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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

How to Start Setting Intentions That Set You up for Success

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How to Start Setting Intentions That Set You up for Success

My body feels tight, and my muscles are sore from sitting hunched over my computer as I write.

“I really need to exercise more,” I think as I feel the tension in my shoulders, “and I need to get in better shape.” We all have those things that don’t match up with how we think our lives should be, where setting intentions would be wildly beneficial.

While our instinct might be to put something on our to-do list and muscle our way through making changes (often beating ourselves up with self-judgment when we fail), this rarely works.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.” –Carl G. Jung

Making a change requires self-compassion and setting intentions that set us up for success.

How Intentions Really Work

Imagine you have a problem in some area of your life where you would like to act differently.

While it might seem counter-intuitive, when setting intentions for success, it’s important to consider why things are the way they are right now.

Assuming that your unconscious mind is always working for your highest good, what benefit might you gain from not getting what you think you want?

While it might not always seem like it, we always have a positive underlying reason for doing what we do, even behaviors that aren’t so good for us.

Ask yourself, “What is a positive reason my unconscious mind might want me to continue this unwanted behavior?” The answers are always personal and different for each of us.

In the case of my own exercise problem (or lack of exercise), when I asked this question, I realized my unconscious mind might be seeing exercise as in direct opposition to my writing.

I had newly freed up a lot more space to write, and I was coveting it. From an outside perspective, it might have seemed obvious that there was enough time to both write and exercise. However, I had a feeling my unconscious mind saw time spent exercising as threatening to this other habit that was also in the interest of my well-being.

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Writing was good for my soul, and finding time to do it more often was something I had only recently worked back into my life. Therefore, I needed to come up with a new intention that encompassed both of my needs.

In addition, if you want to learn about the difference between intentions and goals, check out this video:

How to Create a New Intention for Success

I like to think of the intentions we consciously choose for our lives as a big safety net, a foundation arching under us, holding our energy, making sure we don’t fall too far from where we want our lives to go.

The more we spend time setting intensions with purpose, the more successful we become in achieving our desired outcomes.

Integrating the combined power of our unconscious and conscious minds ensures that we channel all our resources—our full self—when it comes to manifesting change.

I have recorded an audio-meditation and checklist to accompany this article, just for Lifehack.org readers, to help you take the information in this article even deeper. You can get your free copy of these tools on my website at LaurieSmith.com.

10 Steps for Setting Intentions

The following ten-step process is something I call an Activation Meditation(TM), which I developed and have been using in workshops and private sessions with my clients for several decades.

Activation Meditations(TM) are designed to help you access your own intuitive wisdom and direct your own transformation.

Activation Meditations(TM) incorporate the latest in neuroscience research, NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP), Ericksonian hypnotherapy, energy medicine, creative visualization, and meditation techniques to help people activate their own power within to create deep and lasting change.

1. Ask Yourself: What’s Not Working?

In my case, sitting for hours at my computer without taking breaks or moving my body more was not working. When you’re going to start setting intentions, there needs to be something that you’re aiming to change. This comes from what isn’t working for you in your life right now.

2. Imagine: How Do You Want To Feel Instead?

I wanted to feel more relaxed, strong, and to have better posture.

Once you have found your new intention, turn it into an affirmation. An affirmation is written in the first person and present tense. It often begins with “I am” (for example, “I am strong and relaxed”).

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3. Check in With Your Intuition

What is your gut instinct telling you about the intention you have chosen? Our intuition is communicating with us all of the time through our bodies.

Is your new intention what you really want, and how do you know? How does this new intention make you feel?

It’s important to listen to our intuition since our intentions are so personal.

In my example regarding trying to exercise more, when I checked the intention “I am strong and relaxed” with my intuition, I didn’t get that feeling in my gut that to me means a definite YES.

When I asked myself what might be an even better intention, the word “open” popped into my mind.

Previously, I believed that there wasn’t enough open time on my schedule to exercise. My muscles were tight, which meant there wasn’t enough open space in my body.

Even though it might not have seemed related to my desire to exercise at first glance, for me the phrase “I am open” was a perfect choice for my new intention.

4. Imagine a Symbol That Represents the Way You Want to Feel

This is a step most people skip and is perhaps the most powerful one when setting intentions.

