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).
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?