With Intention

As some of you who read this blog know, I practice yoga (and have written about my practice here and here). I emphasize the word practice because it’s ongoing, and I don’t think in yoga you’re actually supposed to get to “perfect” (a concept most yogis I know disregard vehemently, for all sorts of good reasons).

Thanks to Tony George on Flickr for making this image available.

Today, in my yoga class, the instructor talked about setting our intentions for the class — what did we intend to do, to focus on, in the next 90 minutes? And I was thinking about how the word “intentions ” is such a better way to think about “things I want to achieve” instead of the word goals. It implies process, it implies practice, and it does not imply this ubiquitous concept of perfection.

I have goals that I want to achieve in yoga — for example, someday I really would like to be strong and flexible enough to do a back bend — but for each class I like the idea of thinking of my intention for that time, on that day, given everything else that’s happening (sore knee, a bit tired, etc.).

A goal implies an end point — something fixed that we are aiming for. It also implies that it’s possibly external to us. An intention, on the other hand, is all about us — what we intend to do to move toward something. If you state your intention, it’s YOUR intention — YOU have to do something. It requires action on your part. If you state a goal, you may be relying on external forces to help you achieve it.

So how does this apply to adult learners in higher education? Well, I propose that we start thinking more about intentions; doing so will serve us as learners better in the long run because we will be in charge, and we will have to act.

Example Goals: I want to learn about X. OR – I want to be a better writer. OR – I want a new job as a Muckity Muck.

Example Intentions: I intend, in this class, to learn what I can about X. OR – I intend, in this term, to  improve my academic writing skills. OR – I intend to interview a person who is a Muckity Muck so I can learn about what it will take to be a Muckity Muck.

I am not proposing that we do away with goals entirely — identifying an end point can be helpful to measure our progress and to feel like we’ve accomplished something once we get there. I am proposing, however, that we also consider intentions — what can I do now to help me move along the continuum toward that goal? To help with my practice of being a learner?

I encourage you to think about what your intentions are for this coming class / week / term / assignment. The goal may be to get an A or to learn about Project Management or for goodness sake to graduate — but what do you intend to learn? What actions will you take? What will you do?


2 thoughts on “With Intention

  1. You know, this made me wonder about a lot of things. I think we can set an intention for the day, or even for the next hour. Like, “This next hour I intend to squash my desire for sugar.” Sugar control is, after all, an hour by hour thing for people like me.

    Also, I’ve been wondering about blogging. More like why I’m (wasting?) spending? my time on it. You’ve articulated something here for me. I guess I need to decide what my intention is for the blog.

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