Setting Intentions - Why It's Not Just Hippie Stuff

The colorful planners in front of a blue background

Setting intentions can make your dreams come true–for real.

Do you ever feel like your days are just drifting by? You’re not really sure what to work on or prioritize. Or maybe you do have a set of goals but you’re not really feeling motivated to follow through on them. 

If you’re looking for direction in your life, then harness the power of intention setting.

An intention starts off your day on the right note. It is a simple word or phrase that inspires you to take action. Some people like to set a yearly intention, while others set one for each week or day. You might hear people refer to their intention as their “mantra.” Others might use a vision board to articulate their intention. 

As you can see, there’s no right way to set an intention, and you can set one to help you navigate the ebbs and flows of your personal and professional life.

The proven benefits of setting intentions

You might be resistant to setting intentions because you feel self conscious and you associate them with new-agey concepts that are a little too “woo-woo” and “out there.” 

But everyone from business leaders to Olympic athletes use intentions and mantras as a way to ground themselves and pursue their goals.

And even though intention setting may come across as “new-agey,” science has shown there are benefits to it. For example, reciting a mantra can help you focus and stay calm. So if you’re trying to knock off tasks on a to-do list or embark on a new project, a mantra can put you in the right mindset to do your work. 

Vision boards have also been shown to help people achieve their goals. The images serve as a cue to your brain, reminding it: “Hey, this is important to me.” The images can also remind and inspire you to take action. For example, if you want to publish a book, the images of your favorite authors or photos of writers working at their desk, can motivate you to take action on your own dreams. 

At the very least, an intention compels us to take an abstract idea in our head and articulate it into something specific and tangible. 

The difference between an intention and a goal

Before we go further, let’s first clarify the difference between an intention and a goal, as you’ll often hear both terms when people talk about productivity and the goal setting process. 

A goal is a specific target that is measurable and has a deadline. For example, lowering your cholesterol by the end of the year or making 5 new professional contacts by the end of the month.

An intention is also something that you aim for, but it’s more of an internal target, rather than an external one. It steers how you want to think, behave, and connect with yourself and others. Examples: I intend to live mindfully. I want to give this project my all. I will be gracious. I will have an open mind

When used in tandem, an intention can help you successfully reach your goals

All the different ways you can set an intention

Define your intention for the year. Think of a word or phrase to define your year. This will help you live your life more deliberately and mindfully. For example, maybe your intention can be “fearless” or “be present” or “when I stick to my values, everything will work out.”  Whenever you’re feeling lost, you can repeat your intention to help you reconnect with your true purpose. 

Set an intention for the day or week. Have a daily or weekly intention to provide structure and definition to your week. Maybe one week you want to live more gratefully or another week you want to be disciplined about your goals. Write in your journal to brainstorm different intentions and to explore why this word or phrase is meaningful to you. Recite your intention outloud or write it down or just say it in your mind whenever you need to motivate yourself before a big moment or to collect yourself during a stressful time. 

Create a vision board. You can also use a vision board to define your intention. If you want to be more courageous then put up images, photos, and words that conjure boldness and bravery. Or if you want to feel creative, then put up images of art and artists that inspire. Put your vision board at your desk or by your bed. You’ll want to put it somewhere you can see so that you can be reminded to act on your intention. 

How to set an intention without feeling silly or embarrassed

Okay, so you know about the benefits of setting an intention, but you still can’t help but feel a little embarrassed saying these words out loud or putting your vision board up for all to judge. 

Don’t worry, it will seem a little weird and awkward at first, but the more you practice setting an intention, the more natural and instinctive it will feel. Here are some pointers to help you set an intention and feel good about it. 

  • Do it in private and during a time when you won’t be interrupted. 
  • You can keep your intentions private. Write them down in a journal or say them in your head. No need to share them with anyone. 
  • Stick with an intention that feels meaningful to you. If an intention doesn’t resonate with your values or what you’re going through, then it will always feel unnatural no matter how many times you repeat it.
  • Remember: An intention is no different from the self-talk you give yourself everyday. But instead of the usual spiel of “I can’t do this” or “this is so hard” you’re replacing those phrases with positive and supportive ones, like “I know this is challenging but I trust the process.” 

An intention is your internal engine. When used regularly, an intention will put you in the right headspace to go for your goals and live your life with confidence. 

Written by JiJi Lee
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