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  • Writer's pictureKatie Lewis

Setting Supportive Intentions

For the better part of my time on this planet, I operated on auto-pilot. I made most of my decisions based on what was easiest, I dodged most challenges because I tend to be conflict-avoidant, and I stayed in my comfort zone because it was...comfortable. That is, until a life-changing event shook me to my core. My life had changed, and I didn't know what to make of it. The turn of events, and the subsequent hours of therapy, reflection, and mindfulness practice, changed my perceptions of what I was capable of, changed what I valued, and changed how I defined myself.

Along the way, I learned how to set positive intentions for myself -- ones that supported what I wanted, what I valued, and my morphing sense of who I was. Setting intentions can take many shapes. You can set larger, more overarching intentions for your life or smaller, more focused intentions for your day. Either way, your intentions should be driven by what you value.

setting intentions

5 Guidelines to Setting Intentions

As a general rule, follow these guidelines to set an intention. Whether the intention you're setting is more simple or more complex, these steps can be supportive as you're figuring out how to begin:

  1. Be specific. The more precise you are, the more likely you will be to follow through on your intention.

  2. Set your intention. Writing it down or saying it aloud can help you commit. Depending on how long-term the intention is meant to serve you, you might even write it on a sticky note and place it somewhere you find yourself multiple times throughout the day (bathroom mirror, nightstand, refrigerator, vehicle dashboard). Regular exposure to your commitment will help you follow through. Here are a few examples:

    1. I intend to recognize my partner when they do something I'm grateful for.

    2. I intend to walk my dog for at least 10 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

    3. I intend to remind myself 2 things I'm grateful for while I'm brushing my teeth.

  3. Commit. Notice that each of the examples above are actionable. That is, there's a prompt for each (when I notice, at least...on Monday's, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 2 things...while I'm brushing my teeth). Consider silently (or out loud) holding yourself accountable: "I value this intention. I'm will do this."

  4. Congratulate yourself any time you show up for your intention. Thank yourself or commend yourself any time you show up.

    1. This doesn't work for me, but I've heard of some folks filling a jar for quantifying small wins: Fill a jar with a bunch of any small object -- paperclips, stones, marbles. Have a separate, empty, jar next to it. Each time you have a small win (and/or each time you follow through on your intentions), move one of the objects to the empty jar. As you see the empty jar filling up, there's visible progress of your work.

  5. Refresh your intentions as needed.

    1. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of an old intention; sometimes we no longer need the reminder of a past intention and a new one might serve us better. As you notice these shifts happening, take inventory and add, remove, or replace as you see fit.

As we grow, change, and age, or values change, taking shapes we never before considered. Setting intentions that support and honor our current selves is incredibly beneficial for both us and those we love and care about.

What's something that's been bothering you that you might set an intention to change? Is there something you've been hoping to try you could set an intention for? Is there a habit or routine that if added to your day could be supportive?

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