As psychologists Carl Jung and Freud both discussed in their work[1], the unconscious mind communicates with us in symbols.[2]

Using symbols can help accelerate our changes and make them stick. When seeking a symbol that represents your intention, trust whatever you come up with.

Research shows visualizing is even more effective when we access all of our senses.[3]

If your symbol had a sound, smell, taste, or feeling associated with it, what might those be? Is it dark or light? Is it large or small? (There are no right answers, so trust whatever first pops into your head.)

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People see all kinds of different symbols when doing this exercise. Your symbol might be an object, an image, a color, a sign, something you have seen before, or something new you created in your imagination. Some people don’t visualize easily and instead might just feel a feeling or associate their intention with a word or phrase, sound or scent.

The symbol I saw was a spot of sparkling white light with a few colors speckled in. It was expansive and silent, calm yet energetic. This is the way I wanted my body, my life, and my inner spirit to feel as a result of exercising.

5. Visualize Your Symbol in Your Heart

Imagine bringing the symbol that represents your new intention to the top of your head. Then, imagine bringing it down through the crown of your head through your body and into your heart.

You can do this very quickly by simply closing your eyes or in the form of a longer meditation.

6. Choose an Aligned Action

While still in a relaxed state, ask yourself: “What is an action step I can make to manifest my intention?”

Having an action plan is essential to acting on intentions and turning them into goals later. Choose several small, possible steps you can take in the coming weeks and months.

Having these planned steps will keep you away from procrastination, which can drown your intentions. If you find you’ve slipped into this habit, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

For me, the action step I thought of was to stretch more often. More than anything, I realized my body needed to stretch more throughout the day, especially after long periods of writing. Interestingly, stretching also helps muscles grow and relax, literally helping the body become more open and expansive, which was my intention.

7. Connect Your Action With an Existing Habit

What is a habit you already have that makes you feel the same way?

The idea is to start slowly and build upon areas where you are already experiencing success. Instead of finding a new window on your calendar to add a new habit in, add it to something you already do.

For example, I decided every time I sat down or stood up from my computer or notebook, I would take a few minutes to stretch.

8. Brainstorm More Ideas

After setting intentions, brainstorm new ways you can integrate your new intention into your life. As you do, imagine your symbol. This will help bypass any inner resistance you might have to the new behavior.

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Brainstorming helped me to come up with many other creative ways to work small sessions of exercise into my day. I realized hiking could be a great time for coming up with new ideas for my writing.

By continually building on the success I had already experienced with my writing, I allowed my two positive habits to support each other, rather than being in opposition to my unconscious mind. As a result, I retrained my mind to see exercise as improving my writing practice, rather than being in a separate compartment of my life.

9. Connect With Your Symbol and Intention Often

Imagine your symbol and repeat your affirmation/intention to yourself when you first wake up and right before you fall asleep. Research shows focusing on our intentions before sleeping can increase our ability to achieve our desired outcomes.[4]

Imagine your symbol as you go through the actions of your day. This increases the chance that your intention will expand and positively affect other aspects of your life, as well.

10. Check In and Celebrate Successes

Check in with yourself at the end of the day to see how well you’ve done.

Celebrate your successes, and use periodic check-ins. Consider creating a ritual where you check in with yourself in the morning and before sleep, at the same time imagining your symbol and repeating your affirmation.

This can help you keep your momentum going and help you find new ways to fine-tune the way you are integrating your intention into your life.

Final Thoughts

Our intuition is the key to setting intentions and making them successful.

As you go through all these steps, experiment and discover ideas that work for you. Remember, you have within you the wisdom and positive energy that is always striving to help you create whatever is in your highest good.

More Tips on Setting Intentions

Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Laurie Smith

Inspirational Writer. Coach. Healer.

How to Start Setting Intentions That Set You up for Success 13 Keys to Living Your Best Life and Aligning Your Priorities What Is a Complete Life? 5 Rules to Live By Understanding the 5 Stages of Life Can Help Navigate Hard Times how to get out of a funk How to Get Out of a Funk When You’re Stressed Out

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Last Updated on September 27, 2021

8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

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8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

The importance of effective goal setting cannot be overstated on our personal journeys towards success. This is why there are countless articles out there on how to set your own SMART goals and even why it’s a skill commonly taught to a small degree in classrooms.

