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Goals and Intentions

Goals and Intentions

“The goal of our life’s effort is to reach the other shore — the true wisdom of life is that in each step of the way, the other shore is actually reached. To reach the other shore with each step of the crossing is the way of true living.”
– Shunryu Suzuki, from Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind

It is important to have goals, in our work and in our lives outside of work. Goals provide a target to aim for, whether we want to reach certain revenues, develop new products, reduce disease or violence, or lose weight. Goals provide benchmarks and allow us to make appropriate and useful adjustments as we move along the path toward meeting these goals.

Whereas goals act as the “what” we want to achieve, our intentions can act as the “how.” Our intentions can clarify the spirit and attitude with which we want to pursue our goals. Goals, by definition are something in the future. An intention can be right now, in this moment. We may have a one-year or three-year or five-year goal. Our intention can begin immediately and can act as a container in which we move toward our goals.

I understand that intentions have gotten a bad name (i.e. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”) Of course, decisions we make with certain intentions may have outcomes that were not intended. We can’t hide behind our intentions. Instead we can act both boldly and with humility, learning from our mistakes, adjusting as needed.

Having goals can be powerful. Taking an idea and committing to it has weight and gives energy and meaning to our activities.

Setting intentions can also be powerful. Our intention might be to work with less stress, to live with more joy, to meet difficulties and opportunities more openly and directly. Intentions can act as a compass to keep us more alive and more focused, as we pursue our goals.

In the Shunryu Suzuki quote above he is saying that our real goal, the goal that truly matters in our lives is the goal of finding complete freedom, to live a life of responsiveness, of joy, love, and compassion; to free ourselves from small-mindedness, self-centeredness, and an ego-centric existence. This is the true goal of being a human being. Our deep intention is to live in a manner in which we are reaching our goals in each moment, without waiting. We don’t need to be attached to some outcome in the future. We make our best effort, not only to meet our goals, but to set an intention to live with freedom and compassion; right now, in this moment.

What is your intention for today, for this week, and this year?

Goals Defined
Anew With Intention
Creating a SMART Goal

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Marc Lesser

Marc Lesser is CEO of ZBA Associates LLC, a company providing executive coaching, leadership development consulting, and keynote speaking services to businesses and non-profits. He is a developer and instructor of Google’s Search Inside Yourself program. Marc is a Zen teacher with an MBA degree and a former resident of the San Francisco Zen Center for 10 years. He is the author of Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less and Z.B.A. Zen of Business Administration.


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2:30AM PST on Jan 5, 2013


2:29AM PST on Jan 5, 2013


4:16AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Thanks for a great article,

7:45AM PDT on Aug 10, 2012

Intentions can become goals.

12:54PM PDT on Jul 2, 2012


8:28AM PDT on Jul 2, 2012

good reminders

1:51AM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

thanks for this post

5:59PM PST on Jan 29, 2012

I'm currently taking a class at my local Unity church where we are working on defining our values, goals and intentions. This article really goes along with the class. Thank you for posting it.

10:21AM PST on Jan 14, 2012


6:13PM PST on Dec 29, 2011

very invigorating. thanks :)

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