Reflections on Intentions And Goals

As we close out a year that none of us predicted, I have been thinking back on the concept of intention and goals and what I have learned — and relearned — in 2020. 

This past week I have taken time away from client-facing work to give myself space to reflect, focus on being present in the moment with my family, and recharging my mind — and spirt — after this challenging year. My reflections are not over, yet I wanted to share some thinking with you that has helped me as I have looked back on this year and am starting to look ahead to the future.

In this post, I share my reflections on the power of intention and the difference between intention and goals — and offer some questions on which I’ve been reflecting. As we move into a new year and a new season, I encourage you to take time to reflect on these questions too.

May we all learn and move forward to a better, more intentional future!

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight

Many of us likely had many goals that were not achieved this year due to the pandemic and many that were achieved (or adjusted and finally achieved in the spirit of the Japanese proverb “Fall Down Seven Times, Get up Eight”).

This was certainly true for me. From the disappointment of having to cancel my two Japan Study Trips planned for May and October to the huge accomplishment from publishing a book — despite of and in the midst of a pandemic. And much more in between — all while homeschooling two kids, supporting family members sick with COVID, and other personal challenges, and embracing the unexpected positive outcomes and new goals and opportunities that resulted.

There is much to learn from 2020 —  from goals achieved and not achieved, to unexpected positive outcomes and devastating negative ones, and how we responded to the unexpected world that unfolded.

The Power of Intention, Mindset, and Choice

I am publishing this post two days following the fourth anniversary of my father’s death. My family (husband and two sons ages 6 and 9) and I went to the beach on the anniversary of his passing and took a moment to honor his memory and what we learned from him, and to acknowledge the beauty of the world despite all that has gone on this year.

I brought one of my daruma dolls (this little blue one was was for my mini goal of reaching 50 reviews on Amazon) to burn in a bonfire on the beach — just like the Japanese do at the start of the year with giant daruma bonfires at temples such as the one in Takasaki that I often visit (pandemic years aside). This is a way of releasing from goals and welcoming new ones into our lives.

However, as many goals went this year, it didn’t happen as planned. Our bonfire (our dried out Christmas tree) went up in flames so quickly that there wasn’t time to toss in the daruma. This ritual will be postponed for another fire soon.

Today Is a Great Day

I’ve learned so many things from my father, but perhaps the most important is the power of choosing a positive mindset. I’ve written about how my dad’s motto, “Today is a great day,” has had an important influence on my life and helped me a lot this past year. His active choice to find the good even in challenging circumstances — reminds me daily that we each have a choice in how we respond to our lives.

“Today is a great day” – Hardy Jones

We cannot control circumstances around us, we can only control our own reaction and actions. We can control who we want to be and how we show up in the world. This is living with intention. 

I relearned this lesson of the power of a positive mindset and of choosing the good in my conversations with Isao Yoshino, as documented in my book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn, when he described his deliberate choice to switch to reframe of a situation in the positive, resulting in outcomes he could have never imagined.

“If you are too focused on the bad, you will only see the bad side of things. If you decide to focus on the good, you can learn so much more.” – Isao Yoshino, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

We may not be able to achieve all of our goals in the timeframe we anticipated — not because we don’t want to or are not trying (despite our best efforts) — but because of external factors outside of our control (a global pandemic, for example).  What we can do, regardless of circumstances, is choose our response and actions.

We can choose to live and lead with intention, to be kind and patient, to choose the positive side of things, and continue forward with adjustments and perseverance towards our goals and to fulfill our purpose as people.

This week I’ve found myself spending the most time reflecting my intentions: How did I show up this year – for myself and others – and how do I want to be in the future? Who do I want to be and how do I need to align my actions?

Reflecting on Intentions and Goals

I first started to explore the difference between intentions and goals two years ago in the post Intentions Versus Goals – Heart Versus Mind, and my thinking has continued to evolve and anchor itself in my personal practice since then.

I wanted to share some of my latest thinking with you as you reflect on this past year and start to make your vision for the future.

In the latest Lean Leadership for Ops Managers podcast that I recorded with Jamie Parker earlier this month we discuss the difference and connection between intentions and goals.

Bonus: go to this special page on my website for podcast listeners  to get a bonus download to support your daily practice of intention and discounts to upcoming workshops this year! (Or read to the bottom of this post for the same bonus offers).

Intention is connected with the heart.

Intentions are connected with what is important inside of us. Our hearts, our values, our purpose. Intentions are lived each day — they are an expression of who we are as people — and are often about our relationships with ourselves and others. Intention is how we align our actions with our purpose, how we orient ourselves in direction of who we want to be.

Setting an intention is about defining who we want to be — what is most important inside of our hearts, our values, our innermost desires, our purpose — and determining the actions we need to take towards embodying of this vision of ourself.

In many ways, intention is our personal True North, always bringing us back to what is most important of who we want to be and how we want to show up.

Goals are connected with the mind.

Conversely, goals are more tangible and externally visible. Goals have a destination, a more clearly defined end-point, or measurable achievement. Goals are usually determined through reasoning, logic and analysis using our minds. Goals tend to be external achievements, even if they are personal ones.

Setting a goal is about defining a clear outcome to be achieved and creating a plan of how to get there.

Goals are what we use to make improvements in personal, operational, or strategic problems. They are part of Plan-Do-Study-Adjust cycles. We set a target, seek to understand the actual condition, and then analyze the causes of the gap between where we are today and where we want to be (our goal). We can then set an action plan for how to get there, and experiment our way (though failure and learning) until we succeed.

