Is Purpose and Intention the same thing?

We often talk about the purpose of why you do something. What purpose does it serve? We want to understand the reason behind why we are doing what we are doing. And understandably so. But in saying that, can we use it interchangeably with intention? Is it the same thing? 

They are often used interchangeably. But they are not the same.


This is seen as the focus on the result. We hear people saying, “this is my calling”. Or “it is my purpose to help people”. They all have a narrow focus on the result. For example, I would like to become a teacher. I feel my purpose is to teach children. So once I become a teacher, I am fulfilling my purpose. But sometimes that doesn’t always get me through those blue Mondays. Or wake me up when on a Thursday when I feel too tired.

It is our conscious renewal of the feeling behind the purpose. The intention behind is what keeps us going. The purpose is often what we need for ourselves. To ensure a need of ours is being fulfilled.

Whereas intention has more of an outward focus. Its attention looks more toward the other person, company, or community. It looks beyond what we want for ourselves and what we need to fulfill in ourselves. What would wake me up on a Thursday morning is knowing that if I show up for my students, they will benefit. They will stay on par with their subject and thus do well.


As mentioned above; the intention is seen as what is done “in the process”. The intention is something that can be renewed momentarily. It is a focus of attention on making something happen. Each day we wake up with an “intention”. This may be to do perform certain tasks. To have specific conversations. But it’s not our overarching purpose. The intention is the path to fulfilling the purpose.

According to Mary Marshall, it’s a way to manifest the “beliefs” that drive the purpose or a means to an end. She carries on to say that “my intention each day is to manifest my purpose somehow (and some days I don’t come close!) But, because I have my intention, I’m more likely to stay on course and get there vs. not.” Therefore, you must figure out your purpose. To have a meaningful intention.

Can one go without the other?

Sure. One can go without the other. But it would be hard to fulfill your purpose with heartiness if you have no intention every day. For example, I am fulfilling my purpose by being a teacher. But each day feel’s difficult to wake up. Difficult to do the marking. And difficult to prepare a lesson.

Whereas if your intention was to be renewed (as often as you like), it makes it a little easier. Who doesn’t;t need a little reminder of something that is good for you and your soul?

If we look at the reverse. You have an intention every day, but no purpose. I intend to help my students complete their schooling or degree, but I’m not sure it’s what I want to be doing. But I do like helping people. It’s quite confusing. Your intention is being fulfilled, but it doesn’t feel quite right?

Therefore it would be better for the two to be fulfilled simultaneously. Take a look at way feeds your soul. Figure out what your purpose is. Then put some intention behind it!

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