An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to be, live, and show up in the world — whether at work, in relationships, during your meditation, or in any area of your life. Ask yourself, what matters most to you? Your answer could form a powerful intention, for which you can align your thoughts and attitude for the day ahead. Having a clear intention with you at your fingertips can help guide your actions as you move through the day.
One place where intentions are often encouraged are at the beginning of yoga classes; many teachers invite you to set an intention. But that’s often where the invitation ends; intentions typically are not explained or revisited. Before I learned what an intention was, I set intentions to sweat, to strengthen my core, and to go to yoga four times a week.
But an intention shouldn’t be confused with a goal — it’s not something you attach an expectation or evaluation to. It is something you want to align with in your life. It’s an aim, a purpose, or attitude you’d be proud to commit to.
Intentions must come from your heart; they are not the tangible “boost sales by 25%” or “get a promotion” kind of smart goals that you set at work. They are heart-driven and evoke feeling and purpose, like “practice being non-judgmental of myself and of others,” “send compassion out to the world,” “open my heart,” and “let go of fear…” Setting an intention is a way to bring your heart and mind into alignment.
Why Set Intentions?
Setting an intention at the start of a new year, on your birthday, when a new month begins, or at the beginning of your day or week can be a powerful practice because it’s the first step to embodying that which you want. Wayne Dyer said, “Our intention creates our reality.” And how many times have you heard “What you think, you become,” or “Thoughts become things”?
If you’re focusing your mind on a specific intention during a meditation, you are bringing it to your focused mind, your thoughts, your heart … and in turn helping to bring it into your reality.
How to Set an Intention
Your intention should be closely tied to your personal thoughts, values, and perspective on life. Intentions can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase you’d like to align yourself with, like “open your mind and heart,” “love,” “vulnerability,” “strength,” “kindness for myself and others,” “peace,” or “freedom.” Try to keep the intention positive, so instead of saying “stop being a coward,” or “spend less time alone,” choose the intentions, “be courageous” or simply, “community”.
Here are some thought-starters to help you get started in forming an intention:
- What matters most to you?
- What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?
- What would you like to let go of?
- Who would you like to forgive in your life?
- How do you feel when you are your happiest self?
- What makes you proud?
- What word(s) would you like to align yourself with?
- What fears would you like to release?
- What are you grateful for?
- What are your wildest dreams?
10 Intentions You Can Borrow
- Find balance
- Open your mind and heart
- Stay steady, calm and focused
- Act with courage
- Embrace change
- Give and receive love
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable
- Connect with others
You can borrow one of these if it resonates with you, but try to create something personal for yourself.
Intentions Put to Practice
Silently stating your intention at the beginning of your day, week, or meditation / yoga practice won’t be enough. You must revisit it often and when needed. Call it to the center of your mind when you feel off center and need to reset. Intentions are a wonderful way to help you stay grounded and reconnect with what matters most.
“Intentions compressed into words enfold magical power.”
If you want to explore your personal intentions further, check out this article that offers 18 questions to help you create more success and fulfillment in your life.
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As an ICF Certified Executive Coach, Melissa partners with leaders to develop their executive presence, strategic and systems thinking, resilience, communication skills, and influence in order to reach their goals. Melissa is passionate about supporting leaders and teams on their growth journeys toward greater impact, more collaborative teams, and stronger results.