We are all accustomed to setting goals in our personal and professional life and measure the success of our life by what goals we achieve and what we don’t. Most of our thoughts and behaviours are influenced by what we intend most. But often, we don’t think about these intentions in depth and go about our life setting some farther goals that sometimes may or may not align with our daily intentions.
There is no doubt that goals help us move forward and enable forward progress. But most of our goals look like some distant, seemingly far away or some farther destinations and based on future outcomes which often makes our journey not so pleasant and enjoyable. And if we fail to reach some of the goals, it often leads to stress, disappointment, self-judgement and self-criticism. Often the problem is not the goals we set, but it is the intentions behind our goals that aren’t powerful enough. Setting goals without an intention is like driving down a road with no destination in mind.
Because intention behind our goal is what provides us with an aim, objective or purposefulness, we feel lost and struggle to achieve our goals when we jump to goal-setting without seeking out our intentions first. This is the reason many times we fail to set meaningful goals. Goal-setting helps you understand what you want and it keeps you on track to accomplish it, but setting mindful intentions alongside goals and being conscious of them is what increases the likelihood of achieving more of what you want.
Goals anchor our intentions in reality and help us manifest our internal intentions. Goals might give us a specific outcome and destination to work towards but it’s the intentions that motivates us and keeps us focused. In order to achieve optimal success, your goals should be accompanied by daily intentions. We all understand the value and necessity of setting goals. But how many of us really set those intentions that help us achieve our goals?
So, What are Intentions ?
Intentions are like drawing a map of where you want to go. Intention acts as your inner compass to guide you through goal-setting, planning and helps in finding your focus. Intentions are about how you want to feel, the experiences you want to create and ultimately how you want to show up in your life. When you are setting powerful intentions, you are creating a new and specific state or frame of mind that serves your purpose in life. You are sending a message to yourself as to who you want to be.
Powerful intentions are as expansive as you want to make them and you can successfully meet your goals when you consciously base them on your intentions. Having intentions gives you more control of your life goals as they come from your authentic self and are more rooted in your values and not on external outcomes. They keep your focus in present moment and set a standard for how you live and show up regardless of whether or not you achieve something.
Intentions differ from goals
If goals are your to-do list, intentions are your to-be list. When we make goals, we move out of the present moment and become future or outcome-focused. They are more like something you would want them to happen in future. This leads to judging our current actions as ‘not good enough’ or something ‘uncertain.’ This results in judging our moments against our set goals. Whereas intentions are ways we choose to live each day, independent of achieving an external outcome and are more about awareness than achievement and keep you focused in the present moment. Goals are more structured and unidimensional, whereas intentions are expansive.
Your intentions define your value-driven practice and you don’t have to check them off of a list and move on, instead they help you to move forward. Whereas goals are more about tangible outcomes that you need to work towards achieving and once completed, you move on to new ones. Goals are more external in nature whereas intentions are an expression of your inner self rooted in reality.
Since goals are concrete actions and tasks that you plan for a future, they can make you feel insecure about whether or not you will be able to fulfil your goal or can make you feel like a failure or victim if you are not able to reach certain goals. Intention on the other hand is an aim rather than set task or action and allows you to focus on how you want to be independent of achieving the outcome.
Focusing on intentions doesn’t mean you are giving up your goals or lessening your desire to achieve them. But by setting intentions along side your goals, you enjoy the journey as much as your destination.
Why is it important to set intentions?
We often choose to stay in our comfort zones even at the expense of our goals and potential for far too long as we start living out of habit. Setting Intentions interrupts that unproductive pattern helping us to align with our goals rather than live on a trajectory. Voicing or stating your intention takes your mind off your perceived limitation and places your focus on something that will have a positive impact in your life.
Clearly stating how you want to go about achieving your goals and wishing that you improve or feel better puts the power of change in your own hands. Also, when you come up against a challenge, you can step back into your intuition that gives encouragement in taking desired action steps to achieve your purpose. Setting intentions empowers you to design your life instead of reacting to what is happening and saves some of your misdirected energy, time and efforts.
You cannot set an intention that you don’t believe in. Because an authentic intention cannot be forced, you will find more power in setting meaningful goals and persist through challenging times. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight and just stating your goal as “I should lose weight” may not be so motivating when things get tough. But if you state it as “I choose to have good health to enjoy with my family and friends” or “ I intend to prioritise my health.” sounds more positive and you would be willing to takes required action steps like proper nutrition, exercise and acts of self-care.
Similarly, If your intention is to be more productive in achieving your goals, stating your intention as “I intend myself to be more receptive and choose to rise to my highest potential in what I do” will make you more open to new opportunities and ideas instead of just stating “I want to get more productive.”
How to set your intentions
Intention-setting is more than just wishing for things that you would want to achieve. Setting intentions involves realising your authentic self and manifesting that inner intention out in the world in simple ways. Here are some steps to create your intention-setting practice.
