energyOur cul­ture sup­ports the idea that life pro­gress­es by accom­plish­ing goals. Accom­plish­ing goals is sat­is­fy­ing and gives you a feel­ing of accom­plish­ment. Small ones like check­ing off a to do list are fun. Big ones like achiev­ing the annu­al com­pa­ny goals are even more excit­ing.

The life you get is a result of the choic­es you make. Goals are a way of mak­ing very clear choic­es. How­ev­er, when goals stand alone, they can cre­ate unin­tend­ed con­se­quences.

Here is an exam­ple of how this might work. You set a goal to pur­chase the home of your dreams. You do all that is need­ed to make that dream a real­i­ty, includ­ing sav­ing for the down pay­ment and guard­ing your cred­it record. You reach your dream and pur­chase your new home. In a few months you find your­self stretched finan­cial­ly and stressed by the added com­mit­ment of the new debt, and all the oth­er things a new home requires like fur­nish­ings and increased costs such as util­i­ties, tax­es and insur­ance. What went wrong?

The book, The Sev­en Habits of High­ly Effec­tive Peo­ple, by Steven Cov­ey has sold mil­lions of copies and has improved the lives of mil­lions around the world. In this book, Habit two is, Begin with the End in Mind. When your pros­per­i­ty is at stake, the end is your inten­tion.

What went wrong with the new home pur­chase was you did not Begin with the End in mind. The End, your inten­tion, was not clear. An inten­tion serves as a clar­i­fy­ing spot­light by illu­mi­nat­ing the pur­pose behind your goals. Inten­tion gives your goals mean­ing. Inten­tions con­nect you to your deep­est feel­ings and as such cre­ate a force for man­i­fest­ing our deep­est desires.

The results you get are a con­se­quence of the choic­es you make. Set­ting goals is a way of mak­ing clear choic­es. By clar­i­fy­ing your pur­pose or inten­tion before set­ting your goals, they become a pow­er­house for cre­at­ing the life of your dreams. When your intent is clear, your results flow from that inten­tion. Your goals are nat­u­ral­ly aligned with your high­er pur­pose.

Go back to the exam­ple of the new home. If you had clar­i­fied your intent before pur­chas­ing the home, one pos­si­ble ver­sion might have been, “I intend to live in an envi­ron­ment that sup­ports my well-being and feel­ings of pros­per­i­ty”. With this big­ger inten­tion, the goal of a new home takes on a whole new char­ac­ter. Now you are com­par­ing each pos­si­ble pur­chase to your inten­tion of well-being and feel­ing pros­per­ous. From this point of view, finan­cial over com­mit­ment isn’t like­ly. You are not going to feel pros­per­ous or sup­port your well-being if your month­ly resources are stretched too thin.

Set­ting and achiev­ing goals with­out clear inten­tion can leave you feel­ing burnt out and stressed, as in the new home pur­chase exam­ple. By con­trast, set­ting goals with clear intent gets you where you intend­ed. When your choic­es are aligned with your intent, results such as ful­fill­ment, peace, pros­per­i­ty and joy are pos­si­ble.