Right intention is simply about coming home to yourself…Throughout each day, ask yourself if you are being true to your deepest intentions. If you’re not, start doing so immediately, as best as you’re able.
Phillip Moffitt, “The Hearts Intention”, Yoga Journal, Sept/Oct 2003
I was just beginning to work on the goal-setting section of the first chapter of my book Run Away With Yourself!. Cleaning and reading are my preferred methods of procrastination, so it was serendipitous that while cleaning my office to avoid writing, I came across an article from Yoga Journal on goals vs. intentions.
Phillip Moffitt writes that the Buddhist teachings on Right Intention are quite different from goal setting. In setting goals you are focused on the future; you imagine a desired outcome and plan the steps you need to take to achieve that outcome. You also imagine that you will be happy once you have achieved that goal, which implies that you will not be happy until you are there.
Setting intentions is focused on the present moment. Moffitt writes: “You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.” In remembering your intentions daily, you focus on constantly being in touch with the person you are now.
As I begin today to prepare my lunch, it is easier to remind myself of my intention to live a healthy lifestyle than to focus on my goal of losing 40 pounds before August 29, the date of my son’s wedding. If I don’t achieve that goal, I will feel like a failure and I’ll be reminded of it every time I look at the pictures. If I focus on Right Intention instead of a set goal, I can continue for the rest of my life to be mindful of my intention to love myself and treat my body with the respect and care it deserves. Chances are I’ll be healthier and happier.
A retreat can be useful for setting both goals and intentions. Both influence your direction in life, as long as you remember to focus on the present instead of getting lost in the future.