Drawing a Map: How to Set Authentic Intentions


What is an intention?

One of my very favorite human-spirit-guides, Gary Zukav ( whose book, Spiritual Partnership, CHANGED MY LIFE), says that "intentions guide your experience, whether you are aware of them or not."! WOW. Think about that. Everything we do it our lives, from drinking a morning coffee, to choosing a life partner, is seeded in intention. Some intentions may be consciously conceived, like  "I drink coffee to give myself an extra boost in the AM." And others may be unconscious, like "I choose partners based on safety & security (fear), rather than compatibility & love.

An intention, per definition, is a strong determination  to think, feel & behave in in a certain way.

Intentions are where it ALL starts- the story is written from there. 

I first experienced the power of setting intention during Forrest yoga classes, where intention setting in an important part of the sequence. It is where every class starts, setting the foundation for the practice. For me, intentions are one of the guide for my focus & attention. For example, an intention may be to stay connected to the sensation of breath, whether it is through in the nose, in the belly or in the chest, for the entire practice, during every pose. As you practice and your attention begins to wander away from the present moment, you can use the intention, the determination you set at the beginning of the practice, to be guided back into the present moment and experience what is happening now.  

To be noted: intentions are different than goals, as a goal is the end towards which your efforts is directed. The goal is the finish line, the place where it ends. You do, feel and think everything to get to the end. Goals keep your focus & efforts moving forward, intentions keep your focus & efforts in the present. 


Why are intentions important?

Intentions give your focus & actions a direction & focus. Here at TMV,  we experience our intentions as roadmaps that support our abilities to stay on course & a reference to use when we go astray. 

It may also be helpful to think of intentions as the foundation of an experience, remembering that a foundation is what the rest of the building is built upon. A solid foundation provides the essential support for the structure. 


A Framework for Setting Intentions

The following is a simple & straightforward framework for creating  conscious & self-directed intentions. It is super helpful if you can write your intentions down whether in a journal or in the notes section on your phone. Put your written intentions somewhere where you can easily revisit them.


Livingston, MT. July 2017.

Livingston, MT. July 2017.

Setting practical intentions in 3 STEP. Write down:

1. What do you want to do?

2. Why is it important?

3. How will you do it?

Let’s use the breathing intention from earlier. If I were to use that intention to start a yoga class, I might say,

“Our intent today will be to stay connected to the sensation of breath during the practice (what). When connected to the sensation of breath, attention is focused and you are present in the moment (why). During the practice,  choose one area to notice the sensation of breath: around the nostrils, the upper chest or the belly. When focus becomes distracted, guide the attention bring back to the sensation of breath (how).

You are welcome to use this formula to create intentions of your own! 

Step One: What?

What is it that you want to do? Is there an activity you would like to learn, or an attitude you have been wanting to shift? 

Some helpful hints when connecting with the WHAT:

  • Be as specific and simple as possible- include specific times, people, places, actions, etc.

  • Set intentions that you are true for you- when creating intentions, ask yourself, “Is this something that my authentic self really want/like/need, or am I am I doing what other people/society/my ego want me to do?”

Using these guidelines, write down ONE thing you intend to plant in your life right today. If you can not think of something specific, try thinking of one thing you would like to accomplish this week, like cleaning the bathroom or calling your grandma. Write that down.  


Step Two: Why?

Now that THE WHAT is clear, determine WHY this intention adds value or importance to your life. For example, it may be important to clean your bathroom for the general health of the humans in your home and it may be important to call your grandma because you value connection and relationships.

Some helpful tips when getting clear about the why:

  • BE HONEST. Why do you really want to do this thing? Is your reasoning authentic to what your truest essence wants/needs?

  • Have the courage to ask yourself some tough questions: who am I doing this for? Am I doing this for me or other people? Are there any hidden or unconscious motivations driving this intention? Ask yourself these questions: am I setting this intention to be better than other people? Better than myself? Am I doing this out of fear or insecurities? Am I doing this to be safe? If my intention is based out of fear, is there a way to shift the why? 

This step will help keep your intentions honest and authentic to your true being and essence. 


Step Three: How?

Finally, the how.  This step requires you to create practical, applicable steps to manifest your intention & requires the most creativity!  An easy example, using the intention to clean the bathroom, the how-to steps may include gathering cleaning supplies (or maybe make some DIY environmentally friendly bathroom cleaners!) , scrubbing the toilet, shower & counter tops the area of & then put the cleaning supplies away. 

This can be the most challenging & FUN step of the entire process. It is also the essential step in turning yours intentions into Actions.

Some helpful tips in creating the HOW:

  • Establish a clear “what” and “why”, as that will give you a foundation to create the HOW

  • The hows should be action step or things that can be practiced or created with the body. 

To review:

an intention is a strong motivation to act in a certain way. When setting an ntention, it is helpful to:

1. when possible, Write them down!

2. Include a WHAT, WHY, HOw 

3. Revisit and reflect on your intentions- are they working? Do they need to be shifted in some way? Are these intentions serving fear or spiritual growth? 


Intentions are the seeds to dreams. Intentions hold the possibility of what can  be created and accomplished in this one precious life. The wise and ever articulate Gary Zukav says that, “Your intentions determine your experience whether you are aware of them or not.” 

So set your intentions wisely & with love, as words are a spell. What you speak & write & think often becomes your destiny. 

May all beings be happy & full of love, 

brit & tmv.