Intention setting is potentially something you perceive as part of the hippy-dippy handbook for getting nowhere in life. But I emphatically beg to differ. Written intention setting is a practice that’s recently been popularized by Instagram bloggers like @leefromamerica and @thebalancedblonde (coincidentally two of my favorites), so a few months back, I thought I’d give it a try.
If you follow this blog regularly, you know that writing is one of my few passions. I keep a regular thankful journal, as well as an everyday regular life journal. It was in this everyday life journal that I began to set my intentions on a monthly basis.
Though I’m still new to this practice, I’ve seen the benefits in my life already. Making space in your life to assess where it could be improved with a bit of targeted mindfulness is a powerful form of self love. Read on to understand the basics and be inspired by some specific intentions from myself and others.
How To Set Your Intention
It couldn't be easier. All you have to do is:
Grab a writing device. I tend to prefer paper and pen, as I like to record my monthly intentions in my everyday journal. In the past, I’ve used the page of an adult coloring book and colored pencils. This month, I used my laptop, so I could show you guys how I like to set my intentions.
Reflect on the last month. What moments brought you down? Think about moments of sadness, anger, or discontent. Who were you in those moments?
Set positive, growth-oriented intentions. Pain and stress can be transformed into things of beauty and value if we choose to accept and learn from it. Set intentions that are more expansive than finite, meaning more broad than narrow/niche. Examples below.
Express each intention in a short phrase. Elaborate with words, drawings, doodles, colors, etc. But the shore distillation is important for you to be able to remember each individual intention.
Write in the first person. Intention setting is very personal, so I choose to write them in the first person in a sort of conversation with myself. I have pretty regular dialogues with my inner being/child, so to be honest, I’m glad it’s finally coming up in a concrete way on my blog.
Reflect on your intentions regularly. Intention setting aims to break old, negative habits and replace them with new, positive ones. Habits don’t tend to budge unless there’s a new mental system in place to facilitate the new behavior, and you’ll need to constantly remind yourself of these new behaviors.
Detach from the outcome. This is not a rigorous practice. The goal is to simply to look inward on a regular basis and gently course correct on your emotional/spiritual journey.
Do it all over again the next month. Setting your intention on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, daily, etc.) is what turns an activity into a practice.
My Intentions This Month
This is a really personal practice, so don’t be afraid to express your intentions in whatever form comes most naturally. But I wanted to share mine this month to both stay accountable and give an example of the type of thought I put into mine:
Be happy with right now. You’ve been so bummed lately at what feels like repeated career opportunities that begin with a spike of hope and plummet in what feels like a personal rejection of the value you bring to the workplace personally and professionally. But it’s so important to remember that you have so much good in your life, especially when it comes to work. You have a job that pays you, recognizes you, supports you and helps you develop a craft that you genuinely enjoy. It’s okay that said job is a contractor position that isn’t parlaying to full-time in the timeline you had expected. It’s really okay -- because even if you don’t have the best situation (e.g. a full time job with exorbitant perks and benefits), you still have great situation (e.g. steady income, a coworker family, health insurance, enjoyable work, plenty of nice perks).
Do what inspires joy, not what you think will make you happy. You operate on such strict timelines and to-do lists for yourself, but to what end? All it does is make you unhappy that you haven’t delivered on these arbitrary expected outputs for yourself. Your blog for instance. I know you want to post on a strict bi-weekly cadence so your readers don’t think you’ve forgotten about them. But trust me, they really won’t notice if you go three or four weeks without posting. There’s a difference between holding yourself to a high standard and beating yourself up for not doing it all. You’re allowed to want to build a successful blog that touches and lights up the world (or at least a few people in it). You’re no longer allowed to beat yourself up over the timeline that this dream will be realized. Keep in mind that this will also help you create content that is more meaningful to you, like the stuff that just flows out of you when the inspiration strikes, rather than trying to produce to meet a scheduled slot.
Practice subbing screens for breath. I was inspired by an Instagram I saw this morning by one of my favorite artists Mari Andrew. It’s about making a positive, mindful association with a mundane, everyday object to replace what might otherwise have been a neutral or negative thought habit. One of my least favorite personal habits is staring at my phone screen while I wait for the elevators at work. So, I intend to start associating the elevators with a deep, centering, calming breath. After that one breath, I am free to look at my phone. But what I’ve already found is that just one breath helps break the habit/cycle of addiction, leading me to favor the experience of presence over the experience of glazed scrolling.
Walk more. You used to be so good about 10K steps per day! Those were the days. I get that your new bus is too convenient to pass up, so it’s time to get intentional about new ways to bring movement into your day. What if you hopped on the treadmill for 10 minutes after lunch? Heck, what if you went outside and did a lap around the block? You keep complaining to anyone who will listen that you never leave the office while the sun is up. So maybe you just...should? Go for a walk after lunch tomorrow. See how that goes. Like we talked about before, it’s okay to do (e.g. produce) less. Just be, on a walk on a sunny day.
12 Intentions You Can Borrow
Here are four inspired by my own intention setting practice:
Think less, do less, be more. For me, this includes 10 minutes of meditation everyday, scheduling free time into my calendar, and giving myself permission to lay in bed and read a book if that’s what I want.
Practice saying no. To alcohol, more plans or foods that upset my body. Remembering that I don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) go out to please anyone.
Fill my body with loving materials. This includes water, tea, kombucha, greens, beans, nuts & seeds.
Dive deeper into the emotional pool & explore a little. For me, this is sitting with painful or shameful memories and getting comfortable with my past, mistakes and all. This intention motivated me to get back into therapy to work through past difficulties.
Then four of my favorites set by other bloggers:
When you’re feeling bored/lonely, don’t go on social media
Investing financially in yourself is very different than overspending
Return to love in every experience
Over-communicate your needs to make sure your loved ones are on the same page.
And finally, here’s four proposed by Don Miquel Ruiz in his book, the four “agreements” of Toltec wisdom:
Take nothing personally
Be impeccable with your words
Don’t make assumptions
Always do my best
Benefits of Intention Setting
Intention setting for me is an easy and tangible way to gently course correct at the beginning of each month. It serves as the necessary foil to a regular gratitude practice; of course, the most important thing for our mental health is to find the good in our current lives. But what’s equally important to continue on a journey of personal growth is to take time to reflect on the parts of life that could be improved and setting mindful, loving intentions to work toward that better future.
That’s just me, though. For a slew of other benefits, I liked this article on benefits of intention-setting in the workplace.
If you were to set an intention for yourself right now, what would it be? Let me know in the comments, so we can support one another on this journey!