Setting and Keeping Intentions (Part 1 of 2)

It’s never too late to set intentions, whether for the whole year, the new season, the next month, or even just this week or today. Take a little step today towards a big change tomorrow!

If you’re interested in setting and keeping some intentions for a happier, healthier, and ultimately better YOU, then get ready to get into part 1 of a 2-part series on setting and keeping intentions.

Maman on the Trail's Guide to Setting and Keeping Intentions Part 1 - title image - mom and toddler balancing on fallen tree -mamanonthetrail.comI spent a good chunk of time back in January setting intentions for myself for 2018. But the work doesn’t end after the intentions are set, in fact, that is just one small step in the right direction, but it takes more small steps every day to get to where I want to be. You can read all about the 6 intentions I set for myself in the post “Wandering into 2018 with Intention(s): a New Year’s Post” or by checking out the hashtag #mamansintentions on Instagram. But in short, this year I intend to do the following:

  1. Strive for balance.
  2. Take time to reflect.
  3. Enjoy the ride.
  4. Remember that less is more.
  5. Plan for spontaneity.
  6. Find myself and be me.

Notice that these are INTENTIONS and not GOALS. They are not final destinations, items that I can check off a list when they are “done”, things I can complete in the first part of the year and then forget about. I purposefully chose to set intentions so that I can cultivate lifestyle changes, bring about new and healthy habits, and be happier, in the long term. An intention is “a thing intended; an aim or a plan”. I have set plans into motion and will continue to revisit, reassess and readjust these plans so that I can continue to work towards these intentions with success, and not failure, disappointment or abandonment.

But how did I choose these intentions? How can you set intentions that matter to you, that are reasonable, and achievable? How can we continue to work towards our intentions over a long period of time, like weeks, months, a whole year, a lifetime? I don’t have all of the answers, but I’ll tell you what my plan is and how it’s working out so far…

How I Went About Setting Intentions

Over the course of about a week, I created little exercises for myself with the final goal of setting meaningful intentions for the year and coming up with a few ideas on how to work towards them. In a step-by-step list below, you will find what I did to set my intentions. And honestly, I did a step a day, taking lots of time to reflect and also put it out of my head in between. This may work for you, or it may not, but hopefully, it will give you somewhere to start when setting your own intentions for this year, this month, this week or even just today.

Step 1: Find a creative writing space.

For me, this meant buying a lovely little notebook. I adore notebooks, especially pretty ones that inspire me to write. I also need to put pencil to paper to really get ideas flowing, typing doesn’t always do it justice. If you love notebooks, grab one that will inspire you to write. If you prefer a notepad, or pretty stationary, grab that. If you already have a journal or a place where you keep your amazing ideas, that would be a great place to work (my notebook is now my journal). If you like typing your ideas, and that helps you to be creative, then start a new word document, note or otherwise. Do what works for you! That’s what I did. I also grabbed myself some new pencils and a sharpener, and I keep it all within reach at my desk – but it’s also nice and small so I can toss it in my purse to write elsewhere.

Maman on the Trail's Guide to Setting and Keeping Intentions Part 1 - image 2 – notebook open with another notebook beside it - mamanonthetrail.com

Step 2: Brainstorm a list of important words.

Don’t think too hard, just write. I asked myself questions like: What did I enjoy about last year? What do I want more of this year? What do I want less of? What do I really need for happiness? Where do I want to be 6 months from now or a year from now? I wrote words like “no stress”, “yoga”, “outside”, “adventure”, “slow down”, “blog”, “unplug”, “me time” and “learn”. Some of those words contradict each other, but that’s ok because I also wrote the word “balance” in there somewhere knowing that was a big idea brewing in my head already. I let the ideas flow, and ended up with a total of nearly 40 words on one page.

Step 3: Circle the MOST important words.

Revisit each of those words and ask yourself which ones are the most important. Perhaps you can already see some connections between them, or perhaps there are some that you have been thinking about for a long time. There is no right or wrong answer here, this is just an exercise in determining which of those words hold more value to YOU. Out of my list of 39 words, I circled 10. The most important words to me for 2018 are balance, reflection, enjoy, read, routine, minimalism, productivity, quality, organization and true to me. I also highlighted a few other important words, and made a list of those as well, words that fit under the most important words as sort of sub-headings.

Step 4: Read the list again and look for themes.

Revisit your list again. Look for patterns, topics, general ideas. Do any of your circled words encompass larger thoughts or themes? Could you categorize words from your list into different themes? When looking at my list of 39 words, I found that the overarching themes that most words could fit under were: balance, reflection, enjoy, less is more, planning vs. spontaneity, and myself. I decided on 6 themes, and ended up with 6 intentions – so take a moment to reflect on how many intentions you’re ready to set, and let that number guide how many themes you find within your list of important words.

Maman on the Trail's Guide to Setting and Keeping Intentions Part 1 - image 4 – notebook open on table with laptop and Starbucks coffee - mamanonthetrail.com

Step 5: Turn the overarching themes into titles for new lists.

