Goals vs. Intentions

As folks set new year’s resolutions (the parking lot of the UNC Wellness Center, which I overlook from my home office, is overflowing), and as my friends and I set our goals for the upcoming race season (making sure to keep them measurable, realistic but challenging, etc., as all the articles tell us), it’s good to devote some time to intentions as well.

In yoga, we often set an intention for each practice. It’s not a goal, even though we might remember it again at the end of practice. Goals are end results, measurable by external factors. Intentions describe where you’re coming from. That’s what makes them so great. You can always instantly realign with your intention, and only you can decide whether you’re meeting your intention.

A good intention would be to approach others with loving kindness. (This is part of the Buddhist practice of right intention.) Other good ones are linked to the yamas and niyamas of the eight-limbed path of yoga–concepts such as nonviolence, noncovetousness, nonstealing. Another good one is to be patient. (“Serenity now!” doesn’t quite cut it; that’s a goal.)

Phew, I met my stated goal of not obsessing about capitalism. Did I meet my intention? That’s for me to decide.