The first time I heard about the word intention terms of how it applies in my own life and the significant role it plays was when I first got introduced to mindfulness through the works of the Buddhist teacher Jon Kabat Zinn. But it took several years to truly realise the importance of intention and learn it’s importance and how it can shape my own life.
The only other thing I would like to mention here is that both goals and intentions have a place in your life and can help you to make decisions from a place of strength and live a life of your own choosing.
Setting intentions for positive changes (versus goals)
An intention exists behind every thought and action even if you are not aware of it. Intentions are like roadmaps that can guide you as you move through life if you choose to become aware of it. This is especially true if you are looking to make positive changes in your life and see the outcomes that you truly want. In this way, it helps you to hone on to see more of you what you want in your life.
But they are different from goals in a few important ways. Positive intentions can help you to approach changes in your life from a place of compassion rather than judgment.
Also, while goals are driven by external motivators, intentions are guided by your core values such as compassion, acceptance, courage. Intentions are also always in the present moment. This is yet another way that it differs from setting a goal. With an intention, there is no required result. This frees you up from trying to “achieve” anything and yet move towards your dreams.
Whereas goals help you to understand where you want to go, setting intentions you become clear and focused on how you want to show up in your life. In this manner, by consciously setting intentions you can focus your energy on what you want to see more of in your life, prioritise your activities so that you spend more time with the people that you love, and protect you from activities that do not serve you well.
Everything is a choice
One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my own life is that almost everything that has happened in my life is due to the choices that I have made (knowingly and unknowingly). This was a difficult lesson to learn since it means that the life I am living right now is due to all the decisions and the choices that I have made right now. I cannot really escape the responsibility that I have for my own life nor blame others for its outcome,
On the other hand, it has been truly a liberating lesson for me. My daughter’s severe health crisis in 2013 forced me to face this and other important lessons that literally woke me up from the life I was leading right until then. Over time, while looking to heal my daughter’s health with the help of Functional Medicine, I gradually started appreciating the power I had over my own life. In healing her I found that the more I was present to the circumstances and opportunities in my own life, the more I was truly able to help her.
Over the next several years as I slowly moved from living a life by default to becoming more intentional in how I chose to spend my time, the foods that I ate, the choices that I made, the way I started showing up in my own life. While I had no idea that this was what “living with intention” means, it literally changed my life.
Intention as a road map
For far too many of us, we live a life where we are not really clear about what we want from our life. We are not really taught how to think for ourselves and figure out how to live a life that is true to ourselves and the gifts that we bring to this world. This clarity is extremely important if we are to live life passionately and enthusiastically and no matter what the circumstances are being able to embrace life without thinking of it either as an obstacle or a burden.
I am truly grateful for all the lessons that I have learned during our family’s darkest times. Being more intentional about how I spend my minutes, hours and days have made all the difference in my life. This is what I am sharing with you so that you too can learn how to set intentions and use them as a roadmap for your own life.
To be more intentional in your daily life, ask yourself
For me, this has meant that I am now much more focused on how I spend my time each day. This means being very clear on the activities and tasks that I focus on, the screen time that I indulge in (tv shows, social media), people I spend time with, and focusing more on how I want to feel.
Once you have become clear on your intention for the day, phrase them not as goals you would like to achieve but as positive statements that you want to use as a guide on how you make choices and take decisions that day.
Let’s take an example to see how this can work for you.
Goal #2 “To be more thankful for everything I have“
Make sure that you write down your intention and put it where you can read it throughout the day as a reminder. Return to it regularly to reconnect with the meaning and motivation behind it and let it guide you, action by action so that you can become who you were always meant to be.
Setting and nourishing your intention
As you know by now, setting an intention primes your brain to start paying attention to what you want to see more of in your life- in people, places, surroundings, and situations. However, simply by setting an intention does not MAKE this happen, it simply ALLOWS you to be more present when circumstances and opportunities present themselves. Over time, you may find that it soon becomes a way of living.
First thing in the morning is one of the best times to set an intention for that day or even for the entire week. Doing this practice first thing in the morning allows you to set a tone for the day.
Some things to keep in mind (Source: The Mindful Day by Laurie J Cameron)
- Set time aside as a part of your morning to set an intention
- Make it a daily practice
- Focus on what you want to see more of (beauty, kindness, forgiveness)
- Focus on what you want to be (more calm, generous, forgiving?)
- Focus on what you want to do more (pause more, listen or even have fun?)
- Write it down in your journal or on a notecard and put it somewhere to remind you of your intention throughout your day
If you allow it, intentions can change your life. By providing a roadmap, setting intentions on a regular basis can provide you with the resources to create and sustain positive changes in your life and help you move from living a life by default to a life by design.