Intentional living—the phrase has such a nice and satisfying ring to it, eh?
I know from personal experience that when I set intentions, I am more focused through my day. My intentions motivate me to do all that I’ve planned, and I forge ahead enthusiastically. This is especially true for our daily routine, when we start the day with a clear mind. With all of us juggling our own special to-do lists and trying to win the race against time, I believe that setting intentions can help us live easier lives.
During my childhood, my Mom enjoyed quoting quotes. And of course, she had her own personal gems of wisdom to impart. One of these was “we must live with purpose,” and that’s probably how setting intentions became a matter of routine for me. It changed my life.
First, let’s define intentions. Intentions are the blueprint of how we want to live, keeping in mind what matters most to us. When we set intentions, our thoughts are aligned with our actions, and our minds, with our hearts.
You may be wondering: if I am motivated enough to take action, isn’t that enough? Not really. Motivation has to be combined with intention. What’s the difference? Motivation is the reason we do something, while intention is the purpose with which we set goals. Intention helps us stay on the right track, setting the tone for our actions.
When I set intentions, I know what to do.
They help me recognize what I want, and tune my efforts towards accomplishing them. Intentions then turn into reality, or rather, thoughts become things. Easy, eh?
I remember when my son was little, and school summer vacation started, we would ask him, “what’s your agenda for the day?” and he would laboriously make a long list of intentions, including all the routine bits like bathing, eating, you-know-whats, sleeping at 9 and so on. Whether he actually followed it is a different matter, but it was fun to see him so focused and making that list, and today, more than a decade later, the habit has paid off. He actually starts the day with a plan. So there, win-win.
Oh, and how can I not quote an example with the ongoing A to Z Challenge! “Do you intend to participate?” is a question almost every blogger must have asked and answered. As long as you’re undecided, you just sit on the fence with no idea of which side you’re going to jump off. The moment you decide either way, you’ve set your intention: to participate or to focus on other priorities.
Once you decide to participate, your actions are directed towards picking a theme (or not) outlining your posts, publishing on time, visiting others, and so on. You’ve got your plan of action, you know what to do, and you set about doing it.
This applies to everything we do.
Since we all have the same 24 hours in a day, what is the best time to set intentions?
I generally prefer to set my intentions first thing in the morning. It is absolutely worth it to set aside a few minutes before you start your day. I like doing it with my first cup of coffee, enjoying the first rays of the sun in my balcony, listening to the sparrows chirp. It is a peaceful time to take stock of what one has to do during the day. If you commute to work and must leave early, do it at your desk, or even while commuting. Just ensure that the space makes you feel good. I’d even recommend waking 15 minutes earlier than usual to set your intentions – it takes all of five minutes to set your tone for the day.
How much time will you need?
Five uninterrupted minutes. And hey, if you feel at peace on your porcelain throne, that’s fine too!
You can do it after your favorite beverage.
If you are the sort that enjoys a ritual, that’s cool too.
I start my day with getting the coffee going and lighting the lamp at my altar for a few minutes of prayer. It puts me in a happy mood. The house is quiet and I enjoy the ambiance of the fragrance of the incense, and am filled with peace. I pray. I let my mind wander a bit and then, the aroma of my coffee gently brings me back. Then I carry my big mug to settle down, pen and paper at my side, to enjoy the coffee and plan my day.
And then, here’s the 5-step process I follow.
I start by sitting comfortably in my favorite chair. You can also sit on a cushion on the floor. If you use a chair, let the soles of your feet rest on the ground. And oh, you can also lie down—just find a surface that’s firm and flat. Point is to be comfortable and at ease.
I let my body relax. If I feel like stretching a little, I do it.
Next, I focus, with my eyes closed. Eyes open is fine. I take a deep abdominal breath. When I inhale, I feel it in my belly and fill my chest. Then I exhale, letting the air out from the chest. It is okay to exhale with your mouth. I repeat this five times.
The breathing makes me feel calm and at peace, and relaxed.
At this point, I ask myself: what do I want for the day? For myself, my family, my friends, and the world. Yes. I think about what matters to me the most. (and folks, I have a long list of things I want for my loved ones). Some questions I use are:
- What do I wish for?
- What do I want to let go of?
- Is there someone I want to forgive?
- What makes me happy?
- What words would I choose to live by?
- What fears do I want to banish?
- Is there something I would like to change specifically? Something I want to accomplish?
- And my favorite – what am I grateful for?
I also like to set a time-frame if I have specific intentions to help me work actively towards it. Think work to-dos and deadlines to meet.
On days when I do not have specific answers, I simply let the questions be. I allow the following thoughts to fill my head as an affirmation:
- I will be mindful of my health.
- I will be conscious of my speech when I interact with others.
- I will connect via kindness, without being judgmental.
This is how I set the tone for my day.
At the end of the day, when I go to bed, I take a moment to reflect and review the events and conversations of the day. I ask myself if the day was in alignment with my intentions. I try and pick a particularly good moment from the day, when I did something especially nice for someone. I take joy from that reflection. If there’s nothing to pick, that’s okay. I am glad I had positive intentions and that’s a wonderful start to the day, anyway.
