Monday Morning Medicine: Intentions v Goals

Posted by Trevor on 3 March 2013 | 8 Comments

HomeHappy Monday morning to you all.

Lots of emails in the last couple of weeks asking for clarification on the difference between Intentions and goals. They are chalk and cheese. This is such an important topic that I will also add the transcript of the podcast for those who are not in a location to listen. It is good to listen though because there is and emotion level to Intentions, something you can only really grasp form hearing and “feeling” it. Please do scroll to the end and click on the podcast icon to listen.

One reader asked me about the photographs I use. They are all taken with my iphone at home. This week I am in our Washington home, photo attached, (not taken with my iphone, because I am only 5 ft 8″ on a good day) and as you can see it is a perfect place for taking quiet time and inspiring writing. The mountains in the distance are the cascades, usually snow capped year round. The center square window in the front of the house is my office where I am currently typing this post. Deer often drink out of that small water feature in the front. Why mention and show this? Because experiencing the home, and its location immersed in nature, was all once only in my imagination and brought into my reality through the power of Intentions.




Lots of emails with questions about Intentions and in them all I detect one underlying thread of misunderstanding. What exactly is an Intention and how does it differ from goal setting.

They are chalk and cheese.

Goal setting is based on a warrior mentality of conquering or gain one step at a time. If you trace the literature back a couple of hundred of years it is possible to see how the idea reflected the macho, imperialist culture of the time. Conquering countries, one mineral, one mine, one region at a time.  We are all familiar with goal setting. In work you are asked during the madness of performance and appraisal season to set goals for the year. The CEO asks her execs to provide a forecast and budget. The whole mentality is management by objectives. In most cases the company misses its forecast, blows its budget, and at next season’s P&A review you wish you had not been so bold with the goals you set.

When it comes to success and reinventing your life I think of goal setting as a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie. Jones steps over the bodies of the previous warriors that didn’t make it, overcomes increasingly dangerous tasks, until he finally steals the treasure that wasn’t his to begin with. Throughout the process the energy level is at desire. That is a low level compared to the incredibly powerful emotion of fear. This is why most people feel stuck and get frustrated when their short term goals don’t show up. They feel that frustration because they mistakenly think they are in control of the process and must have screwed up in some way.

There is a place for goal setting in the traditional corporate structure. Management by objectives does get things done. But this technique is not powerful enough for you to change your life.

Intentions are not baby step goals or a bunch of desires in the back of your mind. Intentions are huge, a quantum leap from where you are. Intentions make your stomach churn with excitement like a child before Christmas day. They are childlike in their ambition. Remember as a child dreaming of becoming an actress, famous sports star or astronaut? And then remember play acting that role. In that play you were that person in your dream. And you would today still be play acting the role if your mum or dad didn’t call you in from the garden and make you eat something.

There is a magic going on in those moments. In 2007 a study that you can read about in TSS showed conclusively that the brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. In that conclusion there is a secret, one that you can use to your advantage. It is the key.

Studies of mnemonics, memory training and neuron regeneration show that the bigger, wilder, sexier the imagination, the more motor cortex gets fired up. Somebody wrote me that they had an Intention to get a slightly better house. No, that is a goal. An Intention is to imagine signing the contract for the deeds to a five million dollar turnkey home that you just bought for cash, designed and built specifically to your heart’s desire, right on a sunlit beach of powdery sand where you walk out onto the veranda as the sun is setting to watch dolphins cavort in the turquoise waves. Pelicans glide over the shore and you smell the salt of the water and feel a cooling breeze on your skin as you walk in bare feet down the steps and across the sand.

Hopefully you see, and feel the difference. Because the brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, you imagine all this as if it has already happened. It is in your past. You have had success. You own this.

Then each day you write that intention out and as it gets closer to fruition you’ll find you add more and more detail. The drapes were lace, swaying in the breeze. The floors became mahogany, cool to the touch, you flicked on your 150 inch plasma to catch the game as you pull a bottle of your favorite wine from the wet bar. Writing it out is very important because it causes you to imagine as you write. That pen is a magic wand. The Intention can change as much as you like just as if you were baking a cake you might use more butter or add vanilla essence to the sponge mix. You are a wizard in the mode of creating. You can also take time out during you day or night to sit or lie down for ten minutes and simply take yourself through this wonderful imagined experience. A perfect day in your dream life. Imagine like a movie played out on the back of your closed eyelids,

As a child you would not have found this odd at all. As an adult you might feel odd at first. But keep in mind that the laws of physics do not need you to believe. Physics is physics. Energy is energy. You just have to do it.

I love doing it. Setting Intentions is like my own morning playtime. I’m like a kid again. But the best moment is when what you have imagined becomes your experience. It is so familiar that you don’t block it out because you are not ready. And when you experience it your emotion is not one of excitement or celebration, well a little celebration perhaps, but mainly one of deep gratitude. Yes that house was one of my intentions many years ago, and yes it did show up and it was just as I had imagined.  The same experience is available to you just by following the three simple steps. I hope this Monday Morning Medicine has been of help.



  1. Lisa G says:


    Thank you for this post! I too was approaching intentions as a goal. I was a great daydreamer as a child, I need to tap back into that!

    Lisa G

  2. Casey says:

    Thank you Trevor, I’m inspired!
    You’ve made a positive difference in my life today.

  3. Stork says:

    ” All men dream ut not equally. those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.” T.E. Lawrence

  4. Janet K says:

    That was exactly the “definition” that I needed. I totally dislike goal setting, but I too over the years have used my intentions to find my dream job, furniture, renovating my home and on and on. It works like nothing I’ve ever known. But for me I have noticed one thing if my energy is not high the intention doesn’t show up as quickly as when my energy is light and positive.

  5. Michael says:


    I just finished listening to the Audible version of Three Simple Steps this morning, and started from the beginning again, immediately after. Before finishing the first time, I purchased the book for my friend/business partner.

    Having been a personal improvement junkie all my life, this book is the game changer for me. Implementation starts today, and no, I won’t share my intentions with you! 🙂

    Thank you for writing this book and sharing your journey and knowledge! Looking forward to reporting back with amazing, but expected, results!


    Michael Johnson

  6. Debbie says:

    Lovely thoughts Trevor! I came up with an idea that helps me with my intentions. For material things, I imagine I just won a huge lottery and what that brings into my life. For nonmaterial things, I imagine receiving a big award, or winning a prize, a competition and how achieving those things enriches and changes my life. It makes intentions feel more concrete to me and helps me focus.

  7. Luis Rios says:

    This was exactly what I needed to hear 🙂 Thank You

  8. Fred says:

    Thank you, Trevor! 🙂

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