“Set your intention.”
How does that make you feel? Inspired? Or did the flash of a pseudo-spiritual yoga sesh make you cringe?
You will be happy to know that intention-setting isn’t just for yoga buffs and the meditative among you. Observationally, psychologists have found evidence of greater levels of achievement when daily intentions are set and revisited.
Likewise, it’s important to understand that intentions are different things for different people. Some people set intentions as they would goals, while others set intentions that work more like guiding principles. All people set intentions to stay focused in their day-to-day lives.
Think of intention as a focal point for living—a goal or quality that you want to structure your life around.
How to Set an Intention
Many people who set intentions for their day do so during exercise, meditation, or a daily routine. You can choose to set your intention however you like, but it’s important that you take some time to carefully consider your intention and dedicate a few moments of focus to it.
To set an intention for your day,
- Figure out what you stand for. It can be tempting to dive right into intention-setting without a lot of thought. However, taking a little time up front to understand your unique perspective in the world will go a long way to helping your intention resonate. It’s important here that you try not to compare yourself to others, but focus on bettering yourself against yourself. Good daily intentions set your focus around your personal values and as such are inspirational and motivating for you. First, however, you have to know what you value most and what you want to get out of life.
- Decide when and how you will routinely set your intention. Mornings—the sooner after you wake up the better—are preferable for many as this helps set the tone for your day. Also consider whether you will write your intention down, muse on it to kick off your day, share it with a friend, or something else.
- Clarify your intention. Now that you have an idea of what you want to center your focus on and know how you want to make it part of your daily life, decide what your intention actually is. Intentions can be short sentences or simply words that embody where you want your focus to be, such as “Live fully,” “show compassion,” “speak confidently,” or simply “Peaceful” or “Tenacious.” These words should embody for you something specific, some set of behaviors, so that when you state your intention, you understand what achieving your day’s intention would look like. Try to keep intentions positive. “Build community” is better than “Stop being shy.”
- Set your intention. Declare. Write. Speak. Internalize. The day’s intention should be something that you come back to often in your thoughts and that can help guide your decisions and behavior throughout the day.
If you are struggling to get started on setting your intentions, Mindful Minutes has a helpful post that can help you get inspired.
Remaining Accountable to Your Intentions
It can be easy to go through the motions when it comes to little daily routines. It’s one thing to set your intention daily, but how do you live it?
As it turns out, intention-setting—like goal-setting—benefits greatly from feedback. This doesn’t necessarily have to be feedback from others; usually it’s a feedback loop you construct for yourself. Some people build an intention check into their evening routine: “Did I make progress on today’s intention?” This follow-through helps to hone your intentions and improve their quality over time.
Similarly, some people use associations to remind themselves of their intention throughout the day. For example, maybe you associate the intention “Confidence” with the color red. You can wear a red pin or red tie to help you stay mindful every time you look in the mirror or simply note confidence anytime you see the color red. Such mini check-ins will remind you to exude your intention while also forcing you to think about how well you’ve followed your intention until that point. It can also give you a sort of marker to track how often your thinking comes back to your intention throughout the day.
Do you set daily intentions? How did you get into it and how do you make it work for you?