We live in a goal-driven society.
Needing to have goals is an unquestioned concept so far, even with the experience that the world changes in every single moment and goals, once set, become stale immediately.
Goals and their implicit promise for happiness and success keep us up and running
Goals can blind us for lots of options and opportunities. Goals can keep us small as we don’t reach them most of the time, leaving us feel insufficient. And if we reach them, they immediately lose their energy of stretching us into a future state. Therefore, we need new goals. So, we get hooked on needing to have goals. Never there, never in the present moment.
Goals are very fragile to changing conditions, limited by the past as well as our limited imaginations of possible futures
Future goals can be seen as a desirable future state, based on our experiences from the past and expectations from others. Limited to all that we can imagine in the present moment. It doesn’t count in all possibilities we can not imagine yet. Does not count in changing conditions.
What if we don‚t reach them? Or worse: what if we do, but the goals were wrong?
Most of our goals are based on external expectations rather than on internal and intimate needs. This is why many people miss out on themselves by focusing on goals. And why they are never happy when they reach the goal. Why they wonder when it doesn’t feel as great as they imagined it to be, e.g. a new position. Many goals then are shallow and inauthentic and we still force ourselves into reaching them. Sounds weird to me and not promising at all, to be honest.
Replacing goals with intentions!
Intentions are inner commitments to new possibilities. They can act as guidelines and represent a combination of a purpose pointing towards a possibility in the future. But not in a way limiting its possibilities to a predefined future state (goal) that we then measure reality against – but rather more malleable, open and powerful.
I want to explain it with an example from my personal life:
When Christian, Robert and I founded our new company „N3XT – Transforming wisdom into impact“ we talked about our deepest intentions. About what we want to bring to the world and why we think our work matters and what we find fascinating about the idea of bringing together Zen, Personal Mastery, and Business for Leadership Teams. When it came to the What and How, we were not so clear. We could have started to set operative goals then, such as: „three clients by the end of the year, five one-day programs, two coverages in the media, five published articles, a new blog with 10,000 followers“… whatsoever. But it didn’t feel right to create that pressure, and we had no idea if that would really serve the purpose in its best way.
Instead we committed to setting a shared intention: „To bring N3xT to the world of business and leaders in the most powerful and beneficial way possible. And to work together in the most wonderful ways, places and with great people.“
With this clear intention, new ideas started to show up and manifested in a very easy and clear way. We simply followed the path that showed up as soon as we had done the next step. We could not see exactly where it was leading as it just unfolded step by step. In this way our intention guided us, while being extremely aware of the situation unfolding around and in front of us, with opportunities and invitations arising. It seemed that the world started to organize around our intentions.
The concept of intentions is contrary to the concept of goals, which is based on predict and control mechanisms. Intentions rely on commitment, trust, presence, intuition and the potential arising within every moment.
It is a way of not trying to enforce results, but allowing them to appear in an almost magical way. Intentions are great advisors and help in making clear decisions in a complex world, a world where orientation is not provided by external data but by internal commitment.
This works on an individual as well as collective/organizational level and can prove a very powerful way to navigate complexity and volatility. We work with this concept in a business context, where intentions spark an orchestrated way of self-organization. The job of leaders is to set and speak intentions clearly for everyone to hear, understand and feel.