Both intentions and goals are important and are interconnected. Goals can help us align our actions to fulfill our purpose, and our intentions can give us the strength to persevere forward to achieve our goals.

Reflection Questions: Who do you want to be? How do you show up?

In past years, I’ve offered up questions on which to reflect on your goals for the year (which are still great questions to consider).

This year, I encourage you to not only reflect on what you did or did not accomplish, but also reflect more deeply on on who you are, how you define yourself, and how you showed up even in the face of challenge and adversity.

Consider these questions as you reflect on the year past and look forward to the future.

What is your intention as a person or leader:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • How do I want to show up?
  • What is most important to me?
  • What is my purpose?
  • How do I want to relate to others?
  • How do I want others experience me?

Reflect on your actions this past year:

  • What did I do that was aligned with my intention of who I want to be / of how I view myself?
  • What did I do that was not aligned with my intention?

Reflect on what adjustments you will make and set your intention for practice:

  • What do I need to do differently?
  • What will I deliberately practice to live with greater intention?

Set your intention for who you want to be and then establish clear goals for how you will get there.

Daily Intention & Reflection Practice – Download This Template

As mentioned on the Ops Manager podcast, you can download a Daily Reflection Template I’m offering a template that you can use to support your daily practice of intention and reflection (this is the learning framework that Karyn Ross and I introduce in our K2C2 Coaching Cohorts and a framework that I use in most of my coaching engagements). It’s simple in concept and powerful in practice if you use it with intention.

CLICK HERE to download the template!

Each day, write your intention for who you want to be or how you want to show up. Then identify the 1-2 actions that you will deliberately practice to align with that intention. At the end of the day, reflect on what you actually did, what you learned about yourself, and what adjustments you will take for the next day.

Intentions and Goals for a New Year

Over the coming weeks, I will continue to share my reflections, intentions, and goals and offer you some other questions to consider as you move into 2021. I’d also like to invite you to join me at some upcoming events to help you reflect on the past and plan for the future.

A Year of Too Much…Two Guided Reflection Sessions of Looking Back & Ahead

Karyn Ross and I are offering two 90-minute guided reflection sessions, one on January 4th and one on January 7th! Join one or both! Pay whatever you’d like (including nothing). Register here.

💜Session 1: Looking back
We’ll start by reviewing what reflection is, and we will provide you with four ‘looking back’ questions to use to reflect on during the rest of the session. Write, draw or use another creative method of your choice.

💛Session 2: Looking forward
Use what you’ve written and drawn in Session 1 to begin to create what 2021 will look like. You’ll be provided with four ‘look forward’ questions to guide you as you imagine, through writing and drawing, how to go forward. This isn’t a formal goal-setting process, but, instead a session to imagine and listen to the voice of your heart.

Introduction to Hoshin Kanri Getting Started with Personal Hoshin Workshop with Isao Yoshino and Katie Anderson – Special LIMITED TIME 20% DISCOUNT!

Get your year started off with a strategy and a plan! Join me and Isao Yoshino, 40-year Toyota leader and the subject of my book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn. The 2-hour workshop will run LIVE on Mr. Yoshino’s birthday Jan. 13 2-4pm PST / 5-7 EST & will be available later on-demand for all registered participants.

During this interactive workshop, you will learn the fundamentals of hoshin kanri (strategy deployment) and make progress on developing your 2021 personal hoshin (strategy) document using the Toyota hoshin framework. (Check out this article that highlights the personal hoshin process).

A bonus for listeners of Jamie’s podcast and readers of my blog (you!) get a 20% discount to the workshop, which you can take either live or on-demand. Click here to take advantage of this special discount BY JANUARY 8!

Leading to Learn Accelerator – 60 Days to More Intentional Leadership –  LIMITED TIME 20% Off BONUS – REGISTER BY JANUARY 8

If you want to learn more about the fundamental processes of intention, purpose, reflection and a leader’s role, and to take the lessons from Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn off the pages and into your practice, I invite you to join the Leading to Learn Accelerator that starts the first week in February.ACCELERATE YOUR PRACTICES OF PEOPLE-CENTERED LEADERSHIP & ALIGN YOUR ACTIONS WITH YOUR PURPOSE!

This interactive 60-day learning experience will include a blend of self-study and personal reflection, interactive group coaching calls and engagement within a network of like-minded leaders also on the path of learning to lead with deeper intention. Every two weeks you will explore and discuss lessons from the book, be introduced to leadership practices, and work through exercises developed to support your learning, including:

  • Your Purpose, Intention and Practice of Reflection 
  • The Leading to Learn Framework (set direction, provide support, develop yourself) and Leadership Continuums
  • Your Top Priority and Leadership Responsibility
  • Your Leadership Credo
  • Your Personal Improvement Plan

Whether you have already read Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn and are seeking to deepen your reflection and practice, or you have not yet had a chance to dive into the pages, this course is for you if you are committed to your personal development and that of those around you.

Click here to take advantage of a special 20% discount for readers of my blog you register by January 8th! 

Plus all Accelerator participants can register for the Hoshin workshop for only $100 after registration, so if you are interested in both setting goals and advancing your intentional leadership practices, register today!

Thank you for being part of my community!

Thank you for reading and following my journey of learning and leading — and developing community around the world. Sign up below for my newsletter to be the first to know about new posts, events, and more! In the coming year I’ll continue to offer you ongoing reflections on learning and leading, bonus resources, and more.



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