Does the phrase “be intentional” sound just like a nice platitude that’s designed for coffee mugs? Or maybe you can picture the phrase “set your intention” with a peaceful natural background as a shareable Instagram story or on Pinterest.
I used to think that being intentional and setting intentions was overrated. It seemed like a phrase people said all the time that lacked any real meaning or that no one actually put into action. But I quickly learned that setting intentions brings a sense of purpose and peace that can be the key to navigating life’s stressors. And better yet, setting an intention can be the bridge between where you are now and where you long to be in life.
In this article, I will help you put the phrase “be intentional” into action with steps that you can use to create intentions that produce tangible results.
What is an intention?
The word intention is thrown around so loosely that it can be easy to wonder what it actually means at the end of the day.
Research analyzing the beliefs, goals, actions, and intentions of individuals has come to define an intention as a “choice with commitment”. Essentially, an intention is a mindful decision that is then followed up with action reflecting that decision.
So when we set an intention, we are not just making a decision. We are committing to that decision with our actions.
A few years ago, I remember setting an intention of wanting to be more patient. And while it’s nice to aspire to be better and develop these attributes, I never fully committed to the intention. I would quickly become irritated with my husband when I found his dirty dishes on the office desk or I would snap at a co-worker when I was hungry at work.
So you could argue that I wasn’t really being intentional because the motive was there, but the action behind the motive was lacking. I think it’s critical to recognize the action piece that has to follow the setting of the intention because without that the intention is often null and void.
Benefits of setting intentions
Setting intentions does so much more than just giving you a goal to work towards. It can literally be a foundation upon which you can find meaning and joy in life.
A study in 2007 found that individuals who were intentional about their reasons for living and their purpose in life were less likely to be stressed, depressed, and suicidal. No one wants to live in a state of stress and depression. Setting intentions can be a tool to help keep you grounded and happy no matter what life throws your way.
Another study found that elderly individuals who were more purposeful in their day-to-day life had extended longevity relative to their peers. It’s as though being intentional is the gift that keeps on giving.
5 ways to set an intention
Now that you’re ready to reap all the benefits of setting intentions, let’s explore steps you can take to easily set intentions and incorporate them into your daily routine.
1. Choose a mantra
One of my favorite ways to set an intention is to choose a mantra. The reason I love this option is that you can fall back on this mantra throughout your day to remind you of your intention.
One mantra that I use day in and day out currently is, “Be where your feet are.” With this intention, I am aiming to be more present in the moment.
I struggle with anxiety and getting caught up in all that I have to do throughout the day. Repeating this mantra helps draw me to the connection with my feet and to simply be where my feet are.
I repeat this phrase anytime I walk through the door at work and when I walk through the door at home. It has helped me immensely to become more aware of not letting my mind wander and get the best of my emotions.
Choose a simple phrase that you can easily remember and that has deep meaning for you. The more you repeat the mantra the more you will internalize the words and your actions will follow suit.
2. Create daily goals
Another easy way to set intentions is to create daily intentions or goals each morning as a part of your morning routine.
I use my planner and I choose one intention a day to not overwhelm myself. For example, I will set an intention of making eye contact and smiling at each person I interact with that day. On other days my intention looks something like showing my body love by setting an intentional bedtime that allows for 8 hours of sleep.
Setting a daily intention can be something a bit less practical as well. You can set an intention of showing more love or kindness to yourself. It doesn’t matter what your intention looks like as long as it’s meaningful to you.
By setting daily intentions, you can assure that each day you are living in a way that is mindful of the day ahead and respecting the time available to you within that day.
3. Reflect on your intention daily
If you are the kind that likes to set big lofty intentions for the year or one intention to direct your life course, then it’s vital that you find a way to reflect on the intention daily.
One year ago I set an intention by using the word “trust”. My intention was to trust that life was working out for me, not against me, so that I could let go of the need to be in control of everything.
For the first few weeks of the year, I really took my intention to heart. But as time passed, I found my anxious ways creeping back in and I lost sight of my intention.
I ended up creating a system in which I reflected on what actions had happened that day that had shown me that I could trust. I then reflected on how I could better show my trust in the world the following day. This system of reflection allowed me to create an intention that actually allowed me to reap the benefits instead of setting the intention and forgetting about it until I went to set the next year’s goals and intentions.
4. Make it visible
If you are anything like me, you are better able to remember things when they are right in front of your face. I’m the kind who needs things written in all caps and bolded to get my attention. This is why one way of setting an intention is to make your intention or the cue for the intention visible.
Remember the “be where your feet are” mantra that I rely on? I say it over and over again throughout my day and use doorways as a cue, but I take it one step further. I wrote this intention on a sticky note and have it plastered on my bathroom mirror and even have it set as the background on my phone.
Now, I know that I am quick to forget my own intentions, so by reminding myself of my intention with cues I am able to re-center myself and incorporate that intention that is reflected by my actions each and every day.
5. Write it out
Another way to set an intention is to create a practice of writing out your intentions repeatedly. It can literally be as simple as writing it to reinforce it in your brain.
I had a roommate in PT school who would wake up every day and write the statement, “I am love. I can handle everything ahead of me.” She literally had a notebook that just said this statement over and over again.
At first, I found it a little odd. But once I had a discussion with her and saw how it affected her attitude and emotions, I became convinced it was a useful practice that could help promote inner peace and help you navigate the way you interact with the world.
Maybe you write the same intention repeatedly like my roommate or maybe you choose new ones each day. The act of interacting with your intentions and forcing your brain to focus on the intention is where I am convinced the true benefit lies.
💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, we've condensed the information of 100's of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇
Download Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet!
Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 instant tips for your mental health.
Don’t let “be intentional” simply be a phrase that you ignore on your coffee mug. Use the steps in this article to set personal and meaningful intentions that can shift your entire life experience for the better. With a little practice, you will come to realize that intentions are like the fairy dust that’s available to us all that helps us access our own inner magic each day.
Do you believe in the power to set intentions? What's your favorite tip on how to set an intention? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!