Is Goal Setting a Waste of Time?

Intention is Nine-Tenths of Magic

If were to pick THE most important aspect of my entire spiritual practice it would have to be intention setting. Intentions allow us to use our spiritual practice to actually change our lives and the world around us, instead of just enacting some empty rituals.  In a world where goal setting has become king, and everyone and their grandmother has a bucket list, intentions are the key to making sure your ambition gets you exactly what you want and need, and not just some thing that you thought you wanted but have since outgrown.

What is the Difference

Intentions are like what Danielle Laporte calls Goals with Soul.  A goal is just a bench mark that you set for yourself for some future time frame.  The problem with most goals is that at the time you set them, you have no idea what will be still be important to you when you complete them. When we set a goal we are assuming that the way we are now, is how we will always be.  It is limiting.   Intentions on the other hand are open ended.  They are about how you want to feel, what qualities you want in your life, not about the external bench marks.

Goals are fixed, Intentions flexible.

A goal is usually one thing, I want to do X. An intention is usually more about the quality of what you want in your life. I want more abundance.  I want a career where I feel like I’m utilizing my full range of talents and skills.  The great thing about intentions is that they leave room for the universe to find you something better than your wildest dreams.  Something maybe you’ve never imagined.  When we set a goal, we are limiting our success to only that which we are able to imagine.  When we set an intention we are letting the universe decide how big and how far we can go.

 How to set intentions:

1. Get really clear on what you want.  Start with the tangible: a new job, a new car, more money.  And then dig deeper. Take one thing and really go into why you want it.  How do you think its going to make you feel when you get it?  Then take that feeling and see if you can come up with a broader term for it.  Want money? Why? So I can feel less stressed about survival, so I can play more, so I can go on vacation!  What are the feelings behind those things? Relief? Freedom? Relaxation? Respite?  I challenge you to steer clear of big general words like ‘abundance’ unless you have really done some thinking on what that really means for YOU.  Many times we throw words like that around with out really having a felt sense of what they mean to us.  By the way, if you really want to dig deep into this process check out The Desire Map.

A little cautionary tale here:  A few years ago I had a friend who asked the universe for money.  The very next day her car was rear ended and she was injured.  She ended up getting a settlement from the accident, in the form of MONEY, but at the price of her physical health.  That is why I feel like it is always better to get as clear as possible on what you want.  She thought she wanted money, but I bet if we asked her now she would admit there were more important things than the actual money, like health and freedom from financial strain.

2. Once you’ve distilled down your desires, see if you can sum them up into a sentence.  I find it helps to start with either “I want to call into my life ……(insert desires here)” or “My intention is to …..(insert what you are trying to accomplish)” Then add the all important phrase “or better”.  Leave room for the Universe to step it up a notch.

3. If you are trained in ritual, you may want to then translate your intention into a ritual act, but even if you aren’t here are a few ways you can work with it: place your intention on the your altar, write it in your planner, set fire to it and let give it over to the universe, or just hold it daily in your mind as you go about your day.  Leave the rest up to the universe.

And now I’d like to hear from you.  How do you feel about Goals?  Love em, hate em? Have you ever set an intention before, how did it work out? Leave me a comment below, and if you love this article be sure to share on Facebook or Twitter.

Allison Carr LAc believes that healing yourself makes the world a better place.  Learn more about her work and classes at

Photo modified by me, quote from Pomegranate Doyle

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

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Leave a Comment

  • Jacks April 23, 2014, 10:24 AM

    This is wonderfully articulated. I talk a lot about intentions vs goals in my practice. When i envision myself setting a goal I see myself on a path with blinders on – I can only see what’s right in front of me and loose the perspective and view that surrounds me. When I work with intentions I can see myself opening up to the many possibilities in which I can manifest this intention. I feel myself dropped into an intuitive relationship between myself and the Universe that is guided by trust. Thank you for this!

  • lily April 23, 2014, 12:11 PM

    Goals tend to make me feel constrained and like I need to follow a specific process to achieve them. Then, if I don’t achieve it, I feel like a failure. So instead of goals, I set intentions, but allow myself the freedom to reach them in a way that feels easy, simple, and fluid.

  • Renee @ Renew Your Space April 23, 2014, 1:33 PM

    (I tried commenting once before but something strange happened)…

    I love DLP and absolutely agree intentions are more soulful, intuitive and meaningful rather than a meaningless to do list. Goals with soul are so much more motivating 🙂

  • Krystal Bernier April 26, 2014, 11:38 AM

    Great insights. I’ve given up on setting goals for myself over the last few years, in a way. I used to write down exactly what I wanted to accomplish and how I would accomplish it. Then I would never follow through. I had good intentions, but it always went out the window. So I guess I’ve been setting intentions for myself without knowing it, because now instead of a specific goal I know where I want to go and I accept there are many ways to get there. I follow my heart, make decisions based on instinct, and just truck forward. I’m much happier with myself and I am achieving more then I thought possible 🙂

  • Beth April 27, 2014, 2:31 PM

    OK, I think I get it. Instead of setting a goal of starting my own business, I should frame it differently. So I would say something like, “My intention is to have more freedom – financial freedom and location – or better.” Is that closer?

    • Allison Carr April 27, 2014, 2:41 PM

      That sounds like a great intention. If you know the mission or purpose of your business you could throw that in there too.

  • Pam April 27, 2014, 4:55 PM

    This is a great article. I like the idea of being very clear and specific when setting goals. Thanks for sharing this.

  • SocialNicole April 27, 2014, 7:59 PM

    Thanks for sharing this, I had not thought of the power of intentions over simple goals. I know I struggle with goals as becoming too big or too far out it’s hard to reach them sometimes. I will be trying your method of setting intentions and see how that works!

  • Susan April 29, 2014, 1:04 PM

    Great post Allison! I’m obsessed with intention. I’ve created and am creating many cool things in my life because of it. I set intentions for everything. My day, my week, my work, my blog posts, my client sessions, 90 day intentions, new moon intentions, new years intentions and everything in between! Super powerful! Thanks for sharing your tips!