We tend to be more focused in everything we do when we set intentions, as this gives us the motivation to go ahead enthusiastically. The same holds true for our daily routine when we begin the day with a clear mind. Considering how busy we all are these days, I can vouch for this.
My Mom had a favorite phrase she enjoyed repeating – “We must live with purpose,” and perhaps that’s how I cultivated the habit of setting intentions. It changed my life.
What are intentions?
Intentions are like a blueprint of the way we’d like to live, based on what matters most to us. They allow us to align our thoughts with our actions and our minds with our hearts.
Now, one might argue that motivation is enough to take action, but it must be combined with intention. What’s the difference? Motivation is the reason why we do something while intention is the purpose with which we set goals. Intention keeps us on the right track and more or less sets the tone for our actions.
But why set intentions? I know what to do!
That’s what my son said when he was little. Here’s the thing. When you set an intention you recognize what you want and your efforts are tuned to it. Intentions become reality, or to put it another way, thoughts become things. As simple as that.
What is the best time to set intentions?
First thing in the morning is great, but I know how hectic life is, so if you can set aside a few minutes, say while commuting, or at your desk, or even in your favorite spot at home, that’s fine. Just make sure the place makes you feel good. I’ve consciously made it a point to wake up 15 minutes earlier every day. I use 5 minutes to set intentions and the other 10 to enjoy my coffee. So, win-win.
How much time will you need?
Oh, five minutes, at most. Uninterrupted.
By the way, do feel free to finish your coffee (or your favorite beverage) first.
If it makes you more comfortable, adopt a ritual. I do my intention-setting when I light the lamp at my altar every morning before I start my day. It is a quiet time and I love the ambiance of the incense as I am filled with peaceful thoughts.
How to set intentions
Sit comfortably – maybe your favorite chair or on a cushion on the floor. If you use a chair, let the soles of your feet rest on the ground. If you’d rather lie down, that’s fine – just find a surface that’s firm and flat.
Now allow your body to relax. If you feel like stretching a little, go ahead.
Focus, with your eyes closed if you wish, and take a deep abdominal breath. When you inhale, feel it in your belly and fill your chest. Then exhale, let the air out from the chest. You can also exhale with your mouth. Do this five times.
Feel calm and at peace, relaxed.
Ask yourself what you want for the day – for yourself, your family, your friends, and perhaps for the world. Think about what matters to you the most. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What do you wish for?
- What do you want to let go of?
- Is there someone you want to forgive?
- What makes you happy?
- What words would you choose to live by?
- What fears do you want to banish?
- Is there something you would like to change specifically? Something you want to accomplish?
- And my favorite – what are you grateful for?
I also like to set a time frame if I have specific intentions to help me work actively towards it.
On days when I do not have specific answers, I let the questions be. I simply allow the following thoughts to fill my head as an affirmation:
- I will be mindful of my health.
- I will be conscious of my speech when I interact with others.
- I will connect via kindness, without being judgmental.
This is how I set the tone for the day.
At the end of the day, when I go to bed, I take a moment to reflect and review the events and conversations of the day. Was the day in alignment with my intentions, I ask myself. I try and pick a particularly good moment from the day, when I did something especially nice for someone. I take joy from that reflection. If there’s nothing to pick, that’s okay. I am glad I had positive intentions and that’s a great way to start the day.
Making this practice a habit helps us identify any gaps between our intention and action, the distance between what we aspire to do and what is. Reflection gives us the opportunity to close those gaps becoming aware, helping us be more mindful of how we want to live.
Intentions are a great way to look within ourselves and live with purpose. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life. When you get into the habit, you will be tuned to looking for the happy bits.
Do try it – I would love to hear your experience in the comments!