How to Set Intentions & Why I Like Intentions More Than Goals – your guide to intention setting
Before we dive into the fun stuff, I just want to put it out there that I’m by no means the end all be all expert on intention setting. I’m not following anyone else’s method or saying that my way of setting an intention is any better than anyone else’s.
My goal is that if you’re new to intention setting and curious about it, this post is a handy guide for getting started. I hope you customize this process to your own life as much as you’d like. That’s what puts the power and magic sauce into these mindfulness practices. It’s about making them fun, making them your own and truly believing in what you’re doing, not because “Georgie said so” or any other expert is telling you what to do.
And if it feels good, feel free to apply that same mentality to any personal growth or spiritual practice. Again there are no brownie points for the person who does everything by the book. All these tools are just tools trying to help you be more YOU. (So to do them your own way is awesome.)
What is an Intention
Ok, first things first, what’s an intention? Webster’s Dictionary defines an intention as “a determination to act in a certain way.” I define an intention as a purposeful awareness of how you want to experience something. It’s about how you want to act and also how you want to feel.
Long story short: an intention is purposefully deciding how you want something to feel.
Quick example… maybe you have a meeting with your boss to negotiate a raise. You could set the intention of “I intend to own my value.” Intentions aren’t about denying or pushing away real feelings, instead, they are about choosing what you want to focus on. It’s ok to feel nervous and worthy at the same time. You’re not denying the nerves, you’re just directing your focus on how worthy you feel.
Why I’m Draw to Intention Setting
It’s like a post-it note reminder for our brain.
I like to think about it kind of like picking a Spotify playlist. You want to be surprised by the songs and maybe discover some new songs but you know the kind of music you like and want to hear more of. Instead of shuffling every song in the universe and accidentally listening to death metal when you love pop, it’s saying “hey universe I love me some pop and I’d like to listen to more of that.” You’re choosing the mood you want the music to be and you’re aware of how that music makes you feel.
An intention is like that. It’s setting the mood and the vibe for your brain.
I like to set intentions for the day or month or a specific experience because it reminds me to be present versus going on autopilot. It helps me make the most of a situation versus reacting on default programming.
Goals Versus Intentions: What’s the Difference?
The difference between setting a goal versus setting an intention is that a goal is about achieving a specific outcome, whereas an intention is about setting a specific mindset or feeling. The reason I stopped focusing on goals so much is that I realized, the reason I want to achieve a specific goal is that I want to feel a certain way. For example, say I want to earn $80,000 in a year. The reason I want that specific goal is because I want to feel secure, have fun, feel abundant and be able to be generous with my money.
But guess what? I can focus on feeling that outcome and totally skip over the specific number. How? By setting an intention. The best part? When you’re not so focused on the specific achievement you open the door to so many more possibilities and outcomes. You might make more money, you might be able to find all those feelings through other opportunities that aren’t tied to a dollar amount that actually make you much more joyful.
If you stick to a specific detailed goal you might be able to achieve it without achieving how you want to feel. What if you got that $80,000 and were miserable the whole time? Or you got there in an unsustainable way? Or you compromised your values?
Why do we need to narrow down our desires and joy to such specific goals? Another reason I love intentions so much more than goal setting is that the focus is always about how you’re feeling throughout the process. It isn’t about hustling and being miserable just to get to the end. Because I can tell you from experience as a former serial goal setter that I usually busted my ass then got to my goal and many times I felt totally let down after that initial high.
If we don’t feel good on the journey, usually a specific outcome isn’t going to magically make us feel better. And if it does, it’s usually a fleeting feeling. Intention setting is fun, sustainable and opens us up to so much more surprise, delight and magic in our lives.
How to Set an Intention
1.) Choose the segment of time or experience you want to set the intention for
For example, one day, a meeting, the month, a moon cycle. Whatever feels right to you.
2.) Visualize the process and think about how you’d like to feel
Think about what areas of your life are going really well. Why is that? How do you feel about them and why? Would you want that same feeling in other aspects of your life? That’s a great place to get started.
When you’re first starting with intention setting it can be hard to find the right words or feelings. We’re so conditioned in our society that feelings only occur because of circumstances. However, that doesn’t have to be true. If we set the “vibe” first, then the circumstances will occur in a more meaningful positive way. Why should we have to wait to feel how we want?
3.) Create a list of words that align with that feeling
I think it can be helpful to write a master list of intentions to help when you’re feeling lost or stuck. Trust that everyone’s desires are allowed to be different and they’re also allowed to change and evolve. Having a list to draw from adds ease to the process.
4.) Narrow it down to one or two intentions
I would recommend choosing one or two intentions at a time. I know it’s so hard to narrow down sometimes. However, I’ve found over and over again when I try to focus on too much a.) I can’t remember what the intention I wanted to set was and b.) I get overwhelmed.
Part of the process is narrowing and focusing so if you start with a list of 10 things don’t throw it away, keep it for the next month or moon cycle and see how you feel without needing to do everything all at once.
Another benefit with fewer intentions is that you can see the power of them more easily. If you focus on one word for a whole month it’s much easier to see how that worked for you than spreading yourself so thin.
Helpful tools to support you:
These tools are here to support you. They are not mandatories for setting an intention. You don’t need to do any of these practices, only do them if they feel aligned and fun.
1.) Choose a crystal to infuse with your intention.
When you hold it repeat your intention. Every time you pick up that crystal or look at it remind yourself of that intention.
2.) Meditate focusing on your intention.
3.) Journal your intention
You can do a full journaling exercise about your intention or simply write it down somewhere important every day so you can see it and feel the act of writing it.
After your set amount of time or experience reflect on how that intention colored what you went through. Did it help? How? Do you want to update your intention moving forward or stay with that same intention?
Need a little inspiration to get started?
I love this deck: Affirmations
& I also love using angel cards: Make them for free
There are no right or wrong ways to use these cards. They are great tools to guide you whenever you might need them. Personally, I spread the deck out and use my left hand (the receiving energy) and choose a card based on how I feel – allow your hand to chose versus over thinking it. I find that it’s extra powerful to keep the card with me and write the word down.
Happy intention setting
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