Leadership Tips: Goals, Affirmations & Intentions (At a Glance)

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The beginning of the new year finds most leaders setting a vision and goals for the upcoming year. Adding affirmations and intentions to your toolbox as well can help you expand your impact even further. So what's the difference between goals, affirmations and intentions, and how can you utilize all three tools to maximize your impact this year?

I did a bit of research and while plenty of people are talking about vision boards, goal-setting strategies and the benefits of positive affirmations, I couldn't find any sources mapping out their differences side-by-side. So here's my very high-level initial take on the topic, along with a few examples to get you started. 

GOALS: Concrete things you can check off when they've been completed. Goals are extremely helpful in keeping yourself accountable and feeling accomplished. Many leaders set goals within goals and revisit them frequently to see if they've been achieved or need to be adjusted (e.g., annual, seasonal, quarterly, daily). 

Tip: Sometimes I write things down that I’ve already done just to be able to cross them off. It can be very satisfying when the to-do list never seems to end.

AFFIRMATIONS: Short statements in the present tense that you write down or say to yourself daily – or, even better, you say them out loud, with some energy and power – which hit on a core belief you want to reinforce. It's also important to create affirmations for things you do't quite believe about yourself yet, but need to in order to achieve the goals you've set for yourself. Examples:

  • I am a source of inspiration and I am inspired by those around me.
  • I live my truth and others live their truth in my presence.
  • I lead with strength and flow and not with force.
  • I have a specialized skill set that people recognize and are willing to pay me extremely well for.  

Tip: Many affirmations stand the test of time, but it's easy to get into a habit of saying them without thinking, so - similar to goals - it's always a good idea to revisit your list of affirmations on a quarterly or annual basis and see if there is something on the list that can be tweaked, removed or added. 

INTENTIONS: Setting an intention sounds similar to creating an affirmation, but it’s quieter. It’s internal. And it’s about setting the specific groundwork for how you will move through what comes next. An intention is typically tied to a specific situation and is most powerful when it's tied to a vision of a positive result on the other end of that situation. There is obviously no guarantee that things will go the way you want them to, but with a clear intention you increase your chances of coming out on the other side knowing you handled things in the best way possible.

Examples of what an intention set before an important meeting might sound like:

  • My decision will be purposeful, balanced and harmonized.
  • My communication will strengthen the team's relationships.
  • I will remain open to new ideas and look for common ground when there are differences of opinion.
  • The outcome of this meeting will serve the higher interests and needs of our stakeholders. 

Tip: Intentions can easily be rephrased in the present tense to become affirmations.

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