Everything you do has intention behind it, whether you’re aware of it or not. When you do become aware of this and then deliberately set an intention, you are able to channel your energy in the most positive and beneficial way possible.
In this article I’ll be sharing how you can use the power of intention every day to achieve what you want, and to make life flow more smoothly.
What is Intention, and Why Does it Matter?
“An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to be, live, and show up in the world.”
How powerful is that?
When you take a few moments to set an intention before you start your day, at the beginning of your week, at the beginning of the month or the year, or even at the start of a new project, the payoff can be huge.
But we also forget that we can set intentions for the ‘little’ things every day. For example, I think we all dread having to make calls to customer service or something similar. You’ve probably had the experience of being put on hold for hours and when you do reach someone they are not helpful at all.
What if you took a few moments to set this intention before you made the call? That you would easily reach the right person and that person would be courteous and helpful, and you would receive the answers you need?
Wouldn’t it be great if that worked?
It does work. Whenever I remember to set an intention in this way, this is exactly what happens. When I forget - well, that’s when the experience I have is not so positive.
I see setting intentions as creating a positive experience for myself. Think of it as setting yourself up to succeed, to have more positive experiences, and to feel good. Is there anybody who doesn’t want that?
Just in case you’re thinking that this may be some New Age mumbo jumbo, you might want to take a look at a book written in 2007 called The Intention Experiment which explored the science of intention, drawing on the findings of leading scientists around the world.
There has been much research into the science of intention and it turns out that it’s a way to train our brains and to channel our energy in the best possible way to create more positive experiences.
If you’re at all familiar with the Law of Attraction, then it makes perfect sense. The energy you put out (through your thoughts) determines what you attract back. When you set an intention to have a positive experience, you are more likely to have a positive experience.
Conversely, when your thoughts are focused on how difficult something might be or how frustrating, that’s more likely to be your experience.
How to Set Intentions
These are some of the things I’ve learned over the years that help to make intention setting incredibly powerful.
- Intention Setting vs Goal Setting
I don’t see intentions that way. I feel that setting an intention is different from setting a goal. A goal is a specific thing you want to accomplish, and I think of intentions more in terms of experiences.
For example, you might have a goal to lose a certain amount of weight, or make a certain amount of money, finish a specific project, or achieve a certain level of success in something that you’re doing.
I would see the intention as being more about the experience you want to have. Whereas the goal might be – I want to lose 30 lbs in the next year, an intention would be to make your health and well-being your top priority throughout the year so that you feel good about your body.
If you make health your priority, and you are feeling good about your body – then the specific number doesn’t matter so much.
You might set a goal of making $1,000 per month, whereas your intention might be to feel good about your finances and to have a good relationship with money. If you feel good about your finances and you feel like you have a good relationship with money then the exact dollar amount is not as important, because you’re feeling good. You’re having a good experience.
What I’ve observed is that when you focus on the intention and the experience in this way, you actually open yourself to more possibilities and less stress.
When you focus exclusively on the goal, on specific numbers or specific outcomes, it’s a lot more restrictive.
Think Experiences vs Outcomes
Focusing on your experience, and how you want to feel, rather than only on the specific outcome connects you with your ‘why’ - to the reason you want what you say you want.
So if you say you want $1,000 per month – why do you want it? If you dig deeply enough into your why, it may be because you’re struggling financially right now and you don’t feel good about your finances. If you’re struggling you don’t have a good relationship with money. You want to feel good about where you are financially, that’s your why – so the intention connects with that why.
What’s the reason you would want to lose 30lbs? Because you want to feel healthier, you want to feel good about your body. So if you focus on THAT, with your intention – who cares how you get there. What’s important is the end results – not a number, but that you feel good about your body and you feel healthy.
So think about setting intentions in terms of the experience you want to have.
Here’s a great example of someone I worked with several years ago: when I first spoke with her, her ‘goal’ was to increase her income so that she could save a certain amount of money, but she had been trying to do this for several years without success.
It met all the criteria for goal setting: she knew exactly how much she wanted, it was realistic, achievable, measurable, and with a clearly defined timeline. But it wasn’t happening.
So we began to explore why she wanted this amount of money, why it was important to her and what would change for her when she had it.
It turned out that she wanted the money so she could travel to Italy and spend a month or so living and exploring there. This was the amount of money she felt she needed to be able to do this comfortably.
Instead of focusing on the goal of making that amount of money, I suggested she set the intention of traveling and living in Italy and to immerse herself NOW in the experience she wanted to have, focusing only on the intention, and not how she was going to achieve it.
It didn’t take long, and the result was better than anything she could have imagined. Out of the blue (I love that phrase because I hear it a lot when people set intentions) she was offered the opportunity to spend a couple of months in Italy teaching English. Her travel, accommodation and all expenses would be covered - and she would be paid while she was there.
Focusing on the goal of raising the money for her trip was limiting her. When she focused instead on her intention, and the experience she wanted to have, she opened herself up to more possibilities.
Know Your Why
When you identify something that you want, see if you can dig deeper and keep asking yourself why. Why do you want it? Why is this important to you? And why is that important? Digging deep in this way will help you truly connect with what’s most important for you.
