How to Set Intentions That Create Positive Life Changes

Jordan Tarver
November 8, 2021

Setting intentions puts purpose behind your actions, helping you align with your values and goals. The intentions you set demonstrate your commitment to taking action and showing up in the world as the person you want to be. By setting no intentions, you risk living a life that's unaligned with your most authentic version and losing a sense of direction. Imagine yourself living like that—deflating, to say the least.

What Are Intentions, and Why Is It Important to Set Them?

Intentions, or intention statements, are guiding principles that help you become the person you want to be in the world. They identify the energy, qualities, and habits you need to embody to become the best version of yourself.

Intentional living is essential to your personal growth. When you set intentions, you take control of the way you act by becoming selective with your choices to guarantee they inspire actions that manifest your desired reality. Living a life that lacks intentions is like driving to a new city without directions—who knows if the turns (actions) you take will get you closer to where you want to go (the person you want to be).

Related Reading:

To learn more about the importance of setting intentions to manifest your desired life, read my in-depth article explaining the power of intention and the positive ripple effect it can have throughout your life.

Intentions vs. Goals

Goals are measurable milestones that you can check off once completed—buying a car, building a million-dollar business, investing in a rental property. Intentions are ongoing guiding principles with no defined ending that remind you of how to show up in the world.

Goals and intentions work well on their own, but they become more powerful when combined together. For example, your goals are what you want to achieve (your desired destination) and your intentions (actions) become the roadmap to get you there.

How to Set Intentions In 6 Steps (& Fulfill Them)

There is magic in setting and writing intentions—they help you access more life by creating directions toward your best version on your journey of self-discovery

This means the longer you wait to set intentions, the longer your life waits to open up. Imagine yourself avoiding something that will instantly improve your life—don't work against your growth.

If you have desires that you've yet to satisfy, use these five steps to set intentions and create your roadmap. 

1. Identify Your Desire

Identifying your desire will guide the intention-setting process. Your desire can be anything—such as leading a healthy lifestyle, becoming more present, or manifesting the dream version of yourself—and will become your overarching intention statement. However, setting intentions and manifesting your life doesn't stop there—we're just getting started.

In addition to your desire, such as leading a healthy lifestyle, spend time identifying the reason behind it—or the "why."  Understanding the why will keep you deeply connected to your intention and serve as your North Star throughout your journey. Without identifying the why, your intention will lack purpose and you may drift away from doing the work.

2. Understand Who You Need to Become

To get what you desire and fulfill your intentions, you'll need to embrace qualities and build habits that may not currently be apart of your life. Take time to journal about the qualities and habits you'll need to fulfill your desire and intention. 

For example, let's say your overarching intention is to lead a healthy lifestyle. You would most likely need to exercise frequently, eat nutrient-rich foods, improve your sleep, and reduce any stress, among other potential habits. 

Not only will understanding who you need to become help you fulfill your intentions, but it will also help you set specific action steps that will make doing the work feel more effortless. Work smarter, not harder—you know the drill.

3. Set Action Steps

Actions steps are essential to fulfilling your intentions. Without them, your intentions will remain too general. For example, the intention to "lead a healthy lifestyle" can hold various meanings. For some, it may mean eating healthy and exercising, and for others, it may mean less social media and more time spent outside. You need to identify exactly how you'll lead a healthy lifestyle to fulfill your intention successfully.

Once you have your overarching intention, such as leading a healthy lifestyle, it's time to set a plan about when and where to act, also known as implementation intentions. This will build your road map. 

Based on the qualities and habits we identified in the previous section's example about leading a healthy lifestyle, some action steps—implementation intentions—could include:

  • Workout for X minutes every day at [TIME].
  • Shop for organic food every Sunday at [TIME].
  • Stop using my phone and watching TV X hours before bed.
  • Meditate for X minutes every day at [TIME}.

A study by Peter Gollwitzer, an NYU professor, demonstrates that people who write down action steps—or use implementation intentions—are more likely to achieve their goals and desires. So while you could stop after step one when you identify your overarching intention statement, you would only increase your chances of failure. And I'm assuming you'd prefer to not do that. 

4. Shift Any Self-limiting Beliefs

Intention-setting comes with a host of challenges. One common challenge is believing you're not capable of the intentions you set. For example, believing you can't lead a healthy lifestyle or implement the habits that will produce the best results.

These belief systems are also known as self-limiting beliefs, which hold you back from obtaining something you desire, whether that be a daily intention or a larger goal you're chasing. If you struggle in this area of life, focus on developing a positive mindset, which will help you expect the best possible outcome. 

Surrounding yourself with positive people and filling your mind with positive self-talk are among two of the most effective ways to achieve a positive mindset. Take action and discover more strategies below. 

Related Reading:

To learn more about achieving personal freedom through your outlook on life, read my in-depth article explaining how to develop a positive mindset using seven easy tips.

5. Commit to Your Daily Intentions

Setting your intentions and action steps is only one part of living an intentional life, you also have to commit to those intentions daily. Write them down on a piece of paper or post-it note where they're easily visible every morning as your gentle reminder. This will help you consistently fulfill your intentions and create the largest impact on your life.

If you choose to keep your intentions in your head and only remember to work on them every once in a while, expect to experience fewer results. When you put in half-assed work, you get half-assed results.

6 Tips for Setting Intentions

  1. Align your intentions with your future vision: When your intentions align with the person you want to become, you're more likely to become that person. Set intentions that support your journey of personal growth and becoming the best version of yourself.
  2. Use action steps to increase your success: Action steps will help create your roadmap. Without them, you may risk never fulfilling your intentions and reaping the power of intention setting. 
  3. Write down your intentions where you can see them: If you keep your intention statements in your head or written in a journal that's tucked away in your trusty junk drawer, I'll guarantee you'll fail more times than not. Put those suckers on a post-it note on your fridge or bathroom mirror where you'll be reminded every day of your intentions.
  4. Start small, then work your way up: When you're learning how to set intentions for the first time, start with one intention. The more you incorporate intention setting into your life, the easier you'll find it to set multiple intentions. But trust me—start with one.
  5. Share your intention with a friend or partner: If writing down your intention somewhere visible isn't enough, share it with a friend or partner to hold you accountable. Doing so also will help you understand you have deal to hold up.
  6. Meditate on your intention: Meditation is a quick way to center and ground yourself before starting your day. While you meditate, repeat your intention in your head to plant it into your subconscious mind.

Intention Examples

Intention statements vary from person to person, as all of our journeys are unique. However, we always can learn from other people's experiences to better our own—which means a list of intentions can help you.

Here are 10 powerful intention examples I've used in my life that you can use as inspiration: 

  1. Be more present
  2. Listen more attentively
  3. Spend less time on social media
  4. Create more time to connect with loved ones
  5. Be willing to help others who are in need
  6. Let go of the pressure I put on myself
  7. Lead my example
  8. Spend more undistracted moments with my partner
  9. Find and follow my interests
  10. Manifest achieving my dream life

Bottom Line

The point of setting intentions is to align your actions with your values and goals. And when you commit to writing intentions somewhere in plain sight, you're more likely to fulfill those daily intention statements. The five steps outline in this article can simplify setting intentions and manifesting your desired reality.


Jordan Tarver is a lead editor at Forbes, a keynote speaker, and the bestselling author of You Deserve This Sh!t.
He’s transformed over 30,000 lives through his book, amassed more than 200,000 devoted followers, and garnered over 60 million views online. Jordan is on a mission to empower people and organizations to unlock exponential growth and expansive possibilities.

Expand Your Mind
& Choose Change