How to set intentions so they actually work
Nothing works faster to create meaningful change in your life than a solid intention.
An intention is something that focuses your energy toward a desire.
It’s a way of inviting the universe to guide you there in a way that will surpise and delight you.
It’s less specific than a goal, but this is where intentions can lose their power, too. It’s easy to set it and forget it, but then your intention never has a chance to shift your life.
Don't worry. Today I'll share how to set intentions so you can use them to initiate magnificent changes.
But first, a story:
A few years ago, I was in a really negative mindspace. I felt really sad, wasn’t sure what to do with my life, hated where I lived, and had no idea how to change anything.
I was so committed to hating my life that it felt hard to find the space to shift.
But I set the intention to be more grateful, and held that intention for 30 days.
Once each day, I wrote a list of things I was grateful for, and throughout the day, anytime I noticed myself complaining or being really negative, I found something to be grateful for.
This transformed my life in just 30 days.
Since I was no longer focusing on all the things I didn’t have, I began to see wasted opportunity everywhere.
Instead of saying no to life's invitations, I started saying yes.
All those yeses eventually led here: to a business based on my truest gifts — Soul Scroll Journals, which offers guided journals so people can understand themselves.
Had my desires not been focused, centered instead on a vague desire to improve my life, I wouldn’t have created change as quickly as I did.
The secret of change is focus — selecting the next right thing, getting really clear on the changes you want to make, setting the intention, and focusing on that intention until you’ve achieved your goal.
If you feel like: I want to change this and this, and oh, I want to do that, too— you won't do anything.
Maybe that sounds harsh, but most people don’t create change simply because they’re all over the place and not focused.
It can feel hard to limit yourself to a singular point of focus, but you can always move on to the next thing once you’ve achieved the first.
One thing at a time. That’s how you create lasting change. And this is why intentions are so powerful.
The strategy outlined below comes from the Play with the Day yearly goal journal.
This magical book helps you not only set monthly goals and intentions, but keeps you connected to those intentions each and every day throughout the month.
If you're ready to create meaningful change in your life, Play with the Day is a magnificent tool to support your journey.
Before revealing my step-by-step process of how to set intentions, a quick note:
What is the difference between goals and intentions?
Goals tend to be specific while intentions are more about direction.
A goal is “work out three times a week,” while an intention is, “take better care of my body,” or, “learn to receive.”
Goals tend to be about specific outcomes while intentions are about ways of being we want to invite into our lives.
Intentions are invitations for the universe to surprise and delight us.
A lot of times when I set an intention, it’s because I’m feeling frustrated and powerless over something with no idea how to shift.
When I set an intention, I’m asking the universe to help me find a path I'm having trouble finding on my own.
My thoughts will need to change. Uncomfortable emotions will likely stir to the surface to be felt and released. My actions will need to change.
When you set an intention, be prepared to transform into an eager student as the universe guides you on an incredible adventure that will rearrange every cell of your being.
How to set intentions so they actually work:
1. Get clear on a positive focus — something you want rather than something you don't.
Always, always focus on what you want. Whatever you focus on expands. If you focus on what you don't want, you'll create more of that.
Rather than “stop spending so much time on social media,” think about, “finding positive new ways to spend my time.”
If you’re not sure what intention to set, here are a few journal prompts to help. Trust what comes out! The first thing that comes up is usually the best thing.
Each month in the Play with the Day goal journal, you review the previous month before writing down what you’re grateful for and what you most desire in the month to come.
These journaling exercises will help you pick the best goals and intentions for your personal growth in the month ahead.
But it’s important to get clear and commit to the process rather than being wishy washy and flaking out on yourself.
That’s not how you create change.
Decide. Commit. Keep going.
2. Commit to a length of time for working with this intention.
I recommend working with intentions for one month.
It takes time for an intention to work its magic, to sift through all the dense layers of your being in opposition to it.
This process requires time and repetition — especially if you’re shifting something that’s really ingrained.
That inner sense of commitment is what transforms an intention from something cute and fuzzy to a fiery catalyst for change.
Play with the Day yearly goal journal is set up to help you both set a monthly intention and stay connected to it for the whole time.
Do the work; reap the rewards.