Whatever your goals or intentions, your ‘why’ is the energy behind them. When you want to change, achieve or accomplish something you’ll be able to do so more easily and effectively if you are really clear on why you want to change, achieve or accomplish it.
When you are clear on why you want to do something it gives you the motivation and enthusiasm to keep going even when things are difficult. Knowing why keeps you connected to the energy of what you want and that is what will help you attract it.
When you are connected to what you want because you know why you want it, you will be less distracted and will not allow yourself to be pulled off course. This connection helps you stay focused and energized when it comes to what you want. It helps you to set the intention and stay focused on it.
It’s interesting to note that, once you get used to asking yourself why you really want something, you may find that some of the things you think you want are not really things you want at all.
Often people discover that what they thought was so important to them, was really what was important to someone else, or was something they thought they ‘should’ want.
I have worked with several people who were focused on the goal of getting a certain job or promotion, only to find that the reason they wanted it was because they wanted meaning and fulfillment in their career. They wanted to feel that what they were doing mattered and made a difference in the world.
So it wasn’t really the specific job or promotion they wanted, they were focused on that because they thought it would give them the meaning and fulfillment they really wanted.
But when they focused on the intention of having meaning and fulfillment in their professional life, rather than on a specific job or promotion, they attracted different opportunities - ones they might never have considered.
Some have started their own businesses, some have moved into a different profession altogether, and they all have been able to find the meaning and fulfillment they were really looking for.
Get used to asking yourself why you want something, why it’s important to you and what will change for you when you achieve it. This will help you to set clear intentions that deliver the experiences you really want.
Form a New Habit
Since intentions are so powerful, it’s amazing that we don’t all use them all the time. I think there are 2 reasons for that - one is that it’s so simple, and we often dismiss something that’s so simple because we think simple things can’t possibly work and we look for something that’s more complicated.
The other reason is that our brains seem to automatically want to focus on the negative and what ‘might’ happen, based on past experiences. It takes effort to train your mind to focus on the positive experiences you want to have, instead of the uncomfortable things that might happen.
It's an effort that really pays off, so just like you would train your body if you wanted to run a marathon, so you want to train your brain by regularly setting intentions, so that it becomes a new habit - your new default.
A great way to start is to get into the habit of setting intentions each day, such as:
- Take a few moments to set an intention before you start your day. If you set an intention that you want to feel good today, no matter what happens. Then, even if something or someone comes along to pull you into a challenging situation, you can continue to remind yourself of your intention.
This can stop you from taking on other people’s problems as your own, it can stop you from being pulled into someone else’s drama, and it can help you maintain a clear, focused mind, rather than being overwhelmed by whatever is happening around you.
- If you have to drive to work, your intention might be to have a joyful experience of driving to work. Then, even if you get stuck in traffic, perhaps you can enjoy listening to some music or an audio book, or if you encounter rude drivers you won’t be affected by them because you won’t allow yourself to be triggered.
- If you have to make a difficult phone call (perhaps to customer service) take a few moments to set an intention before you make the call – that you will easily reach the right person and you will receive the answers you need. Set an intention for a positive outcome.
- If you’re about to start working on something that seems overwhelming and difficult, set an intention that you will find a way to do it easily and enjoyably.
- Whenever you’re about to do something that you know you won’t like (I do this now when going to the dentist) set an intention that your experience will be positive, effortless, and pain-free.
Think of it as setting yourself up to succeed, to have more positive experiences, and to feel good. Remember also to express gratitude for the experiences you attract. That’s all part of the intention-setting process.
When you set an intention that you want something to happen it’s important to maintain focus on that intention, no matter what else happens around you.
It’s so easy to set an intention and then, when things don’t happen immediately the way you want them to, you give up and complain because it’s not working. We all do it.
Someone I spoke with recently had been struggling for some time with her intention to find a new home. She realized that she had been allowing other people and situations to pull her away from her intention so that she became distracted and her new home seemed further away than ever.
Once she realized this, she began to release the distractions and pull her focus back to her intention – and within a short time has found the home that she wanted.
Other people and situations will probably try to interfere with your intentions. This is where you have to be gentle and patient with yourself. Whenever you feel your mind shifting and going into something that does not support you and your intention, gently bring it back by reminding yourself of your intention.
You’ll find yourself letting go of certain things, projects, experiences or people because they don’t serve you or your intention. You may find yourself interacting with people in a different way as you realize how certain people may be keeping you away from what’s most important to you.
You might also want to create a vision board that reflects your intention – for example, if health and wellness is your focus, you would paste pictures on a poster board that show you when you felt particularly fit and healthy, or of people doing things you would love to do – such as yoga, hiking, kayaking etc., If there are certain things you would do if you felt healthier and less stressed, paste pictures of people doing those things on the board. Just find pictures that reflect the intention that you’re setting.
Remember that setting an intention for your day gets you off to a great start in the morning and you’ll be amazed at how good it feels.
As you tune into what’s most important to you and set clear intentions you allow yourself to re-claim your power and connect to your true self. This benefits you and everyone around you.
Try it for yourself. Practice setting intentions for the type of experiences you want to have and just see what happens.
You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!
This [free] mini course shares The Top 10 Reasons Energy Holds You Back - I invite you to sign up and learn what might be standing in your way.