How To Set Powerful Intentions (And Actually Stick To Them)
Intention setting is often misunderstood, but make no mistake: It can have a profound influence on your lived experience. After all, nothing in the universe exists in a vacuum.
Here, we unpack what intentions are, what sets them apart from goals or affirmations, and how to harness the power of what it is you intend to do or be, with the help of experts.
What is an intention?
Put plainly, an intention is a clear plan you set for your life. "Intentions help us take deliberate action, consciously choosing our direction, like aiming an arrow at a bull’s-eye," founder of Soul School Krista-Lynn Landolfi, MCC, tells mbg. "Once we set our intention, which includes what we want to do, and how we want to feel as we do it, our next best steps become clear."
Grounded in the present, intentions are often used as both an anchor and guiding post. Spiritually speaking, with every intention set, you send a signal to the universe about what you need or want. This is exactly why authenticity is crucial for intention setting—intentions are only powerful if they are true to your values and beliefs.
Why you should set intentions.
Setting intentions encourages you to take responsibility for how you experience your life.
"Our mind believes what we tell it," says Lanolfi. So, every time we set the intention to cultivate a certain quality, we open up our minds to believing that this is a quality we really can possess. And thanks to the brain's ability to adapt to our behaviors (hello, neuroplasticity), setting intentions can really work in our favor toward building a better life.
Of course, life is known for its chaotic and messy moments. But the more we practice setting intentions, the more in tune with ourselves we become. From there, we're able to make our next intentions that much more authentic and trust ourselves to navigate the chaos in all areas of our lives.
Think of the anxiousness to be quelled and the energy to be saved by consciously choosing to have your own back in this way.
Goals vs. intentions.
Intentions and goals are two distinct concepts that often work together. Intentions are personal commitments rooted in the present, fluid, and more concerned with your being. Goals are future-oriented and have more to do with doing.
"Goals seem to be very one-dimensional," says Terri Cole, LCSW. Intentions add some depth. They give us a reference point for how we'd like to spend the time in between now and when we actualize our goal or dream. Think about it this way: When you are in the driver's seat, goals are your destination. Intentions are the route you plan to take.
Whether that destination is to be a kinder person or to be a better cook is irrelevant. The ebb and flow of your intentions are really what matters. "Will you achieve all your goals in a spiral of chaos, crawling across the finish line, or will you move forward with grace, confidently completing each task, celebrating your progress, and thoroughly enjoying the journey?" asks Landolfi.
With your intentions set, you're ready to push your foot on the gas and start driving.
Examples of intentions.
Intentions for love:
- I will allow myself to take up space and be myself.
- I will consider my needs with respect.
- I intend to deepen the connection in my relationships.
- I choose to trust my feelings.
Intentions for manifesting:
- I move my body in ways that feel good.
- I hold space for my emotions.
- I choose to say yes to things that light me up.
- I invite joy into my life.
Intentions for the full moon:
- I will release what no longer aligns with me with this full moon.
- I choose to listen to my gut.
- I intend to hold myself with tenderness as I evaluate my life.
- I intend to give my mind and body time to rest before making big decisions.
Intentions for the new moon:
- I will be brave for this next chapter of my life.
- I intend to go with the flow as the universe provides for me.
- I choose to be open-minded toward new opportunities that come my way.
- I choose to trust myself on this new moon.
Intentions for the day:
- I intend to stay within the realm of responsibility to myself.
- I intend to listen actively before offering my opinion.
- I will give myself grace and practice gratitude.
- I choose to move through my day at a pace that feels good.
How to bring your intentions to life.
Once your intention is set, it's time to put it into practice. Here are some tips to help:
"What you think about, you bring about—in good and not-so-good ways," Cole tells mbg. Your thoughts matter and since any thought can be an intention, be mindful of the language you're using. Positivity is the way to go. Landolfi suggests crafting intentions with "I will," "I choose," or "I am" statements to add an empowering element.
"Activate" your intentions often.
"Find ways to activate your intentions throughout the day," suggests Landolfi. "This might look like pausing hourly to take a few slow, deep breaths, to fuel your intention of being calm and peaceful." There is plenty of time to chip away at that to-do list. The question is, how do you want to go about it?
Write them down.
Journaling is, hands down, one of the easiest ways to practice self-awareness and self-reflection. Every time you put pen to paper, you're channeling your innermost thoughts. If you're looking for a more visual way to revisit your intentions easily, "write your intention on a Post-it and put it on your bathroom mirror, car dashboard, your desk, refrigerator, or wherever it'll stand out," says Landolfi.
Stay true to yourself.
The best intentions are the ones that feel true to your values and beliefs. "Set intentions that excite you, feel possible, even when you know it'll take time to become reality, and that make you hopeful about the future you're creating," Landolfi tells mbg. It's much easier to stick to your intentions when you truly and authentically care about them.
Do the deeper work.
Possibly the biggest key to bringing your intentions to life is knowing yourself and knowing what obstacles you're putting in your own way. "The intention piece is important, but it's not that helpful if the psychological piece...goes untended to," Cole tells mbg. Embarking on deeper inner exploration, like shadow work, can help you set and stick to your intentions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you move an intention to action?
The best way to move intention into action is to know yourself enough to set yourself up (in terms of support, tools, accountability, etc.) for success.
What are good intentions to set daily?
Keep the intentions you set on a day-to-day basis grounded, realistic, and true to yourself. Envision how you'd like the day to go, and set intentions that support that vision.
How do you set intentions with crystals?
Start by choosing a crystal you connect with. Then, you'll want to cleanse the crystal of any negative energy it's holding before stamping it with your intention. (More details on working with crystals here!)
There is beauty in taking ownership of our lived experiences. Intention setting is a simple way to do just that. By releasing victimhood and reclaiming responsibility for our lives, we're able to experience a more mindful and fulfilled existence.
Alex Shea is a storyteller and generational healing life coach with words in Byrdie, Verywell Mind, HuffPost, Shape, and more. Outside of publications, Alex writes stories that touch on, and sometimes intertwine, themes of grief and magic.
With a unique view on life, she taps into her own experiences to guide folks to live life for themselves, empowering them to explore their inner wild and find their own way in adulthood. Her weekly newsletter is a tiny way she furthers her mission to hold space for the unfathomable, romantic, and messy parts of life that make it that much more beautiful.