How to Set Intentions: A Guide to Turning Your Dreams Into Reality

Claire Porter - The Upside Blog |

by | Read time: 7 minutes

As 2023 awakens and 2022 begins to fade into memory, ever-popular New Year’s resolutions are appearing here, there and everywhere. Instead of the one-size-fits-all mentality of a New Year’s resolution (lose weight! drink less! walk more!), why not embrace much more personal goals, bringing lasting power to your objectives?

Woman Learning How to Set Intentions Reading in Bed with Book, Mug of Tea and Candles

Does the idea of intention creating and goal setting feel like an elusive activity – akin to making magic spells one might learn at Hogwarts? Fear not, friends. You don’t have to be Harry Potter to become an expert at intention crafting. Here are some tips and tricks (no wand necessary!) to help you organize your dreams and desires so you can step forward into this new year with your best foot forward.

New habits

A solid approach to intention setting is the same one used to develop a new habit. New habits can be challenging because they essentially require your brain to grow, change and reorganize or become more neuroplastic. Recent studies have proven that a healthy brain is an adaptable, neuroplastic one. It doesn’t happen overnight however, as researchers from University College London observed 96 people over a 12-week period and found that it took an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.

So a gentle, patient, consistent and repetitive approach is key. A good habit has a much higher chance of becoming part of your daily life if you are patient with yourself when you begin incorporating it, as well as consistent and repetitive in your efforts to make it become routine. A new intention is much the same.

Goals and intentions in partnership

Goals and intentions, though different, work together in important ways. Goals are concrete, attached to real-world timelines or dollars and can be checked off a list once accomplished – such as starting a new business, publishing a novel, saving up a specific amount of money, migrating to a new city or attaining a diploma or educational certification.

Intentions are not as concrete as goals – they are ongoing. They represent your deeper dreams and desires, the overarching direction you want your life to go in, as well as the attitude or expectation you have for how you think things will work for or against you. Intentions require awareness. They ask for dreaminess. And yet they also demand boldness.

Why boldness? Many people allow something else to define them – they allow their culture, gender, age or media to classify them and thus let others to make general life choices for them. The powerful truth about intention building is that it allows you to make the choices. You define yourself when setting an intention – your only limit is you.

Intention setting is the potent ritual of choosing how you want your life to unfold.

Intentions take a longer, wider view, whereas goals are narrower and more specific, come with measurable outcomes and are manifestations of your desires, dreams or wishes. Intentions and goals come together when, for instance, you’ve always wanted to become a romance novelist, so you finally decide to write a novel within a year and get it published in the next. Your intention is the clear vision of where you want to go and what you want to achieve while your goal is the map for getting there. Where the two meet, is a formidable combination.

How to Set Intentions

Begin with self-reflection

This is the first step, so it involves lots of big dreams, daring questions and forthright answers. Be honest with yourself. What do you really want from life? What would a truly fulfilling life look like? Are you on that path? What would you need to change to be on that path? What brings you a sense of purpose? What makes you feel most alive?

These are brave questions, but the answers don’t necessarily have to involve huge or risky life-changing answers. More sleep and less screen time before bed could make an enormous difference, for instance. So might performing a single act of random kindness every day. Or taking yoga classes twice a week. Perhaps making a new friend. Being more self-confident. It’s up to you.

So, start with a real heart to heart conversation with yourself. What does your brain, but also what do your heart and your gut, tell you?

Own your intentions

Be clear, be concise. Always state your intention as if you already have what you are searching for. Instead of saying, “I want to become a romance novelist and make the New York Times Bestsellers List,” try saying “I am a successful romance novelist.”

At this juncture, your goals will begin to emerge as your plan takes form. How long will it take for you to author that novel? How many hours can you spend on it a week? When you are clear about what message you are sending out, you will begin to receive noticeably clear signals from the world in return. As you receive clear signals, your confidence in your ability to craft intentions will grow – it’s a domino effect.

Add energy with rituals

Rituals give you courage and focus, plus they add form, color and texture to something which is for the most part shapeless, formless and invisible (your dreams, desires and plans for the future). Adding something three dimensional at this step anchors it to the here and now andmakes it something you can see, taste, hear or feel. There is power in bringing your dreams into reality, initially through ritual and then later through the intention-setting process.

Ritual comes in many forms and is very personal. What matters most is that your intentions are in your mind – during a quiet morning sipping tea watching birds from a windowsill, meditating, jogging, swimming or hiking, whatever you like to do to relax or decompress.

You might also consider a ritual involving an element such as fire. You can set your intention by anointing a candle in oil, wrapping it in flowers and herbs and then lighting it with your deepest wish in mind. Aloha Bay’s Chakra Pillar Candles are perfect for such an occasion though just remember they are more flammable when lit this way so they should always be accompanied.

Following the moon cycles and doing such an activity during full or new moons, journaling or simply sharing your intentions with others, are all ways to add magic and ritual to your intentions and to help strengthen your relationship to your dreams and wishes.

Set dates and timelines

This is where “the rubber meets the road,” so to speak, or where you begin dialing in the details of the who, when, where and how much will it cost. This step might be considered by some as the grittiest, harshest, most daunting step because you’re no longer dreaming – you’re doing.

At this stage, you’re actually signing up for that yoga teacher certification you’ve always said you were going to complete, downloading that budget software you’ve been promising yourself you were going to learn to help manage your money better, opening up your own autobody shop instead of working for somebody else, taking Spanish classes so you’ll be ready to travel to Peru next year, etc. Above all, it’s important to set realistic timelines and to have gentle expectations. Rome was not built in a day, and your newly acquired intentions will not be, either.

In the meantime, be prepared for excitement, exhilaration, thrills and chills. Because you care so deeply about the outcome, you’ll likely run the gamut of emotions as you plunge into your new adventure. But hopefully through this process, you won’t be as overwhelmed, and it will also be easier for you to keep your overarching objective in mind.

Don’t hesitate to edit

Once you’ve set your intentions, through ritual and mantra, and backed them up through behavioral changes, specific plans and goals, it is time to let the universe do the rest. And there will likely be a few surprises in store for you, so don’t hesitate to edit your intentions six or 12 months later as they unfold. Once you begin to receive what you are asking for, you also may be surprised. Be careful what you wish for, so they say. By all means, respect the process and know that it is perfectly all right to alter the path a little as you move forward. Regardless, the path will by no means stay static!

Remember to be patient with the process of intention setting, stay consistent and clear in your message, always state your intention like you already have what you are searching for, add your own personal flair of magic, symbolism and ritual, set realistic timelines, and don’t hesitate to edit. With these tricks up your sleeve, you can be confident that 2023 will be your most dynamic and magical year yet.

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