Intention Setting 101

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An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to be, live, and show up in the world—during meditation, yoga or any area of your life. Ask yourself, what matters most to you? Your answer could form a powerful intention, for which you can align your thoughts for your meditation—and the intention doesn’t need to stop when the meditation ends. It can then guide your actions as you move through your day.

At the beginning of every yoga class, most teachers ask you to set an intention. But that’s it, they often leave you hangin’ from there. Before I learned what an intention was, I set intentions to sweat, to work my core, and to go to yoga five times a week.

But an intention shouldn’t be confused with a goal—it’s not something you attach an expectation or evaluation to. It’s just something you want to align with in your life. It’s an aim, a purpose, or attitude you’d be proud to commit to.

Intentions must come from your heart, they are not the tangible “lose 10 pounds” or “get that promotion” kind of goals that you set. They are heart-driven and evoke feeling and purpose, like “practice being non-judgmental of myself and of others,” “send love out to the world,” “open my heart,” and “let go of fear…” Setting an intention is a way to bring your heart and mind into alignment.

Why Set Intentions?

Setting an intention before your meditation, yoga practice, or even your day can be a powerful practice because it’s the first step to embodying that which you want. Wayne Dyer said, “Our intention creates our reality.” And how many times have you heard “What you think, you become,” or “Thoughts become things”?

If you’re focusing your mind on a specific intention during a meditation, you are bringing it to your focused mind, your thoughts, your heart … and in turn helping to bring it into reality.

How to Set an Intention

Your intention should be closely tied to your personal thoughts, values and perspective on life. Intentions can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase you’d like to align yourself with, like “open your mind and heart,” “love,” “softness,” “strength,” “compassion for myself and others,” “peace,” or “freedom.” Try to keep the intention positive, so instead of saying “stop being a coward,” or “spend less time alone,” choose the intentions, “be courageous” or simply, “community”.

Here are some thought-starters to help you get started in forming an intention:

  • What matters most to you?
  • What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?
  • What would you like to let go of?
  • Who would you like to forgive in your life?
  • How do you feel when you are your happiest self?
  • What makes you proud?
  • What word(s) would you like to align yourself with?
  • What fears would you like to release?
  • What are you grateful for?

10 Intentions You Can Borrow

  1. Find balance
  2. Open your mind and heart
  3. Peace
  4. Stay steady, calm and focused
  5. Act with courage
  6. Embrace change
  7. Give and receive love
  8. Allow yourself to be vulnerable
  9. Connect with others
  10. Love

You can borrow one of these if it resonates with you, but try to create something personal for yourself.

Intentions Put to Practice

Silently stating your intention at the beginning of your meditation or yoga practice won’t be enough. You must revisit it often and when needed. Call it to the center of your mind when you need a guide or feel frazzled. Intentions are a wonderful way to help you stay grounded and reconnect with what matters most.


“Intentions compressed into words enfold magical power.”
~Deepak Chopra

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About 

Melissa is a yoga and meditation teacher, as well as a content strategist and writer. She created Mindful Minutes to bridge her two worlds, and offer practical, relatable anecdotes and tips on how to bring mindfulness into the busy lives of the digital age. Her intention is to share what she’s learned, and continues to learn, about overcoming her own challenges with meditation, mindfulness, and life balance while maintaining a challenging schedule and career. Learn more about Melissa’s intention of Mindful Minutes here.

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8 thoughts on “Intention Setting 101

  1. Dear sir
    What is different between an intention and affirmations please ?

    Thanks
    Saaid

    • Hi Saaid, To me, affirmations can feel a little forced. For example, sometimes I don’t authentically feel “I am a powerful.” or “I am brave” or “I am financially abundant” and practicing that affirmation feels insincere. I like intentions because they offer a mood or emotion that I resolve to align myself with. This feels more active to me. It’s a slight distinction, but I hope that helps!

  2. Is there a ritual that you go through when setting an intention to really ground it in yourself? Also, how do you keep the intention alive? Do you repeat it or them everyday?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Carmen, Thank you for you thoughtful question. I don’t really have a formal ritual for when I set an intention, although that is a great idea. I usually close my eyes and take a few deep breaths as I feel the intention rooted in my heart space. I think repeating it daily prior to meditation is also a great idea to keep it alive. :)

      • Hi Melissa,

        Thank you for your response. You speak of setting intentions for a meditation or a yoga practice. Do you have overarching intentions that are guideposts for your life? Some people will call these guideposts values. How are larger, overarching intentions different from values? Or, simply, how are intentions different from values?

        Thank you,
        Carmen

        • Hi Carmen,

          Thanks for your continued interest! Yes, I set intentions at the beginning of each year, and often they are the same or similar year over year. These are similar to what you describe as values. I think they can be the same, but I also think you can get more specific with an intention, and tailor it to specific domains in your life, as in, an intention specific to your relationship, spirituality, family, etc. Does that makes sense? But overall, I agree that they are quite similar to guidepost values. :) ~Melissa

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