Refresh Setting Your Intentions
Last year, we talked about the practice of setting intentions (and how it’s different from setting goals). There are many approaches to, and definitions of, an intention practice; you can also think of it as defining the purposes behind your actions. It’s a way to anchor to your core values, like compassion, connection, or good health. And setting intentions can help make clear those goals and choices for best living out those values—especially when life surprises us with things outside our control.
Just as check-ins are essential to the intention practice, we’re revisiting it here with more ways to stay grounded in your intentions. After all, as Deepak Chopra quotes from the Vedic texts of ancient India, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed [i.e. action]. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
Check in often with your intentions—and yourself
It may have been awhile since you’ve thought about the intentions you’ve set for health, relationships, or productivity. Regularly sitting down with your intentions is important for taking stock, re-centering, and staying committed. Not only that, going back to your intentions can also build self-awareness of our habits and actions. For example, an intention like “Treating others kindly” can fall to the wayside during hard days and stressful challenges. Checking in with that intention, and recognizing what gets in the way, can help you maintain that practice.
It’s also good to observe, without judgment, how you’re feeling during your check-in. Anxiety, stress, worry, depression, or fear all can draw us away from our intentions and weaken our ability to connect to our core values. Life may be rarely without struggle, but cultivating daily joy for yourself can boost your energy and sense of hope—which can help you recommit to your values and intentions.
Get quiet and breathe
Whether you meditate, pray, or just practice stillness, letting yourself sit quietly can calm the constant traffic of thoughts, memories, worries, and to-do lists. This stillness can clear the way for bringing core values and intentions to the surface. Some prefer a “moving meditation” like yoga or walking, both of which are also beneficial. But according to the app Headspace, the practice of being still and quiet with a slow breath has been shown to have profound benefits on mental health, physical health, and focus. For those interested in trying seated meditation, we offer some simple tips for getting started.
Make intentions positive, specific, and based on core values
The words we choose for ourselves are powerful. If your intention is phrased in a negative, like “don’t”, “avoid”, or “stop”, flip it into a positive statement. This can be a more effective approach for a couple of reasons. First, a negative phrase can imply criticism and/or judgment, which we can bring upon ourselves when we’re telling ourselves to stop doing “something we shouldn’t.” Second, positive intentions can be more effective because they’re focusing on the good thing we want to move towards or do more of. Because of how our brains receive negative commands, an intention like “Don’t think about pink elephants,” means we’re likely to still focus on them. Negative language is common and easy to miss, so phrasing intentions in the positive can be one way of staying aware of it.
Lastly, forming a blanket intention is a good start, like one about taking care of your health or nurturing relationships—but they’re easier to put into action when they’re specific and connect back to a core value. For example, when it comes to a health condition or concern, the intention behind it could sound like “I intend to support my body and feel as good as I can by making [this healthy action] a habit.” And for even something like a social event you’re nervous about, you could think about your core values on relationships, and you may come up with an intention like “I intend to stay open and present so I can connect to others.”
Approaching both daily and ongoing life with clear intention can help you light your path and stay on it when plans go awry. Find more of our resources for supporting and cultivating a healthy and joyful lifestyle in our full blog list.