Many people set goals related to productivity, better health and fitness, and financial freedom among others.
And whilst it’s good to do those things, goal-setting ought not to be used in isolation. The importance of creating intentions should not be underestimated if you wish to execute changes in your life.
Without intentions, you may find you get stuck in a rut, unable to live in a way that reflects your full potential.
Intentions vs. Goals
There’s a common misconception that goals and intentions are the same thing; that the two words can be used interchangeably.
There are, however, distinct characteristics associated with each of them.
Intentions provide you with reminders of how you want to live your life. They’re often related to internal things like motivation and inspiration.
Moreover, they could be associated with characteristics you display toward yourself or others, such as kindness or openness.
In contrast, goals typically relate to tangible, outward things, such as losing 10 pounds or learning to code. Many people set S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-specific.
When setting goals, people usually plan how they’ll reach those milestones and may make those plans public. They might mention them on social media or talk to their friends about how to achieve the goals.
However, since intentions stem from the inner self, people often keep them secret and don’t lay out specific plans for making intentions come to pass.
Cases exist, though, where your intentions can line up with your goals.
You might set a goal of earning at least $10,000 more this year than last year. An accompanying intention might be to awaken your inner desire to learn and discover new things.
By doing that, you might recognize opportunities to boost your income, thereby finding yourself able to meet the goal with the help of the intention you set.
With this distinction between goals and intentions in mind, how do you go about creating the latter?
1. Consider Setting Intentions During Meditations
Meditation puts you in an ideal state of mind for planting the seeds of your intentions.
If you’ve ever tried it or have even just heard about it, you probably know that meditation aims to quieten your noisy internal dialogue.
Often, that objective happens when you focus on your breathing and acknowledge the thoughts that pass through your mind without dwelling on them.
The reason why it’s a good idea to try setting intentions while you meditate is because you should be in a state where you’re more relaxed and less anxious than usual. The more settled you are, the easier it should be to recognize your purest desires.
If you’re not familiar with meditation and don’t know how to get started, try some guided meditations first. Often, listening to the instructions on a podcast or MP3 can help you concentrate by minimizing other distractions.
Some people also focus on objects during their meditations, like candle flames.
When you’re new to meditating, do it without consciously trying to set intentions. As you become more and more familiar with meditation, you should find you become increasingly aware of yourself.
Then, naturally, you may discover that intentions arise within your inner being.
2. Let Open-Ended Questions Focus Your Intentions
You may initially find it difficult to narrow down your focus for setting intentions.
After all, there could be countless things you’d like to improve that relate to the parts of you people don’t see with their eyes but might notice through your actions.
If you feel overwhelmed by the mere thought of setting intentions, try asking some open-ended questions based on a long-term worldview.
For example, you might ask yourself how your lifestyle helps or harms the Earth and make intentions based on your answers.
Maybe you live a fast-paced life and never take time to notice your environment and respect it. If so, perhaps you could set an intention related to giving the Earth the reverence it deserves.
Examine how the way you treat others affects yourself and them. Could your intentions relate to your internal emotions toward others and how they outwardly manifest as you interact with the world?
It’s also useful to ask yourself about fears or regrets you’d like to release or traits you’d like to strengthen.
You may also choose intentions that relate to how internal feelings negatively or positively impact your lifestyle.
Speaking of positive and negative perspectives, have you ever thought about how your choice of words impacts the way you think?
Because, trust me, words matter.
You should actively aim to use positive language when making intentions.
When you become more aware of language, you’ll likely notice how easy it is to use positive wording in every case.
Instead of setting a “Stop being timid around strangers” intention, you could shift it to say “Awaken your inner courage for all to see.”
Realize that an intention is merely a word relating to your ideals or aims, such as “gratitude” or “calmness.” If you struggle to come up with a full sentence filled with positive language, think of a positive trait you’d like to embody and base your intention on it.
Again, people often say you become the things you think. That’s why it’s best to avoid any negativity in the language used, even if the intention is meant to reduce some negative aspect of yourself.
4. Answer The “Why” Aspect Of An Intention
When setting intentions, it’s essential to answer the question of why they’re important.
The “what” component is probably the one you’ll figure out first. However, the “why” aspect is the part that should keep you motivated to stick to your intention. It reveals the deeper reasons why the intention matters.
For example, why is it beneficial to set an intention of showing more resilience under pressure? Your answer might be that doing so allows you to stay clear-headed and adopt a problem-solving mindset instead of caving under the stress of an unexpected circumstance.
Then, your intention changes you for the better. However, you don’t want to only realize that the “why” part of the intention makes you an improved person. That’s too basic. Instead, think of the capabilities you could gain if the intention comes to pass.
5. Set A Daily Intention Each Morning
Most of us have certain things we do each morning, such as brushing our teeth, writing in a journal, or reading the news.
Frequently, those things set the tone for the rest of the day, so it’s crucial to spend the morning being aware of your activities and their possible consequences.
Concerning intentions, you may want to get in the habit of creating them every morning. This approach could be particularly helpful if some of the other intentions that come to mind seem too substantial to tackle at the moment.
Some practitioners recommend setting an intention each morning based on whatever could provide the most benefits for you that day.
For example, you might say, “Today, I will set healthy boundaries and respect those others set” if you’ll be spending time around people who often wear you down.
Think of this technique as something similar to the way athletes often say or think of specific things to psych themselves up on the morning of a race or other event.
You might realize this is a life-changing practice because it connects to how you want to feel. Then, you’ll be one step closer to living a life that fits your desires and what you deserve.
6. Release Yourself From Concerns About The Outcome
Many people try to influence every step of their lives. They like having a sense of control.
However, setting intentions requires you to give up that sense of power that tricks you into thinking you can micro-manage everything life throws at you.
It’s necessary to let go of preconceived notions and relinquish power to the universe. That may mean allowing things to work themselves out in ways that don’t require much input from you.
You may find that everything falls into place through unexpected means that couldn’t have happened if you tried to assert your typical level of control.
As such, the act of letting go is another thing that differentiates intentions from goals.
If you recall from the earlier discussion of how goals compare to intentions, goal-setting is a practice where people often plan every step of how they’ll be reached.
Kayla Matthews is a personal and professional productivity writer whose works have been featured on The Daily Muse, FinerMinds, Dumb Little Man and more. To see more from Kayla, visit ProductivityTheory.com, or follow her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews