a doer. The accidental man is a
doer. The accidental man is, of course, then in anxiety, tension, stress,
anguish, continuously sitting on a volcano. It can erupt any moment, because
he lives in a world of uncertainty and believes as if it is certain. This creates
tension in his be-ing: he knows deep down that nothing is certain.
Osho, A Sudden Clash of Thunder
Take a moment to tune into your heart. Allow yourself to feel whatever is present for you. What intention can you set today in response to your heart-felt wish; to what matters most in your life?