People and Untold Stories

Setting Intentions: How to Make it a Habit and Why

I went to a hypnotherapist once who showed me a powerful exercise.

He had me try to pick up a much bigger person.

First, I had to say out loud, “I am weak, I am weak, I am weak.”

Naturally, I found that person too heavy, impossible to pick up. Then he had me say, “I am strong, I am strong, I am strong.”

I picked up the bigger person, no problem. It was still difficult, but I did it and didn’t hurt myself.

He did this to demonstrate the power of thoughts and words. Though people say, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” that’s actually not true.

Words can hurt.

Words DO affect reality. And they often just hurt yourself.

We have between 50 and 70,000 thoughts a day. And for most people, 70% of those are negative. So if you have 60,000 thoughts a day, then 43,000 of those tend to be bad.

That’s not good for anybody’s mental state. Like the exercise, we become what we think. We get into these habits of worry and negativity.

Thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Thinking we’re not good enough because we’re not perfect.

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Thinking that things will always stay the same.

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Sometimes I spend so much time imagining worst-case scenarios it makes me stuck before I even get started. And if I’m stuck, I’m not achieving my goals.

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So I’ve been looking for ways to overcome this tendency. One thing I’ve found that really helps is setting intentions through different means.

Setting intentions really helps me incorporate new habits into my daily life, and also forces me to have a vision for my overall life that I lacked before. It’s powerful and so, so simple to do.

Vision Board

This year, I made myself a vision board.

A local writing center offered a free workshop right after the new year. At first, I was skeptical, because how can cutting up images from a magazine really help me overcome obstacles? But then I read that these vision boards actually do work.

The same way athletes might picture themselves hitting a home run or making an impossible basketball shot, vision boards help you picture your goals.

I found a bunch of images for what I wanted in terms of career success. Sometimes they were a little abstract, like a really expensive pair of boots I’d seen Michelle Obama wearing, because she’s successful and powerful and they’re great boots. I also chose words like POWERHOUSE and SUCCESS.

I chose photos of the kind of social time I liked (brunch!) and the kind of love I wanted to receive.

This year, I’ve made more inroads into success than I ever have before. Job after job has manifested. I’ve made friends and strong relationship decisions. I feel like I’m becoming the person I’m meant to be.


I also started keeping a journal. I know some people like bullet journals as a way to organize their thoughts and intentions, but I found that to be too much work (and I don’t like drawing calendars).

There are many journals out there that ask you to set intent every single morning, week, and month. I like Panda Planner because it asks you to state your priorities, which makes you actually think about them.

So I use the vision board to set the overall intention and picture of my life, then use the journal to actually achieve those goals on a daily basis. Pretty cool.

You can use journaling for whatever you want. I use it for fitness, relationships, eating, creativity, and work. One of my goals is to be able to do pull-ups, so I write out the steps needed daily to achieve that.

State the Reality You Want

I also like to use journaling to write down a positive quote, mantra, gratitude, or just plain intention. It’s important to write down things as if they’re real, not as what they might be.

Legendary best-selling sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler wrote the story of her success as an intention before it happened.

Butler was a Black woman in a field dominated by white men, so she had more obstacles than most just to get published. Over and over, she wrote, “I shall be a best-selling author….this is my life. I write best-selling novels. My novels go onto the best-seller lists on or shortly after publication.”

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Notice that she went from “shall” to “am” in her verb tense. She had to think of herself as one in order to become one.

That’s powerful.

That’s intention.

What Are Your Intentions?

So I’d like you to try intention-setting for yourself. Ask yourself:

  • What is it that I most want? Think of the biggest thing you can.
  • What is holding me back? Is there someone I need to forgive?
  • What am I grateful for? This can be small or big.
  • What makes me feel happy and healthy?
  • What makes me feel down?

Then think about what kind of attributes you need to achieve these goals. For example, you may need courage to forgive someone or take the first step to a new job or to break up with someone who makes you feel down.

You may need to be vulnerable to receive love. You may need determination to hit your fitness goals.

These words can be manifested as images on your vision board, or as words in your journal, or both.

Be bold and confident, like Octavia E. Butler. Intention setting is not the time to be modest. Ask for what you want, think about what you need, and then go forth and get it.

After all, you’re the only one who can control your thoughts, and thoughts are powerful. Thoughts become part of your biological make-up, your brain wiring.

Thoughts become reality, so make it the best one you can.

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Setting Intentions: How to Make it a Habit and Why

About the Guest Contributor

Andee Schmidt

Andee is a recent college graduate from Arizona State University with a love of writing, the outdoors, and funky cafes. You can usually find her hiking or planning her next trip. She is passionate about traveling, frugal living, her family, and the perfect cup of coffee.

Connect with Andee

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