Reflect on your present moment
In order to set meaningful intentions, it’s important to first recognise what is your present looks like in each area of your life. Becoming aware of your present is the first step to set intentions to where you want to get to. Being grounded in present allows you to find your intentions with which you can work alongside of your goals. It is more practical to set an intention for the short-term. Divide your long-term intentions into few shorter ones. Gain mental footing by grounding yourself in your present by manifesting your short-term intentions. Have faith in their purpose by letting go of your expectations and judgment. This will allow space for all the new possibilities in your present moment to ultimately reach the long-term goal you would want to achieve.
Rephrase your intentions in a positive way
Rephrasing your intentions in a positive way increases your potential by not wasting your attention or and gives access to better context. Make your intentions positive and in the present tense. For instance, If your intention is to reduce stress, then instead of saying my intention is to fight stress or “I will stop stressing”, state your intention in a more positive and specific way as, “my intention is to invite peace and calm within myself today.” This way, instead of making it seem some distant far-reaching goal, you can make it a reality and can take every action with this intention in your mind. Focus on gratitude to set a positive intention rather than from a place of need.
“Intention is much more powerful when it comes from a place of contentment than if it arises from a sense of lack or need.”- Deepak Chopra
Refrain from using any negative words.
There are certain words that reflect a different meaning, like for instance, the word ‘want’ reflects something you lack or word ‘should’ makes you sound like a victim. Instead you can use words like ‘choose’ ‘am’ ‘can’ and avoid using ‘will.’ Exclude using words like ‘try’, ‘but’, ‘might’ and ‘could’ as they inject hesitancy and uncertainty into your intention. Instead use “I am willing”, “I am open to.” Each time you are setting intentions, use words that align and make you more confident of achieving things you desire.
Align your intentions with your values
Aligning your intentions with your values and beliefs will help you make your intentions more meaningful to you and helps you to decide what is most important for you. Keep them simple and grounded in reality. Tap into what you actually value rather than want. For instance, instead of stating your intentions as “I want to find a job.” State your intention as “I am open to meaningful and enjoyable work that fulfils my life purpose.” or “I choose purposefulness.” Intentions you choose to create will determine your future goals, in other words, your choice of your intention will make it true for you.
“A well crafted intention starts with your values and they are guideposts for who you want to be instead of what you want to do or accomplish.” – Christie Inge
Decide what truly matters to you
The process of intention-setting is all about knowing what truly matters to you and commit to that which fits with who you are and who you want to be. When you are setting intentions about something specific, make sure it is something you want to achieve and not just a passing thought. We tend to have many random thoughts or ideas and it’s important to distinguish between the ones we should hold on to and the ones passing by. Be sure of what you need to do to accomplish and what might prevent you from achieving them.
Create an intention-setting practice to stay consistent. You can set an intention for anything and it can also be a daily, weekly or a monthly practice. Meditate on your intentions to embrace the set intentions so as to channel them positively into your life . Be consistent with them by building and expanding on them. If you stick with the same intention week after week, your mind will stop responding to it. Therefore, stick with the same intention for few days then enhance changes or improve upon them by adding more elements to it. But take care not to drastically alter it.
Use affirmations to support your intention.
Writing down your intentions as positive affirmations makes them more achievable. They can be inspired action steps or a positive messages for yourself. Affirmations cancel out the self-doubt and negative self-talk. Here are some affirmations to support your intentions .
“I create healthy habits for myself with ease.”
“I choose to rise to my highest potential in who I am and what I do.”
“I am willing to feel peaceful and grounded in life.”
“I accept and value people in my life for who they are and not who I think they should be.”
“I allow myself to let go negativity, doubt and fear.”
“I am willing to respect and accept the difference of others opinions, views and interpretations.”
“I choose to treat every obstacle as an opportunity.”
“I am receptive to new ideas, information and positive changes.”
“I choose to live being content and with compassion towards others.”
“ I choose to go beyond other people’s fears and limiting beliefs.”
Intentions are especially important in creating new habits and in certain lifestyle changes. When you set intentions with clarity and purpose, they become powerful in making way for larger and more meaningful progress and productivity. When you start with a goal alone, there is often wasted energy in the actions especially overtime and might often get stuck in taking small action steps that don’t add up to anything meaningful and might end up without any desired result especially when conditions or circumstances change.
So, what are your current intentions?
What is your to-be list?
Are they aligned with your goals and values?
What kind of experiences you want to create in your daily life?
What is most important to you?
Do you strive to keep them positive?
Are they meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling?
Setting intentions is different for everyone and your intentions are yours to keep, so come up with some of your own and make them as meaningful and positive as they can be. You can start with simple intentions like for instance, you can write some inspired action steps or they can even be as simple as encouraging thoughts or affirmations instead of a goal to help you improve your day or your attitude. Use the above steps to create your intention-setting practice alongside with your goals to live a purposeful life.