Setting intentions

Self-awareness, writing & setting intentions

In Insight and Experience, Insight and Self Awareness by Diana RaabLeave a Comment

Diana shares the benefits of, and a method of intention-setting to help you understand the bigger picture and manifest what you want.

Self-awareness may be thought of as having knowledge, understanding, and recognition of who you are. Knowing who you are means that you are mindful of your personality, character, motives, strengths, weaknesses, passions, and desires. Being self-aware means being able to identify what makes you unique, in terms of your thoughts and actions. Having all this information can be empowering. When you know yourself, you are more likely to be introspective, which is an important element of healing and transformation.

Setting intentions

Setting intentions is a crucial starting point to becoming more self-aware, which can help you tell your story and transform your life. Intention-setting involves focusing your thoughts in the particular direction of what you want to bring about or manifest in your life. The first step is to decide that you want to do something or, more importantly, to make a change.

If you don’t go fishing, you won’t catch any fish

I once heard an addiction therapist use the example of fishing as an analogy to setting an intention. You make the decision to take the day off and go fishing. Being focused on catching a fish, you make all the preparations to do so. You prepare all your equipment, and find a place to fish, you prepare your fishing rod. And then you cast your line. All your thought processes are geared toward catching that fish. The task becomes your focus. If you had not made the choice or had the intention to go fishing, you would never even have had the chance to catch a fish. This is what setting an intention is all about.

Surrender and manifest

The second step in setting an intention is to decide to surrender to and manifest it. For example, you continue to focus on going fishing, even if you are distracted by other opportunities claiming your attention on that day. Maybe a friend asked you to go shopping with her, but you decline because you have made the intention to go fishing. You suggest that the two of you go shopping on another day.


One thing to remember: Even before you set an intention, you need to make sure that you believe in it, that your heart is in it, and that you cannot be swayed. Also, your intention should be in line with your life purpose, meaning the real direction you want your life to take.

Intentions may be set on a daily basis first thing in the morning. You can think of an intention as having a plan or focus for your day. On a broader scale, setting intentions can also be a way to navigate through difficult times. They are a way to break down the task of handling troublesome situations, encounters, or events that might emerge in your life.

An intention is not a goal

Setting an intention is different from setting a goal. A goal, for the most part, is a valuable aim that you work hard at achieving, but it is more long term than an intention. For example, in the Buddhist tradition, an intention is not orientated toward any future outcome; rather, it is a path that you follow for that day or another designated time period. In the practice or path of Buddhism there are three treasures or paths: awakening (Buddha/Bodhi), Dharma (truths/teachings), and Sangha (a sense of community).

Intentions and writing

If you want to write more intensely, you can set an intention. Doing so will put you in the right mindset and inspire you to be more aware of what you write about. When you hold the intention to write, then you are more motivated to do so.

You might want your intentions to be more specific. For example, you might say, “Today I am going to recount the story of the day my sister was born,” or, “Today I’m going to write about the trauma I experienced as a child.” Intentions are useful in changing behaviour, as in the case of addictive behaviours. It is important to keep in mind that you can only make intentions for yourself; you can offer hope to other people, but you cannot make intentions for them.

Intentions and behaviour

There are many different ways to set an intention. For example, perhaps you are feeling stressed because you will be having dinner with a difficult family member. Perhaps you have had a pattern of being reactive this person’s hurtful comments to you. On the morning of your dinner, you might decide to set the intention that you won’t be reactive but instead will take on a different stance. You will become an observer to the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Using intention cards

Another method of setting intentions is to use intention cards to gain ideas. Some people use tarot or oracle cards for this purpose. The card’s message is to be their intention for the day. It can be particularly useful to write in a journal, exactly what the intention card says. When practising this intention-setting method, it is interesting that we’re often surprised to have chosen a card that resonates with our state of mind. Similarly, drawing an intention card can offer you your first prompt to jump-start your writing.

Setting an intention in the morning is also a good way to set the tone for your day. If you wake up in a bad mood, for example, setting intentions is one way to change the day’s trajectory. In other words, you can choose to turn a bad mood into a good mood. To set an intention is empowering. It provides you with the choice to make a change where change is needed.

Our search for meaning

Like the choice of picking an intention card, we all have choices in most realms of our lives. Years ago when my eldest daughter was in rehab, one of the books she was given to read was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (1984). This poignant book is really about how one choice can affect the trajectory of the rest of your life. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, made the choice to remain behind and care for the patients in the concentration camp. He made this decision based on an intention he had set for himself and on what he saw as his life purpose. He intuited that offering love and care to those in need would lead to his own bliss.

Recently, I had a powerful experience with intention-setting when I ventured to Maui to meet my spiritual guide. I brought along my Hawaiian healing cards that I use as intention cards. Every morning I chose one before leaving my hotel to meet my guide in the day’s designated spiritual spot. How those cards helped to set the tone and focus for us was amazing.

I continue to hear my spiritual guide’s words of wisdom echoing in my mind: “You know, we all have choices.” Her words emphasise the importance of always setting our own intentions about what is good for us, as opposed to what others may want for us. Her words both empower and liberate me as I move forward through my day, always keeping in mind that we make millions of choices during the course of our lives. Whatever choices you have and decisions you make, always remember to follow your bliss; write what is in your heart and be true to yourself.



About the author

Diana Raab

Diana Raab, PhD,is a memoirist, blogger, poet and speaker. She teaches workshops on writing for healing and transformation. This article is an excerpt from her new book, 'Writing for bliss: a seven-step plan for telling your story and transforming your life.

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