Sometimes I get such a good question from a reader that I’m inspired to write a whole new post! On my last post about tossing out goals (which definitely threw some readers for a bit of a loop), Chickpea asked the following:

“Can you explain a bit more about how to differentiate between setting a goal and setting an intention.

For example, if I were to write a list and choose between, say, setting a goal or setting an intention of writing a novel next year, it could just appear a question of semantics. Is there a different way I could phrase it?”

Well, since you asked … I’d love to offer an example!


The goal-setting version may go a little bit like this:


Goal: Write a novel in 2008. You write it down on a big piece of paper. The mind will now come up with a “road map” on how to get there, right? Perhaps you’ll make a time line. “January – finish the outline. February – write chapter one. March – write chapter two. Or maybe that’s too structured, your mind will say. Maybe I’ll write the end first. Or just write one hour a day and see what happens. No, I don’t have one hour. Maybe half an hour every day. Or two hours Tuesdays and Thursdays. But first I need the outline. Or the overall concept. I wonder what I can find online to help me?” Two hours of research later, you may emerge with a “plan.” That plan may include anything and everything from a time line of getting chapters finished, to finding and editor or publisher, depending on how linear you are and where your focus is.


Now you have a plan. So you start “implementing” the plan. (Oooh, doesn’t that sound like fun?) And with every step of the way, you revise the plan, because with every step, you learn more about your actual writing process. Along the way, you probably spend as much time planning as you do writing! Your mind will keep coming up with questions – how is this going to get published? Who’s going to buy this book, anyway? How do I get an agent? Your time line gets revised. Depending on your perspective, you may beat yourself up a little bit along the way if things don’t go “according to plan.” Or you’ll just calmly revise as needed. Either way, you will invest a lot of time and energy into figuring out how you’re going to get your book written.


This is fine – it may work for you. Go for it!


The intention-setting version – in my little world, anyway – would go a little bit like this:


Create the intention: Write a novel in 2008. The first thing I would ask myself is what energetic qualities this finished novel represents to me. Is this about authentic self-expression? Is this about personal accomplishment? About success? About finishing something? I would visualize the finished manuscript. How does this make me feel? What does this manuscript represent? I would just witness the energies arising within me. Because I know that it’s not really about writing a novel. It’s about an energetic quality that needs to come into my life, that my Being wishes to express. So what is writing a novel really about? This will vary for every single person. Let’s say this novel is about expressing authenticity.


Set the intention: I would sit down, maybe put on some relaxing music, and go into a calm and relaxed state with a few deep breaths. I would ask my Spirit Guides, Angels, and teachers in spirit to support me in creating a novel in 2008 that expresses the energy of authenticity, as it aligns with my highest path and purpose. I would ask for their guidance and inspiration in this process, and thank them.


And then I would pretty much just sit with the energy of authenticity, and wait for guidance as to how that would express itself right now. I’d go about my daily business until inspiration struck, paying close attention. Maybe the idea of authenticity would spark the inspiration that the story of my life has to be personal. Or maybe I would be inspired to blog in a very personal and authentic way, with a lot of me exposed to the world. Or maybe I would be inspired to speak about a personal experience in a way I’ve never done before. Maybe to a friend, maybe in front of a group. I would invite the energy of authenticity into my life, and see what happens.


Let’s say, for example, that I am inspired in mid-conversation with a friend to share something very personally authentic and Truthful – something I’ve never spoken of before. My friend now may say “Wow, I had no idea. What a great story. You should share that. You tell awesome stories, you know. I wish you’d broadcast them, or something.” (Okay, I’m totally making this all up, by the way. I’m a lot of things, but not a great story-teller.) So here I now am, thinking about telling a story.


The next day, I get an email from an internet marketing coach about podcasting. Podcasting … broadcasting. Hmmmm. Lightbulb. I’ll tell my stories to a podcast! (Note … I would have no idea how this fits in with the intention of writing a book. No attachment. It just doesn’t matter.) So I tell my story to a microphone, and it feels great. I deal with the technology of putting out a podcast. I find that I’m a treasure-trove of personal, authentic stories. I tell a brief story to my microphone two or three times a week. People actually start listening.


People might now start responding, asking questions, telling their own stories. Suddenly, I may become an “expert” or “coach” on developing authencity through story-telling. A couple of people may say “You should write down all your stories. This would make a great book.” And maybe I’m drawn to do that. Maybe not. Maybe I’m inspired to hire a transcriptionist. Maybe I find a whole new level in authenticity when I write instead of speak.


Maybe I start selling CD’s of my story compilations as an information product. Maybe I put together a newsletter of weekly short, inspirational stories. (Again, still making all this up!) In October, maybe a publisher calls and says “We want to create a book out of the stories you tell on your podcast.” You’ve essentially “written” a book. Could you have “planned” any of this? I don’t think so. And maybe the publisher never calls, and you couldn’t care less, because you’ve attracted a sponsor and are actually making money doing something you love.


