People often ask me, “How do you set an intention?” And then they start filling in the blanks of what they know about goal setting. Goal setting is fantastic. Helpful. Often essential. It is very different in my experience from setting an intention. I’ve written a well-known poem on intention and write ABOUT intention all the time. This is the first time I’m defining so specifically how this works on a practical, every day basis for me.
How to explain the difference between setting an intention and setting a goal? An Intention is the Structure of the House that you Design and Build. Goal setting is how you appoint the house with furniture and objects. Or another way – setting the intention is paving over a previously road or uncreated road, goal setting is walking the road.
I find the intention comes well before the goal, in specific. My goals rise up from my connectedness to my intentions. And most of my intentions, in some form, are found in my poem:
live with intention. walk to the edge.
listen hard. practice wellness.
play with abandon. laugh. choose
with no regret. lead or follow a leader.
continue to learn. appreciate your friends.
do what you love. live as if
this is all there is.
Philosophers have said for thousands of years in a variety of ways: we see what we expect to see. What you focus on becomes visible. I take that literally in the non-linear world. I do not apply this process to things like visualizing seventeen more dollars in my wallet. I do apply this process to setting an intention of generosity. I begin with the macro and work into the micro.
To set an intention:
1 - Connect with the elements of your life that are most significant to you and bring you the greatest joy, satisfaction, energy.
2 - Ask yourself in what ways can you imagine making what is already good, better? Richer? more vibrant in your life?
3 - Choose one thing from those many things.
4 - Contemplate a word that captures the essence of that thing, write that word down.
5 - Write the word repeatedly and post it in places that you will see it in the course of your ordinary experience (in your planner, by your bedside, in your wallet, on your refrigerator). This is the “Rinse” part – running in through every element of your experience, just like water to rinse shampoo out.
6 - Look and listen for a quote, phrase, saying, lyric, or poem that exemplifies the intention you are setting for yourself.
7 - Here’s the “Repeat” Part: write it down. Post it where you’ll see it.
8 - Attach a discernable outcome to that intention (this is where it begins to look like a general goal). AND REPEAT! Write it down, Post it where you’ll see it. Seek a piece of writing that supports it and write that down.
9 - Spend a short period of time in this process: a day or a week or a month. Whatever feels like a short period of time.
10 - Then…write it in a place that you don’t visit often: a white board in your garage,on your garage wall, the “I” index in your planner book. Write it there and leave it. Go on to the next intentional element you want to focus on. Set. Rinse. Repeat.
Following this process is like introducing that intention to your soul as a good friend. You get to know each other, spend a lot of time with each other and then you don’t see each other for awhile. And yet, just as in real friendship, the relationship continues to grow and expand…in spite of silence and distance.
Once I write the intention in a place I don’t see often – I move along in my growth. Then, weeks, sometimes months later, I happen upon it and marvel. Inevitably, something remarkable and specifically in line with that expressed intention will have already happened.
Almost beyond my notice, it slips right in, like picking up easily with an old friend I’ve not seen in some time.