3. Recommit to your intention every day.
I like to reconnect during my morning ritual. My goal journal is by my side as I reflect on my vision and goals while reconnecting to my monthly intention.
Play with the Day allows me to have my soul's deepest insights and desires next to me in tangible form all day long.
We have to emotionally commit to the intention, put our hearts into it, let it change us, and re-commit every day until we’ve created the change we desire.
This is why each weekly habit tracker spread in the Play with the Day journal includes space to write your weekly focus and monthly intention.
I wanted to give you a simple way to look at your intention each and every day, to allow it to teach you what you need to release in order to welcome in new blessings.
This is how you create sustainable change. Little sips all day rather than chugging 8 glasses of water each morning.
4. Let your intention teach you by checking in. Ask: Does what I'm thinking / doing align with my desire?
If not, what do you need to do differently?
When you commit to a change, you’re not entirely sure what will need to change. But along the way, you notice —
Wow, that thought isn’t in alignment with where I’m going.
Holy shit, no wonder why I’m struggling. This thing I do doesn’t align with my intention at all.
Your intention is a point of awareness by which everything else you do becomes a contrast.
This is another reason why having your monthly intention and weekly focus with you all day long in the Play with the Day journal will help you solidify the new life you're building as you learn how to set intentions.
It’s in that contrast you become aware of what needs to release or change so you can create the life you want.
This is why you need to recommit every day, keeping your attention in the forefront of your mind, or at least reflecting on it once a day.
This is also why it's best to focus on one thing at a time.
5. Stay open to insights and inspired actions. Do the thing that feels different!
This is the magical part of learning how to set intentions — where the universe literally does guide you on an adventure beyond anything you could have planned.
The intention will work its magic by supplying you with insights, epiphanies and action steps as you release fear and pain to trust in something greater.
Anything is possible. Your focus has created specificity in the infinite field of possibility, and your commitment is ensuring you're staying with it long enough to be renewed.
Take the actions. Let yourself change!
6. Don’t beat yourself up. Trust the process!
A lot of times making a commitment to change something illuminates all the things keeping you from it, or all your bad habits, flaws and insecurities.
This is a GOOD thing. These things are coming up so they can be honored and released, or at least accepted and wrapped in love.
Beating yourself up about the past or things outside of your control only reinforces any fear-based beliefs blocking you from living in a way that truly honors you.
Simply accept yourself and life’s challenges. Trust that everything is happening for the highest good. Allow yourself compassion. Invite in a wider universal perspective. Ask for help! It’s always there.
But also! — DO NOT MAKE EXCUSES.
I’m really bad about this when it comes to being in bed by 11:30 p.m. (I have a dangerously effective habit hack for even the most stubborn habits like this I can share later.)
Those nights when I’m still up at midnight, the excuses start rolling in. I have to stop myself and say — there will ALWAYS be an excuse. But I can’t accept that. I’m either in bed by 11:30 or I’m not.
And if I want to make that change, which I do, I can’t accept anything less than success.
As they say, you can have either excuses or results, but you can’t have both.
I choose results! What about you?
Here is a list of intentions you might like to play with:
What is your intention for this month or year? Share below!
If you'd like support to set monthly intentions and goals, plus track habits to create a meaningful, lasting shift in your life, the Play with the Day yearly goal journal is a magnificent tool to help you do just that.
Happy New Year!
All the love,
Founder, Soul Scroll Journals
Thank you so very much this really really helped me!
I am looking forward to building a more positive mindset because my brain has fallen into the habit of making an automatic negative response in all situations of life no matter what the topic is. I am working to change this habit of mine since this has turned out to affect my health too. I have decided not to ignore such things and rather focus on changing it to a positive outcome. Thank you for reminding us that we can and we should trust ourselves first. That, we are greater than our problems are, no matter how big they may seem. Thank you for this Journal ma’am.
My intention is to clear out all the paper clutter in my house and set up a working home management center
Pray for your honest intentions and God will guide you always. If you feel down let HIM be your guide at the side.
Could you please share/expand upon your comment about your “ dangerously effective habit hack” for going to bed at 11:30? I’m struggling with bedtime routines. Thank you!