Learning the importance of goal setting and the benefits of sticking to those goals can be the defining factor determining whether we truly embrace the importance of goal setting. The more willing we are to embrace this method, the more likely we become to reach our personal definitions of personal and professional success.

Thus, this article is going to walk you through some of the benefits you’ll see from learning to set goals for yourself and answer the question — why is goal setting important?

1. Goals Guide and Align Our Focus

It’s hard to get to where you want to be in life if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. Some people believe avoiding goals means living a more care-free life. How many times have you heard the phrase “If I have no expectations, then I can’t be disappointed”?

But is that really what our lives have come to? Living just to avoid disappointment? It doesn’t seem like an overly optimistic view in my opinion. And since you’re reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you agree with me.

Without goals, we lack a degree of direction and focus. Sure you may be able to avoid disappointment, but just avoiding disappointment doesn’t mean you are necessarily happy.

Without goals, we will pointlessly waste our time, energy, and efforts. Listen to anybody who is the top of their field and they’ll tell you something like this,

“Yes talent is important, but often your success depends much more on what you decide to do with that talent.”

And what you will do with your talent largely depends on your focus.

Your goals give you direction. Your goals give you something to shoot for. This direction and target you create in your mind will help you to progress towards your main life goals rather than simply wander around aimlessly. These goals will help you align your actions and behaviors as you continue moving forward.

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So, why is goal setting important? Because it gives you direction, alignment, and purpose!

2. Goals Help You Avoid ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

Basically, shiny object syndrome is always being in pursuit of the next big thing, constantly switching your goals based on what you feel is most fun and interesting at the given moment, but never actually giving yourself time to accomplish any of those goals.

You don’t get anywhere because you continually change the direction you are heading in. This is one of the consequences that may result if you decide to live a life without goals.

Your goals can sometimes help you to create mental barriers, or blinders, that help you to remain focused on what you think is important and avoid the things that are second priority. When you outline goals for yourself, you are better able to avoid things that distract you from achieving and accomplishing those goals.

Setting goals helps you to step around the other shiny objects because you’ve taken the time to make some mental notes that remind you what it is that you want from your life. Your goals act as subconscious deterrents to anything less than your main priorities. This is what helps you to reach your personal definition of success.

So, why is goal setting important? Because not only do goals tell you what you want from life, but they also help you realize what you need to give up and avoid to achieve that.

3. Goals Turn Our Largest Goals into Manageable Steps

A lot of us have big hopes and dreams. It’s one of the things that make our lives exciting!

But a lot of us never take the time to figure out how we can effectively get from point A to point B. So, sadly, we never fully achieve those goals. We look at our dreams and convince ourselves that only a select few people ever achieve them, so we write ourselves off as people not meant to reach that level of success. Looking at the end product of a goal can be intimidating, daunting, and discourage us from even pursuing them.

Thankfully, goal setting helps us break large intimidating goals into smaller ones. These small steps and more achievable goals will help us to build momentum and will encourage us to keep working towards the next phase of our goal. The form the foundation from which we can begin building the life that we truly hope to have for ourselves, our families, and may even for our communities depending on how big your goals are!

Whenever I get talking about this aspect of goal setting, I can’t help but think about the mountain climbing analogy, and that the easiest way to climb a mountain is simply step by step.

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So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting gives you a list of manageable steps that you can take in order to take your life from where it is now to where you want it to go both effectively and efficiently.

4. Goals Encourage You to Take Action

This builds on the last benefit of goal setting. Not only does effective goal setting help you break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones, but it also encourages you to actually begin taking action on those goals. After all, a plan is completely worthless if you aren’t willing to invest the effort required to execute it.

Setting your goals and putting your plan in place motivates you to begin taking action towards achieving them. These goals give you something to plan and work towards. Essentially, they help propel you forward.

What I like to do is write out and place my goals somewhere that I’ll regularly see them. This constantly serves as a reminder of my top priorities. It allows me to focus on taking small progressive actions towards achieving these goals daily.

This ensures that I don’t fall into the trap of setting a goal, beginning to work towards it for a while, but then having my motivation fade resulting in me falling off track. This is exactly what many people see happen when it comes to their “New Year’s Resolutions.”

If you want to learn about how to take action towards achieving your goal, here’s how: How To Take Action Towards Your Goals Right Now

So, why is goal setting important? Because goal setting actually motivates you to stop thinking about your goals and actually get out there and achieve them!

