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A Different Kind of Resolution: Intention vs. Reaction

20120103-093014.jpgIt’s the third day into the year, and already a number of New Year’s Resolutions have bit the dust.

I have not been one to put a lot of weight into making resolutions as it seems like people think this is the only time of year that they can make changes to their lives, and I like to encourage everyone that we can make a new life for ourselves at every moment. That said, it is a great time to reflect on things and see how you want to move forward in this moment.

I was lucky enough over the New Year’s weekend to have taken a few workshops at Easton Mountain, namely in gratitude, attraction, and mindfulness. They overarching message to me in these leanings was one in intention. Too often in our busy world, we are doing things that we have trained ourselves to to without thinking. While that serves us well in some fields (like driving a car) it’s not as good when we are trying to have a conversation with someone or packing for a trip. I have personally experienced many a time when I had to clean up or take extra time when I did something unmindfully.

Another concept that I’ve picked up from my recent studies in Tantra is the concept of intentions vs. goals. I’ve spoken to the idea of goals here many times and I still think that there’s a great use for them, but also have discovered that sometimes it’s better to have an intention about something. To really mix metaphors, I also have realized from my study of GTD that there’s a difference between a project and an area of focus. A project is one where there’s a clear end point (e.g.: re-tile the bathtub) where an area of focus could be something you’re responsible for, but you can never really say is ever completed (e.g.: keeping a healthy body). A goal works for a project, but not as well for an area of focus.

Therefore, I don’t have a resolution (goal) for this year, but I do have intentions. If I were to have a goal, I’d succeed or fail. I want to be more present all the time towards an intention instead. For most of my life I’ve been very goal oriented (and will never be without goals!) but I’m realizing done areas of my life need me to be more mindful in each moment and striving toward something, and intentions seem to be a better fit for that.

My intentions for 2012 are to be more present in each moment and consider what is in my best interest. As you can tell from this, I can’t have this be a success or failure; it’s just a continual striving.

So, what are your intentions for 2012?

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  1. Jessica Chance

    You read my mind Ken! Last year it occurred to me that the best “resolutions” were more like intentional changes I made, and they didn’t happen in January. It happened when they needed to happen.

  2. Jack Hyman

    Nicely said, Ken. So glad I was able to see this. I agree with you so much about the importance of intention and presence. It’s nice to hear your spin on it, too. Well done!
    Jack Hyman
    ps GREAT spending time with you at EM!!!

  3. Ken Mattsson

    Yes, Jack, I’ve been really trying to watch where I’m reacting in my life, and seeing how I can think more clearly in the moment instead of letting things happen to me without my intent. It’s all a practice!

  4. John Rivest

    I’ve never really thought about the difference between a goal and an intention but as I sit here digesting the ideas in your post above it seems to me that in many cases the action one takes to fulfill an intention is far more valuable than reaching a goal. For example, I may never have the body of a world class gymnast (a goal) but I am going to go to the gym 3 times a week (my intention). Thanks, Ken. I am going to sit with your ideas for a while.

  5. Ken Mattsson

    Exactly John. If we only thought about the goal, we might not do a lot of great things. Think about the people who need to lose hundreds of pounds. They probably couldn’t keep it going if they were only goal oriented.

    You’ve given me some things to think about. Thanks! I’ve always hoped for my musings to be the start of dialogues. That’s why I post a question at the end of every one!

    Blessing on this day!

  6. Tommy Faricy

    I love that term “area of focus”. It brings clarity for me about what I want for it. I almost see goal, intention, and “are of focus” as three different things. Thanks my dear Ken. I will be adding that to my lexicon.

  7. Ken Mattsson


    “Area of focus” is one of the terms used in Getting Things Done (GTD). David Allen uses the metaphor of live beeing “on the runway” for actions you can take, Projects are 10K feet, Areas of Focus (responsibilities) are 20K, going up to 50K for the purpose on the planet. Feel free to see the other posts I’ve had on here with the GTD tag at

    So glad that you got something out of this! Hope I can visit Portland someday!

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