Note the total lack of attachment to writing, to the novel, or even to the time frame. And the total lack of mental energy invested in “planning” for a specific result. Here’s the other aspect of this. At every point in this process, the energy of authenticity is present and expressed. This brings a sense of fulfillment and joy to the process now – not in the future, when a book has finally been written. The energy of the intention must be invited into the present moment. Because that’s what it’s really about.


So thank you for the wonderful question, Chickpea, and for allowing me to illustrate. This is maybe the article I should have started with!

Share your ideas – what intentions might you set for 2008? And what energetic qualities do those intentions represent?







  • Mags says:

    Andrea, thanks again – I knew you’d address Chickpea’s question, and I was waiting patiently (ok, a little impatiently, but in a good way :)) for your answer. Why? Because I’m writing a book, and I’ve so been setting my goals and making my plans like a good little girl 😉 Interestingly, I asked my guides for help with the book, because it wasn’t going at all well (despite the plans, it wasn’t going anywhere at all, actually), and while I was journalling earlier today they started pointing out all the ways in which they’d helped me – not with specific plot pointers like I was hoping (!) but with things that are even better, like your (very timely) articles 🙂

    I’m very grateful for all your help and guidance, and what you wrote here about writing specifically, really resonates with me. Since I finally acknowledged the more “woo-woo” 🙂 side of me and have started expressing it, it would just feel out of sync for me to write a book in any way but like what you described. I wasn’t too sure about the specifics of how to start going about it though, so thank you again for the pointers!

  • Andrea says:

    Hi Mags,

    I think book-writing may be one of those things that never goes “according to plan.” I ended up frequently having to get out of book mode and just write a concise article for the single point I wanted to make. I guess I’m just better one thought at a time – the larger context was just overwhelming right in the moment. So then I fit everything together in the end and – surprise – there was a whole book. It definitely wasn’t a linear process!

    So glad this article came at just the right time! Happy writing (or whatever it may turn into …).


  • chickpea says:

    Oooh Andrea, I’m so honoured that my question inspired a blog – especially such a good one.

    I’ve completely got the difference now and thanks for such a clear explanation.

    Best wishes

  • KL says:


    I swear you wrote this just for me!!!

    There is a novel gestating inside me, and I’ve been musing about the way to write it. I know process is key. After I wrote my first screenplay (which was about 2 years work…) I started maybe five or eight screenplays that never got past the planning stage.

    Always starting.

    Never actually ending up with anything.

    This has made me wary to start again…

    So your article has beautifully outlined a DIFFERENT way to approach my intention… which is to write a kick-arse, page-turning, hilarious, crazy novel. (Is that too specific?P)

    thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  • Liara Covert says:

    Andrea, I love your thoroughness and the way you highlight the power of intention. As you point out, different people choose different routes to realize goals. The common thread of visualizing the feelings we would associate with the results truly personalizes the process. Thanks for your uplifting approach to encourage us all to take steps to achieve our dreams at our own pace.

  • Hi Andrea,

    Great follow-up post!

    The example has put something abstract into something more concrete that I now understand better.

    I agree. Setting goals alone tends to ‘feel flat’. In such case, I find that I have difficulties following through on the plan. And I observed that this happens to many people as well.

    Later, I followed what Napoleon Hill teaches about giving emotions to our goals. It seems a little similar to what you are advocating here:

    When there is an emotional component to a goal, there is intrinsic motivations to act on it. Like what you did in your example, you visualized the energies about the novel, about finishing it.

    You also took it one step further by talking about allowing spiritual guidance to offer the way. I like to call that allowing our sub-conscious to give us ideas. It’s how serendipity works. We gets clues/hints that pop into our head every now and then (the Ah-ha! moment). But we need to be mentally and emotionally ‘open’ to receive such signals.

    All in all, I think it’s a valid argument and I don’t think it’s contrary to my beliefs in goal-setting. In fact, I use both techniques (although I don’t call them spiritual guidance 🙂 )

    Thanks for opening my spiritual perspective once again!

  • Andrea says:

    Chickpea – thank you again for inspiring the article! A good reminder to me that I need to use more “real-life” examples … they’re all in my head, maybe I should put them on the page more often. Like I said, I’m not that much of a story-teller! So this was a great inspiration for me as a writer. Thank you!

    KL – Ooooh, I can’t wait to read it! (No pressure, after all, it might turn out to become something else entirely … hee hee). Please keep me posted on what arises out of this intention! Who knows, maybe another blog will arise …

    Liara – thank you so much!

    Lawrence – I so appreciate your readership! You bring a totally different perspective, and one I value! Whether we come to it from the mental or emotional, physical or spiritual context … I think there’s a need for all of it! I love the practical, rational approach you present in your blog …

    I’m a big fan of bringing the practical and the spiritual together … so we’re kind of doing that, don’t you think? 🙂

    Blessings to all,

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