Jullien Gordon on Why to Set New Year's Intentions and Not Goals

In Chapter 8 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, business coach Jullien Gordon answers "How Are You Helping Others Plan, Commit to, and Achieve New Year's Goals?"  Gordon shares how he helps people set their intentions by putting out his annual "New Year Guide."  He focuses not on the outcome or goal but the intention or the underlying initiative behind that goal or outcome.  Jullien Gordon is a high performance coach and consultant to organizations, individuals and teams who want to increase employee performance, motivation, engagement and retention.  He earned a BA from UCLA, an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a Masters of Education from Stanford University.


Erik Michielsen: How are you helping others plan, commit to, and achieve New Year’s Resolution goals?

Jullien Gordon: So as you know, every year I put out the New Year Guide which is a tool to help people set their intentions. I have shifted my beliefs in a lot of ways from setting goals to really setting intentions. And the difference is that with a goal, a goal is usually connected to some sort of outcome. And while it’s okay to have a desired outcome, an intention is more about what’s behind the desired outcome. So for instance, a lot of people will set weight loss goals this year. “I wanna lose 30 pounds.” That’s the goal, right? And that’s connected to a certain outcome. If they don’t achieve that outcome, they feel that they failed.

Whereas an intention is I wanna be healthier. And one of the goals connected to being healthier may be to lose 30 pounds. And so I’m focused on helping people get clear on their intention, and then also knowing that when you do have a desired outcome that we don’t always control the outcomes as human beings. I can do everything that Shaun T tells me to do and P90X and still not get a body that looks like his, right? But if I’m connected to the outcome then I feel like I failed. But what I can control, the only thing that’s in our control is our effort. What I can tell Shaun T is that I showed up every single day for 90 days. And I did what I was supposed to. And that may not have gotten me to that kind of physique, but it may have gotten me somewhere along the direction of where I ultimately wanted to be.

And so, one, getting clear on the distinction between goals and intentions, and really focusing on intentions and making sure the intention is right which is your why behind the goal, and then also being clear about the distinction between effort and outcome and knowing that you only have full control over the effort, we don’t have full control over the outcome. And when you start with your why and make sure that the why is big enough, you know, Viktor Frankl says a man who knows his why can bear almost any how. And what I found is that when I’m clear on my intention or my why behind something, the how tends to manifest itself. When I look back at my goals from last year, I accomplished a lot of them in ways that I didn’t even anticipate it. They happen in their own way. But that’s because the intention was strong and they manifested themselves, they didn’t manifest themselves the way I thought they would but they manifested themselves nonetheless. And so really making those distinctions clear.