Mind-Body Health

Set Intentions—Not Goals—for the Days Ahead

Woman looking at lake setting intentions

Setting intentions is not necessarily an easy task, but this deliberate and conscious act can help you create the life you want.

When I was six years old, I was on a mission to connect with the Universe. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was setting an intention to open my heart to the invisible force within. Without me knowing it, that force has been a co-creative mysterious dynamic in all my creative expressions. In fact, that energy runs through you as it does me, and it is the very substance that is in every intention and outcome.

Start with Your Intentions

Recently, I was teaching a student about intentions and manifestation. As described by Deepak Chopra in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: “Intention is the real power behind desire. Intent alone is very powerful because intent is desire without attachment to the outcome.” We paused to reflect on this statement, then began a discussion about this force of nature called intentions.

Did you know that everything that happens in your life starts with an intention? Whatever choice you make today originates with an intention—from calling your friend to scratching your head, you have an intention before you take action. Another way to think about intentions is that they are an energetic spark in you that fuels what you want. The sacred texts, Upanishads, speaks to: You are what your deep driving desire is. What that means is that your heart’s deepest desire has its own organizing force, when undeterred, manifests your desires. A Sanskrit term, sankalpa, from yoga philosophy that can be translated as a heartfelt desire that comes from deep within and has a powerful effect to help you align with your values to make a difference in your life and the lives of others.

Intentions Are Not Goals

Sometimes, intentions can be confused with goals. A goal is a personal need or want, whereas sankalpa connects you with your heart’s intention. A goal sounds like “I want abundance,” whereas intention sounds like “Abundance is my essential nature.”

By having a discussion about intentions, my student learned that intentions go beyond conventional ideas about setting goals. A goal’s aim is to fix something or find something that is missing. Intentions, on the other hand, speak to the fact that everything you are looking for out there is already within you and that all you have to do is join forces with it. If you could be in the here and now rather than in the past or future, you can align your mind with the co-creative force and have what you’re dreaming about.

Intentions Require Choice Among Distractions

Although setting intentions is a good idea, it can be harder than you might expect. You’ve probably noticed that when you are stressed out or tired, your mind overthinks. Your mind can get stuck on one track, going over the same stuff again and again. Then something happens and your mind is pulled away. Maybe it is the horn of your car or a big promotion—your mind doesn’t discriminate between one “noise” or another. It just goes to where the biggest disruption is.

This year has proven to be very disruptive. There is a confluence of energy with so many things coming at each and every one of us. All that produces a ton of anxiety. Your mind may fill with fears about the future.

  • What will the next four years look like?
  • When will this pandemic end?
  • What will happen to families and businesses?

These are normal responses to turbulent situations. Recent conversations in the mental health community have been about a growing fear on how to help the large number of people who are overwhelmed and anxious. Here is how you can help: Remember you have choices on how to respond to the world around you. Your choices will determine your future.

Your intentions are influenced by the culture of consciousness around you. It might be hard to sit down with a group of friends who might see things differently about the trajectory of where we are going in the next four years. You might be affected by their differing opinions and become absorbed in thinking: “How could they not see that?” or “What’s wrong with them?”

Our culture is triggered by the unconscious shadow side—the part that is not conscious but shows up as acts of self-righteousness, outrage, violence, and downright angst. It is toxic. You are going to resist it because it is outrageous, hateful, divisive, and insecure. Yet, these toxic qualities are the very substance that needs to transform in order for us to align with what we want for ourselves and future generations.

Your Intentions, Your Creations

At the moment, it speaks to the consciousness of our community and culture. When you become aware of this buried part in the collective consciousness, you have the power to choose how you will allow it to have expression and how you will be with it as it shows up. When you choose to act intentionally, when you share your purpose and mission, when you speak up, you are intentional about the world you want to live in.

This is the time to go inward and access your heart-space and remember that how you are feeling now will not last. You have a co-creative mysterious dynamic running through you in all your expressions. You can choose what you want—in the next weeks, months, and years—and decide what type of community, culture, and person you want to be. You have permission to choose how to share your purpose and express what your soul came here for. Remember your intention directly affects you but has a collective effect on the world around you.

If you haven’t already, find some time to listen to your heart’s deepest desire. Quiet your mind by going inward through breathwork and meditation. Give yourself permission to explore:

  • What is your intention for yourself?
  • What is your intention for your family and friends?
  • What is your intention for the type of world you want to live in?

Notice what arises without any judgment. Invite your sensations to speak to you and notice without second-guessing. Allow your intention to express itself as you notice what actions or steps you want take to manifest it. Before any experience occurs, there is an intention. Notice what you are creating today. As you find yourself in stressful times, choose your intentions and allow them to bring you closer to living your purpose for yourself and the world you live in.

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