This practice basically helps me identify gaps between my intention and action, the distance between what I aspire to do and what is. Reflection gives me the opportunity to close those gaps and become aware, helping me be more mindful of how I want to live.
Intentions are a great way to look within ourselves and live with purpose. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life. When you get into the habit, you will be tuned to looking for the happy bits. I am yet to meet someone who doesn’t want happy.
And just for the rec, I begin the day intending to have my post up before noon…however other priorities take over. And that’s okay!
Do you set intentions?
I would love to hear your experience in the comments!
P.S.: People often ask me how I am so positive. This post is one of the answers.
I is also for Introspect and Insulin
I agree, mornings are the best time to set your intentions for the day. I have done both, planned my day as soon as I get up, and some days I just go with the flow. On the former, I get so much done!
Loved your Intentions post, Vidya. I got so much out of it and love those morning questions you ask yourself. Must keep those in mind. I do love the idea of Intentions more than Goals which make me feel guilty and inadequate. Somehow intentions don’t have the same baggage attached to them that goals do.
I’m not much of a plan ahead type so goals aren’t something I naturally think about but I like the intentions idea more. I can handle that! I have intentions to participate in the A to Z challenge daily and the photo challenge so that entails writing the post and taking my photo for the daily theme, posting them, and then commenting on other peoples’ contributions.
Great post as always! Your posts always leave me feeling positive with something to think about. Thanks!
I am not very focused in the morning nowadays. (Effect of some meds I have to take.) So I try to do this before going to sleep the night before. I go through the day, check through a mental list of what all I managed to get done, what is carried forward, and what else I have to do tomorrow. One intention that stays constantly in my mind during this AtoZ is – “I will let go of the small stuff.” I often get worked up over small issues, and that wastes a lot of time and disturbs my grounding. Can’t afford to do that during this challenge, right! So.
I feel so good after reading your posts Vidya. They are like a breath of fresh air and make me feel very positive. Good intentions always help.
Well said…I totally agree with u…I am not a plan ahead kind of person but rather go along with the flow.Think i need to start the day with your energizing tips…
Launching SIM Organics This April
*Menaka Bharathi *
I set intentions every evening once I’m back from work. It sets the tone for my evenings and helps me focus on the things that are really important to me. Also, my word of the year is basically my intention fused in one word. The minute I hear it, it reminds me of all the bigger intentions that sit behind it.
I practice Reiki and in that the first thing we need to do is set an intention. I believe, setting intentions sets the tone of the day and act as map of where you’s want to go. Thanks for an insightful post, Vidya ♥
True. I myself feel very focused when I have got a sticky note of things to do… The days I don’t, I keep swinging between different stuffs. Loved this idea of setting the tone of the day… I am sure it results in a very productive day.
I think I’m a lot like how your son used to be as a kid. Sure, I think of certain things to do in a day, but whether I do them all is a whole other matter. Planning ahead and I have never got along well. On the other hand, I do set some yearly goals. I usually do this on my birthday – things I wish to accomplish before I turn a year older. Speaking of which, yesterday I found the list I made when I was 26, and now, 4 years later, I’m finally beginning to work on it!
May I add, your writing is so beautiful! The aroma of the coffee, the fragrance of the incense, I just feel all at peace now after reading this <3 Muah, Vidya!
Intentions are our brains compass for getting meaningful work done.Insight is needed for realising this.Great tips to start the day just right.Will try this one with my daughter.
Another inspiring post from you. Vidya if I follow all your advice, I’ll become a different ME
Sunita, I practice whatever I write about. And they’re all easy. If they were complicated, I wouldn’t do them 🙂 All these meditations, etc. can be done sitting or standing just about anywhere. Thank you for coming by!
I really like this idea! I’m going to try this tomorrow and see how it works out for me. Sometimes I’ll make a to-do list, but I find that I have trouble completing those things.
I find morning walk the best time to set my intentions…I do not make to-do lists. They doesn’t work for me. Its all in my mind only. Toughest for me is to reach Office in Time. I know it can be done if I set up everything 15 mins earlier but still, i fail daily. That’s my next barrier to cross. I need to set the tone yet.
As always a subtle dose of wisdom, laced with humour and me reaching the end of the post with a smile on my face:)
I have been all over the place lately, and getting nothing done. I need to follow your tips and I will. Thanks for sharing, Vidya:)
Excellent advice! And adorable story about your wonderful son. Thank you!
You’re determined to make a better person of me, aren’t you!?
Even when I’m on my porcelain throne.
I DO love the way you break everything into simple steps.
Not for a heathen such as I, but you’re getting to me.
I too believe in planning every day! Specially for this month. I have been juggling blogging and academics and have managed to give both due attention, all thanks to planning everything in a notebook specially kept for this purpose.
On the rare days when I don’t have any schedule planned, it feels like I’m floating in space, not achieving anything! I liked the ritual you shared, Vidya. Though I don’t follow a particular ritual, I wouldn’t mind trying something like this while planning for May! 🙂
I love these words of wisdom, needed it today to go through the week!
Love and hugs, Tina. I appreciate you very much for gifting your time to my blog today!