In the world of self-development, the words values, intentions, and goals are thrown around a lot. In some cases, they are even used interchangeably when really, there is a big difference between them.
Understanding the difference between values, intentions, and goals (and being able to implement each effectively in your life) can make a huge difference in how satisfied you feel in your life.
What are values?
Your values are the things that are most important to you in life; they are your personal expression and prioritization of the Universal Needs of all humans.
By choosing to live in accordance with your values, life will feel more satisfying and meaningful to you. When you live according to the values of others, you will feel like you are merely surviving, going through the motions, and/or checking goals off a list but never really getting where you want to go.
Values don’t get marked off as DONE like goals do. Instead, you commit to them as a daily, moment-by-moment practice, never reaching a final destination.
When clearly defined, your values will simplify your decision-making process and will create fertile soil for you to flourish.
Values are typically defined with single words or phrases like these:
Most people have a between six and ten values that are very important to them. And when you boil those values down even further, to the things that you prioritize above all else, you have your personal core values.
What are intentions?
A well-crafted intention starts with your values and becomes a statement about how you want to show up in the world. They are guideposts for who you want to “be” and how you want to show up, instead of what you want to “do” or accomplish.
So, let’s say that one of your core values is acceptance. You might set an intention that looks like this:
This is something you can be successful at right now, in this moment. You don’t have to wait to accomplish a goal in order to choose self-acceptance. And as long as you value acceptance, that intention will inform how you treat yourself for the rest of your life. You don’t check “self-acceptance” off of a list and move on to something else. It’s a practice.
Your intention defines your value-driven practice.
What are goals?
You’ve probably picked up on it by now but goals are different than values and intentions because they ARE check-off-able. They are tangible outcomes that you can work towards achieving and then move on to new goals once they are complete.
The more connected to your value-driven intentions your goals are, the more meaningful and satisfying your life will feel.
For example, using the previous example of having an intention to choose self-acceptance, you might set the following goals:
- find an offline community of women who are practicing self-acceptance
- take a class on self acceptance
- journal everyday about your thoughts and feelings
- read five books on self acceptance
- wear that funky vintage dress to your best friends birthday party instead of the dress that is “in style”
Notice how these things are very tangible; you either do them or you don’t. They are things you want to “do” and are in service to who you want to “be.”
Once you cross these items off your list, you will likely continue to value acceptance and intend to accept yourself. Your values and intentions don’t go away once your goal is achieved.
The Key Difference Between Values, Intentions, and Goals
As you can see, the difference between values, intentions, and goals is who you want to be in this world vs. what you want to do in the world.
You can see from my examples above, though, that they go hand in hand together. One flows into the other and all three are essential to living a life that is rich with meaning and fulfillment.