Do you ever have those days where you feel like you’re drifting aimlessly? Or days where you feel stuck? Where you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, making any progress, or doing the things you really want to be doing?
Intentional living, or living in alignment with our values, isn’t always straightforward.
Not only are there plenty of distractions to steer us off-course, but it can be so easy to slip into autopilot mode and drift aimlessly, leaving us feeling lost, frustrated or unfulfilled.
But there is a quick and simple activity we can do each day to help keep us aligned and on track – it’s setting daily intentions.
Setting daily intentions is a powerful way of keeping us grounded and connected with our values. It helps us to align our focus, energy and actions with who we want to be and the life we want to live.
In this post, I’ll look at what daily intentions are, how to set them, and how setting daily intentions can improve our well-being.
What are intentions?
Broadly speaking, intentions are what we want to do, or how we want to be.
They are the actions or behaviours that we’ve identified as being important to us.
When we set an intention we make a commitment to ourselves. A commitment to do a certain thing or behave in a certain way.
Here are a few examples:
I intend to go for a walk today
I intend to put forward my ideas at this afternoon’s meeting
I intend to stay calm in the face of frustration today
I intend to speak to myself and others with kindness today
I intend to make time for fun today
Our intentions reflect how we want to show up in the world.
They reflect how we want to act – how we want to respond to people, situations, and challenges.
We can look at an intention as a guiding principle. A reminder to ourselves to stay true to what it is we want or need.
How are intentions different to goals?
Goals are great. They give us focus and the motivation to move forward. Achieving goals boosts our self-esteem and help us feel accomplished.
Goals (specifically SMART goals) are specific and measurable and have a destination or endpoint. You know whether you have achieved a goal or not.
Intentions relate more to our daily behaviours and the actions that we take to reach our goals.
Here’s a couple of examples:
You feel frustrated by an unfinished task on your to-do list. So you decide your intention for the day will be focus. Your actions that day then reflect your intention to stay focused and resist distractions. You use a timer, you put your phone out of reach, and you close all the open tabs on your laptop. You resist distractions and you get on with the task.
You feel sluggish after a busy week without exercise. So you decide your intention for the day will be to boost your energy. Your actions that day then reflect your intention. You drink more water, you take regular breaks, you eat nourishing snacks, and you go outside for a walk in the fresh air.
Intentions help us focus on what needs to be done or what we want to do. They help us consider the kind of actions and behaviours that will help us get there.
They also help us pinpoint how we want to BE while we’re on that path towards our goal.
For example, we might choose to be focused, grateful, open, present, self-compassionate, kind, confident, calm, or fun. Our intentions reflect our underlying values – what’s important to us.
How to set daily intentions
Our intentions are as individual as we are. There aren’t any hard and fast rules on the best way to set them, however, here are a few tips to get you started.
- Setting your daily intention needn’t take much time – a few minutes is all you need.
- Try to set your daily intention in the morning, when you have a few moments of quiet to yourself. Perhaps when you first wake up. Or when you are in the shower. Or maybe over your first cup of tea or coffee.
- Write down your daily intention. Writing things down is powerful. Research shows that writing down our goals and aspirations makes it more likely we’ll achieve them.
Why? Because the act of writing has a positive impact on our brain – helping us to keep our intentions upper-most in our mind. This is because writing enhances the brains encoding process – where our brain analyses what information is put into our long-term memory.
There is also the ‘generation effect.’ Scientists have shown that you will more easily remember things you have generated yourself (in other words, written yourself) than things that you have only seen or read.
- Your planner or journal is a good place to record your daily intention. Or you could write it on a post-it to stick to your computer.
- Try sticking your intention over your phone screen. This is a great strategy if your intention is to stay focused and resist distractions!
- You might prefer to write one word, a couple of words, or a sentence. Or you could change it up each day, depending upon how you feel.
- Set some reminders to check in with yourself at certain points during the day to reflect on your intention.
I like to think of my daily intention as a guide. It gently nudges me in the right direction when I find myself off track, lacking focus or feeling overwhelmed.
How do daily intentions boost our well-being?
One of the best things about setting a daily intention is that it helps us to regularly pause and check in with ourselves and our needs.
Setting a daily intention helps us tune in to how we are feeling. We can then respond to that specific need rather than launching into our day on autopilot mode.
When we are tuned into how we are feeling we can create our daily intention according to our energy levels, our needs, and our desires.
Daily intentions also help to keep us grounded in the present. They can help us stop ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
Setting an intention gets us out of autopilot mode. Intentions help us to focus on what’s happening now and help us make purposeful choices and decisions in our day. They help us to make choices that are aligned with our values – who we are, how we want to be, and the life we want to live.
So to recap, taking a few moments in the morning to set a daily intention is definitely time well spent.
Setting daily intentions helps us live more intentionally, where we live in alignment with our values, make progress towards our goals and ultimately feel more grounded, fulfilled and happier.