I’ve been thinking a lot about intentions lately and exploring questions like, What exactly is an intention? How does it differ from a goal? What are the benefits of setting an intention? and Who cares anyway?
We often think of an intention as a strong sense of purpose or aim with a heavy dose of determination that produces a particular result or outcome. Here, intention is about doing and getting – doing something and getting a result.
There are other ways of thinking about intentions.
Anthroplogist and author Carlos Castaneda says that, “Intent is a force that exists in the universe. When sorcerers (those who live of the Source) beckon intent, it comes to them and set up the path for attainment, which means that sorcerers always accomplish what they set out to do.”
Setting intentions, according to Buddhist teachings, is quite different than goal making. Rather than being oriented toward a future outcome, intention is a path or practice that is focused on how you are "being." You set you intentions based on the foundation of what matters most to you. You make a commitment to align your actions with your inner values.
What makes an intention different than, let’s say, a wish or a desire? When I go to the grocery store I don’t write an intention list and I don’t intend to vacuum.
There seems to be an inner quality to intending. A conversation first needs to take place within, to set the stage, make some key decisions to then move forward, state the intention and see the impact of that intention in your life and in the world.
Here’s an example of one way to conceive of and act on an intention.
Intention: I intend to deepen my meditation practice.
Inspired action: I will meditate every day for 20 minutes to demonstrate my intention in action.
Intention: I intend to become more conscious of money in my life.
Inspired action: I will keep a notebook and write down everything I spend and bring in.
Intention: I intend to become aware of what I put into my body and treat myself with love.
Inspired action: I will prepare healthy meals for my
An intention gains power when it is rooted in "being" and is about who we are intending to be: kind, joyful, productive, creative, hopeful, enthusiastic, a good parent, a successful artist etc. They reflect who we are and what matters most to us. They are like mini-mission statements, proclaiming, and “This I believe.”
We can power-up our intentions by writing them down and saying them out loud to others and in order to get really good at crafting and nourishing powerful intentions so they manifest and bloom in our lives, we need to practice.
We need to practice setting them on a regular basis and noticing which ones we can really get behind and which ones crumble easily. When we pay attention to our intentions the chances that we will stay on track and stick with our intentions grows proportionally.
We can use post-its, screen savers and writing on mirrors to remind ourselves of our intentions. We can wear bracelets or special pins, or listen to tapes on our way to work or to sleep. We can create an association between an activity we do every day and an intention. Every time I put my key in the ignition I remember that my intention is to see the good in EVERYTHING. We can get a buddy and check in every day – on the phone or by email or in person.
Setting intentions is powerful. Becoming better at creating intentions that truly serve us and reflect our purpose and joy can change our lives—and the world—for the better.