Innumerable barriers and setbacks can easily hijack the attainment of a goal. But studies on the effects and processes for achieving goals show that setting intentions in advance and implementing them as steps toward achieving your goals can greatly enhance the ability to attain them.
Importantly, the difference between a goal and an intention is that a goal feels abstract, while an intention is linked more directly with an action. Goals are abstract because they’re rooted in the future, while intentions are focused on the present.
Setting your intentions each day and following through with them ensures that you have clear, purposeful objectives and are motivated to stay on track. Without the process of planning your intentions for the day, your goal can easily become lost amid life’s chaos and clutter.
Intentions provide the seeds of action. They are a way of adhering to a proactive — as opposed to reactive — approach, and they allow you to have firm control over your day and your immediate future.
Plan to carve out 15-20 minutes — either at the beginning of the day or the end of the previous day — to keep track of what you plan to undertake in the day ahead. Also note what you were able to complete from the previous day’s intentions. Making time to set your intentions for the day is an intentional act in itself. It requires being grounded in the moment and allowing yourself time to reflect and prioritize actions that need your attention in order to keep your forward momentum.
Use a spreadsheet, a flow chart, or a day-timer to record and keep track of each day’s intentions. Try breaking your day into segments — 30 minutes, 60 minutes, etc. — and give your brain a rest in between each task. Schedule your more difficult and challenging projects for the time of day when you’re most focused.
Setting intentions can begin with defining high-level values and then assigning task-oriented actions that correspond with them — but all with the intention of helping you progress toward your ultimate goal. Defining high-level intentions for yourself provides a framework for setting your daily intentions. For example, here are six high-level intentions that I set for myself to lay the foundation for overall success:
1. Maintain personal health and contentment. I recognize that I’m responsible for my own destiny, which means making every effort to live to my fullest potential and positively influence others.
2. Act responsibly. I take responsibility for my actions and do what’s necessary to ensure that I remain accountable to myself and to others.
3. Honor those who have influenced me. I remember that others have influenced me and that their influence is a key part of my own success — and how I, in turn, am able to influence others.
4. Approach each day purposefully. I prepare for my day and have a clear understanding of my scheduled responsibilities.
5. Pursue continuous education. I strive to remain educated and relevant in the industries that I influence through my coaching, advising, and consulting.
6. Support my team. I assist my team members by working to understand and address whatever roadblocks or issues they face.
One example of how a high-level intention plays out in my daily tasks involves setting aside time to read trade magazines, blogs, and newsletters to pursue continuous education and stay relevant. Another is setting an intention to slow down and remain present in my interactions with team members in order to give them the support they need.
Strive to make setting daily intentions a habit. In this way, you remain focused on what you need to accomplish to achieve your goals — and reap the rewards of having attained them!