Setting Goals vs. Setting Your Intention

July 31, 2022 Written by Rachel Ory

Have you ever said to yourself “I won’t be satisfied until __________ ” (Fill in the blank.) “I won’t be satisfied until I win a Lawson bronze trophy in reining’’, or ‘’I won’t be satisfied until I earn my silver medal in dressage.” If you’ve ever played this mind game in an effort to push yourself to do great things, then this one’s for you. Maybe you were able to achieve your goal, but was it as satisfying as you imagined it to be? Once the goal is accomplished, there’s often a need to create another goal, and on, and on, because without that carrot on the string, what drives us? Now, I’m not saying that having goals are bad. I’m suggesting that using our goals as a bait-and-switch tactic robs us of the ability to see the bigger picture. Let me explain:

In my early twenties, I trained a 2 year old by Wimpy’s Little Step with the goal to win the Michigan reining futurity. I was working for Tom Pierson, a horseman with 30+ years experience. (and we still collaborate to this day.) He guided me through the process of preparing this horse for the show. I was relatively new as a professional, and I wanted people to take notice and see that I was legit as a reining trainer. (All desires of my ego!) We went to the futurity and we won - 6 divisions, 6 trophies and eight thousand dollars in prize money. I should’ve been over the moon happy at this accomplishment, it was exactly what I wanted. Instead, I felt relief that it was over and that I had accomplished it, and… what’s next? There was not much room inside of me for enjoyment or celebration.

The actual experience of winning was just a fleeting moment. The congratulations from everyone felt good, but the show went on. I still had to get up and work the next day; it was as if nothing had changed. As I reflected, the real enjoyment seemed to be in the process of doing the work each day. Over time, my intention became clear: to make myself a better rider and teacher so I can best serve the horses and humans that come into my life. By helping them find enjoyment in the process, they also learn to go with the highs and lows and not get thrown off track by external goals. The next best thing to riding and winning is riding and loosing: It’s the process that counts, the everyday effort, it goes back to why we started riding in the first place.

“Instead of capping ourselves at the level of our mind’s goals, if we allow ourselves to go inward because we want to learn more about ourselves, we will learn to surrender to the flow of life and let it show us something better. Your mind understands goals; your heart understands intention. Your heart is leading you to something that is so much bigger than whatever your goal is. No matter how big your goal is, it’s nothing compared to what life is wanting to show you and bring into the world through you.”

-Kyle Cease, The Illusion of Money

Making the shift from goal setting (I’ll be happy if, then) toward intention setting and allowing the universe to guide us with purpose each day is when the magic starts to happen. An intention is aiming you towards your internal direction for expansion. Consider this an invitation to think about your heart’s intention, the thing that will carry you beyond your goals. Then, begin to let go of the attachment to goal setting and outcomes. It's ok if your intention doesn't come to you immediately; just open a space for it. When we go beyond what the mind wants to what the spirit needs to grow, we have the ability to achieve more than we ever thought possible. The things that we think we really want are always shaped by the little voice in our head. We have the choice to follow that voice, or to go beyond it and align with our higher purpose.

May you find intention, and enjoy the journey.

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