Once I had my 6 themes, I turned to the next 6 pages in my notebook, and in a fun font, I scrawled the themes across the tops of the pages, one theme per page. Whether or not you are using real paper, you may want to organize these themes onto separate pages, tabs, files, notes, whatever that looks like for you. Having each theme on its own page will set you up nicely for the next step. But don’t rush to the next step – let these themes sink in for a while, notice how they make you feel, are you ready to have them as your guiding thoughts for the year?

Step 6: Reorganize all of the words into the new lists.

Now, this is a fun task if you like writing and list-making, but I might’ve appreciated some copy-paste action had I not been into the therapeutic and reflective nature of writing and re-writing. I took each of my 39 words and rewrote them under the theme(s) they fit best with. Some words showed up under multiple themes, especially if they were circled words. I found this to be very reassuring as it let me know that my intentions were overlapping, and by working towards one, I could unintentionally be working towards a few others at the same time. You may find that you have a few very distinct lists or several overlapping ones – either way, this is part of your plan and knowing which words support which themes will help you in keeping your intentions.

Step 7: Turn each list/theme into an actionable intention.

So you have some themes, and a pile of words under each – but these aren’t intentions yet. Remember, an intention is “a thing intended; an aim or a plan”. It is your job now to turn each list or theme into something that you can actually DO! For my intentions, balance became “Strive for balance”, reflect become “Take time to reflect”, enjoy became “Enjoy the ride”, and so on. I tried to keep my intentions broad so that the list of words still fit and I could accomplish what I was planning to accomplish with those intentions.

Step 8: Find at least one meaningful quote that fits with each intention.

This is something that means a lot to me and really helps me to understand my intentions and why I chose them. I love quotes and I love sharing quotes (and based on how many of you save my quote posts on Instagram, I’d say you love them, too!). Finding a quote that really put into words the sentiment and importance of each intention is a powerful reminder and motivator for me. Some of my favourite quote databases are Nature for Kids quotesEarth Day quotes, and Brainy Quote (a searchable quote database). I also save amazing quotes I see on Instagram for later use.

Maman on the Trail's Guide to Setting and Keeping Intentions Part 1 - image 1 – notebook open with notes about intentions - mamanonthetrail.com


And here are some tips to help you get started…

6 Tips for Setting Intentions

Take time to reflect on WHY you are setting intentions.

Why did you read this post? What is it about your life that you want to change or improve? Why do you want to set an intention instead of just a goal? These are some great questions to ask yourself before you start so that you can understand the WHY and then be ready to commit. If you’re doing it just because I’m doing it, well, I don’t think you’ll stick to it. You need to do it for YOU!

Write it all down.

Keep that notebook, notepad or document readily accessible and write everything down. Write down the answers to all of the questions that I have asked in this post. Write down every single word that comes to mind even if it seems silly or repetitive. Write down who will be affected by your intentions or who can help hold you to them. Write down your whys and your whens and your hows. Write it all down and then write it down again in a more organized fashion. This alone will help you to understand, set and keep your intentions.

If you hit a wall, walk away.

I am serious when I say that I did these exercises over a period of 8 days. I wrote and walked away so many times. Sometimes because I was feeling uninspired. Sometimes because my “me time” ran out and I had to return to mom duties. Sometimes because some other task was calling louder. Sometimes my toddler found a crayon and started adding to my writings. Just set a time to return if you do walk away. Tell yourself, “I’ll just tidy up a bit and then come back” or “Tomorrow with my coffee, I’ll write a little more” – whatever prompt works for you!

Don’t overcommit yourself.

You don’t want your intentions to overwhelm you or weigh you down. I set 6 because I felt I could handle 6. If you can only handle 1 or 2, only set 1 or 2 intentions. Do what feels right, adjust as you go, add or remove. This is about you and what you want to accomplish. And we all know that if it feels possible, it will get done!

Set overlapping intentions.

This is a big reason why I felt I could handle 6 intentions – my intentions overlap and feed into one another. If I am working on reflection, I am also working on balance, me time and enjoying the ride. If I am working on having less, I am also working on remembering that less is more, I am probably also finding time to plan for spontaneity and for doing things I love. Setting intentions that work together will make them easier for you to keep.

Make your intentions about YOU.

I’ve it before and I’ll say it again – your intentions are for YOU and YOU alone! Set them for YOU, keep them for YOU, make them about YOU! It’s the only way to go!

Maman on the Trail's Guide to Setting and Keeping Intentions Part 1 - image 3 – family relaxing in the woods in hammocks - mamanonthetrail.com

Thank you for reading Part 1 of “Setting and Keeping Intentions”. Part 2 will be published shortly and will focus more on keeping your intentions with some tips from my own experience. Stay tuned!

Don’t forget to check out the hashtag #mamansintentions on Instagram for more on my intentions and how I’m keeping them!

 

Do you have any exercises or advice for setting intentions? Please share in the comments below.

 

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