It’s easy to lose a sense of direction, even when you set goals. However, you can hold onto your sense of direction and live aligned with your values by setting intentions. Intentions demonstrate how you want to show up in the world and help you take action. If you ignore the power of intention, you may fall off track and live out of alignment, leading to a frustrating life.
Intentional living gives you the power to put purpose behind your choices and actions, ensuring they align with your journey. This one of the three pillars of self-discovery, which is the framework I teach in my book, You Deserve This Sh!t. If you’ve lost your sense of direction and want to find your path, get your copy below.
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What Does Intention Mean?
The definition of intention, in the most simple terms, is an aim or plan. Intentions represent who you want to be, what impact you wish to create, and your commitment to carrying out an action—whether at home, work, in a relationship, or for yourself. The power of intention lies within your willingness to become intentional.
When you are intentional, you become selective with your choices and actions, making sure they always align you with your values, goals, and beliefs. Living in this alignment gives you the greatest opportunity to become the best version of yourself, shape your reality, and experience the power of intention.
Why Is Intention Important?
Intentions are the roadmap to the person you want to become. They can help clarify what you need to do and how you need to show up every day to arrive at your desired destination.
Setting intentions enhances your emotional energy and mindset, which then has a positive impact on your physical energy—the way you act. When you focus on being intentional, you’ll inspire actions that let you live with purpose, achieve your goals, and become the person you dream of being. However, if you avoid an intentional life, you risk becoming someone who’s unaligned with their most authentic self.
Daily Intentions: Using the Power of Intention to Impact Your Life
Understanding what intention means is only the first half of gaining a sense of direction and creating a personal roadmap to who you want to become—the second half is setting daily intentions. While it may seem easier to set monthly or weekly intentions, it’s not effective. Because life’s chaos and unpleasantness can take us off track at any moment, it’s crucial to set daily intentions to help you stay on course.
Setting intentions is a practice commonly done in the morning, often while journaling. To set an intention, write down what you intend to accomplish through your actions—you can reinforce your intentions by repeating them out loud. Here are some examples of intention statements:
- I intend to let go of emotions that don’t serve me.
- I intent to show kindness toward others.
- I intend to manifest happiness naturally.
- I intend to be more preset with my family and/or spouse.
- I intend to follow my interests.
Example of the Power of Intention
Your reality and the outcome of your life is directly related to your intentions. While this may sound ludicrous, it’s completely true: Your choices empower you, and the way you act creates varying results.
For example, think about it in terms of painting. The blank canvas represents your life and the paint colors represent your intentions. Depending on the color of paint you choose (the intentions you set), you’ll shift the outcome of what’s painted on your canvas (the trajectory of your life).
Studies Prove the Power of Intention
Several highly-acclaimed studies prove that intentions increase your performance. One study comes from Peter Gollwitzer, an NYU professor, and another comes from the University of Bath in England.
While both of these studies relate to achieving specific goals, you can apply the guiding principle to your daily intentions, making them more specific and likely to happen. Let’s first dive into each study.
Gollwitzer ran a study to show how your intentions play a role in achieving your goals. In this study, his student were asked to set two goals for the upcoming Christmas break. Half of the students were then asked to write down specific action steps while the others were not.
This study found that of the students who wrote down an action plan, two thirds of them achieved their goal. Most of those who did not write down a plan, or set intentions, failed.
University of Bath Study
Sarah Milne, Sheina Orbell, and Paschal Sheeran from the University of Bath ran a similar study in 2001. Over the course of two weeks, they worked with 248 people to build better exercise habits and separated them into three groups:
- Group one was the control group. They were asked to track how often they exercised.
- Group two was the motivation group. Researches asked them to read material on the benefits of exercise in addition to tracking how often they exercised.
- Group three not only tracked their exercise frequency and read material on the benefits of exercise, but they were also asked to create a specific plan outlining when and where they would workout. Their plan would follow a specific format: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].”
The results were eye-opening. Of the first and second groups, 35% to 38% of people exercised at least once per week. This means the motivational material didn’t inspire more work than those who didn’t read this material in group one. However, 91% of group three, the intentional group, exercised at least one time per week. This is more than double of groups one and two.
From both of these studies, which measured similar factors, we can conclude that writing down an exact plan and setting intentions led to better results.
The sentence group three wrote down is known as an implementation intention—a plan you make about when and where to act. In the most simple terms, the format of an implementation intention is “Whenever situation X arises, I will initiate response Y.”
While these studies focus on building habits to achieve a goal, you can use this same concept when setting daily intentions, even if those intentions don’t relate to a larger goal.
How to Use Implementation Intentions to Your Advantage
While you learned how to set daily intentions earlier, the examples were broad to help you understand more easily. However, now knowing about implementation intentions, let’s re-evaluate the original intention statements to make them specific. The idea is to identify a cue and response.
- I intend to let go of emotions that don’t serve me > When I am triggered by an emotion, I will say to myself, “I let go of this emotion.”
- I intent to show kindness toward others. > When I exit a door before someone else, I will hold the door open for them.
- I intend to manifest happiness naturally. > When I am feeling down, I will choose to do something that makes me happy.
- I intend to be more preset with my family and/or spouse. > When I am with my family, I will put my phone away and listen attentively.
- I intend to follow my interests. > When I wake up, I will make sure I do at least one thing I’m interested during the day.
Intention-based Tips From the Studies
- Set your intentions early on: If there’s an action you want to take or a goal you want to achieve, set your intentions in advance—don’t wait until the last minute. Setting your intentions early on primes your mind and environment to act when the specific cue comes up, such as holding the door open for someone after you enter or exit before them.
- Get specific when setting intentions: Specificity increases the likelihood of an action taking place. Instead of intending to be more present with your family, intend to put your phone away when you’re around them. This gives you a specific cue and response, leading to you fulfilling your intention.
- Focus on intentions, not only goals, to achieve success: Goals create a vision, but without intentions, there is no roadmap guiding you toward your desired destination. Using implementation intentions can help you achieve your goals and success.
- Use obvious cues that are current habits: When setting implementation intentions, choose a cue that is automatic. For example, if you want to make your bed every day but don’t drink coffee often, the cue shouldn’t be you making a cup of coffee. Choose something that happens every day without fail.
To experience the power of intention, you must be specific with your intentions and ensure they align you with your values and beliefs. This will help propel you on your journey of self-discovery and becoming the best version of yourself. Use implementation intentions to help you utilize the power of intention in your life.