5. Goal Setting Helps You Continually Improve

This is something that a lot of personal development and self-improvement writers talk about, continual improvement. For those of you who are not aware of the term, continual improvement is exactly what it sounds like — taking small steps towards improvement as frequently as you can to develop into the person you want to become.

What’s the point in improving a little bit each day if you’re not improving in the areas that you want to improve in after all?

The goals that you define for yourself will inevitably shape you into the person who you want to become. They’ll shape your character. Your goals can help you measure your progress as you strive for this type of development.

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Essentially, having goals helps you determine where you started, where you are now, and how much further you need to go. In this manner, your goal setting can serve as milestones and benchmarks that help you determine how well you’re progressing towards your most important goals!

So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting helps you make improvements each day that will slowly transition you into the person you want to become.

6. Goal Setting Keeps You Accountable

Not only does setting goals help you measure your progress, but it also is a means through which you can keep yourself accountable. Too many goals fail because they lack this crucial aspect of outlining accountability.

For example, if I have the goal to do 50 push-ups, that’s great. Most people would support that goal. However, this goal lacks accountability. When do I want to accomplish this goal by and what steps do I take to get there? These are important questions that the original goal leaves unanswered.

A much more descriptive and specific goal could be to do 50 push-ups within the next 3 months by starting at 5 push-ups, and then adding 5 each week. This goal outlines the deadline as well as the steps I’m going to take to achieve it. This plan will keep me accountable because if I fail to retain my progression schedule, I will know that I’m not going to achieve the goal on time.

Additionally, it can serve as a marker helping to signify when something is impeding my progress that I may not have initially accounted for. This tells me that I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing and figure out what adjustments I can make to facilitate my success.

So, why is goal setting important? Setting goals is key to keeping ourselves accountable and on-track towards accomplishing our goals according to the schedules and deadlines we set for ourselves.

7. Goals Make You Feel Good

Trust me, the progress you feel as you set and achieve goals can become super motivating and super addicting (in a good way)! The dopamine release you get from achieving your goals is like a little reward for our brains that continually motivates us to try and hit that next goal!

Having some clearly defined goals will help you to feel better about yourself and your life in general, especially when you stick to those goals, actively work towards achieving them, and end up accomplishing and surpassing your initial expectations. I’m not the oldest book on the shelf myself, but I can attest that there are not many feelings quite like the one you experience when you truly get on a roll!

Additionally, our goals give us an endpoint to shoot for. Rather than progress for progress’s sake, you can actually see where you’re heading! That’s so much more rewarding. Think about a long car trip as a kid. You ask “if you’re there yet?” ever 20 minutes. It seems like the drive drags on forever.

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If you don’t know where you’re going, you risk the journey becoming tedious. It doesn’t tend to be much fun wandering around aimlessly. Goals make us feel good about where we’re directing ourselves.

So, why is goal setting important? Because setting goals and accomplishing them plain and simply make us feel better about ourselves and our lives!

8. Goals Help You Live Your Best Life

I’ve talked a lot in this article about how goal setting helps us progress towards our top priorities and live the way we truly want to live. So I think it’s fit to end the article with this goal because, in the end, I feel it’s the most important one.

Setting your goals and clearly defining what they mean to you will help you live a life that is tailored to your beliefs and values. Your life will become directed towards the things that you most want to achieve.

Life is a tricky game and only in very rare circumstances are things handed to us on a silver platter. Often it takes a great degree of work, planning, and effortful execution of both.

There is no point clinging on to things in your life if they don’t bring you happiness or help you accomplish something that, in some way, aligns with your goals.

Simply put, setting goals helps us live a life that allows us to pursue the challenges and rewards that we truly want to achieve.

So, why is goal setting important? Because our time is always limited, and setting clearly defined goals can help ensure that you make the most of your life and live to the fullest! Find out more here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the benefits of goal setting that outline why it truly is so important. If you take a moment or two, I bet that you can even think of a few more benefits yourself that you could add to this list.

If I could leave you with something, it would be this:

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Goal setting has the potential to take us to some amazing places in life because we all have talent and ambitions. To achieve your biggest dreams, you need to be willing to sit down and create a life design uniquely tailored to you that will help you achieve them!

More Tips About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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