The Power of Why: Setting Intention-Oriented Goals

Brent Dees

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Everyone – particularly business coaches like me - talks about goal-setting, and so it is surprising that surveys indicate 97 percent of businesspeople do not set them. Of the people who do set them, 97 percent set reactive goals, 2 percent set proactive goals and 1 percent set intention-oriented goals. Guess which ones create the biggest results?

Most people don’t set goals because they have tried before and failed. They set goals to fix today’s problems for a better morning tomorrow. They didn’t ask the question: Why do I want to achieve this goal? If they had, their goal would have been different, achievable and achieved.

A friend of mine said she wanted to lose 10 pounds. Now, there’s a goal designed for failure. I asked her why. She said so she could fit into her clothes well again. That - not losing the weight – is the goal.

You may have been taught to set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Trackable. These are proactive goals like growing your income by 10 percent over last year’s. Again, the question of why is left unasked and unanswered. And another goal is unfulfilled.

Let’s get to intention-oriented goals. These are the goals I want you to set; goals that are visionary, that have a purpose and which look beyond the incremental steps and say where we intend to be at some point in the future.

Instead of growing your income 10 percent, let’s discover why you want the extra money. Perhaps it would allow you to take a three-week trip to Belize, or pay for long-neglected guitar lessons, or help your daughter buy her first home. Those goals are not about the money, they are about what the money will allow you to do. These are intention-oriented goals. You may not know right now how you are going to get there but you know where you want to end up.

Now, you’re going to set up a priority system to help you achieve these goals. This priority system – a sort of “to-do” list on steroids - is based on two questions: 1. What is the best use of my time right now? 2. Will this activity help me achieve one of my goals?

Activities unrelated to your goals need to be delegated, delayed or somehow eliminated from your list. Activities which will help you achieve your goals now can be divided into “A” and “B” categories. You should set your “B” list first. Ask, “can I postpone taking action on this activity?” If the answer is no, then the activity automatically is on the “A” priority list. If the answer is yes, you must ask three more questions to determine if it becomes a “B”.

1. Is this an activity that leads to the accomplishment of a goal?

2. Is this a commitment or a promise?

3. Is this a vital, critical, life-threatening “must do”?

A “yes” to any of these questions and the item goes on the “A” list.

Finally, you rank your “As” and “Bs” 1 through 10. If you have more than 10, you need to find something else to eliminate or delegate. Now, attack the “As”.

Once you make this system a habit, your “to-do” list becomes shorter and you’ll be more effective. And you’ll be on your way to achieving your goals and not just crossing things off your list. It’s all possible, you just have to ask “why?”

Brent Dees, president of Brent Dees Financial, is a small business coach and financial planner who teaches the Focus Four system. He helps business owners in the Carolinas set business and personal goals so they can work less and make more. Brent Dees Financial can be found on the web at


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