How to set intentions – a step-by-step guide

How to set intentions text over photo of open witchy aesthetic journal

It’s a powerful practice to get aligned with your goals… but do you know HOW to set intentions?

Do you know what you want? Most people would say a quick “YES!” when asked that question. But knowing how to set intentions can be the difference between bringing those desires into being, and letting them slip between your fingers!

First off, what are intentions?

Quite simply, an intention is an aim, idea, concept or determination to do, be or have something.

It could be a tangible object, a relationship, lifestyle, status, or a state of being, like a feeling or emotion.

Crucially, the intention is the decision. This is a little different from a goal, which is the planned outcome. Instead of this, an intention is the pivot point where change begins. It’s the moment when you choose to be the creator and the director of events in your life, rather than simply the passenger, who’s being carried along for the ride.

WHY Set intentions? (Here are some benefits)

We live in a world of distractions!

Most people are super-busy and have a million and one things vying for their attention. We all have demands and responsibilities. We all have every reason NOT to zoom out and look at the bigger picture of our lives!

So taking just a little time and energy to ponder what you truly want, and then making a commitment – in the form of an intention – is a really powerful way to –

  • Commit to your goals
  • Course correct (see where you need to get onto a different track)
  • Re-centre yourself
  • Reclaim your autonomy
  • Call back in scattered energy
  • Get more efficient with your work + efforts
  • Bring meaning to your life
  • Get aligned with your values
  • Stay motivated
  • Create a life you love
  • Stop doing things you don’t like
  • Release victim mentality

The truth is, setting intentions is an absolutely foundational practice if you’re aiming to get to a new level of BEING. Unless you set up goals, how do you know where to aim?

BUT intentions are a little different from goals, in that they serve as a kind of initiation into the new model you’ll need to step UP into, for you to achieve them. Intentions are about realigning yourself, where you are right now.

Intentions invite commitment through action.

… But also through your energy and through the expectation of who you’re becoming. SO for me, intentions are a powerful tool for not only personal development, but also spiritual and emotional development and conscious evolution, too.

The emotional benefits of setting intentions

Something not everyone talks about or even realizes when it comes to setting monthly or daily intentions, is the wide-ranging benefits on your emotional health.

Intentions drive hope. They gently switch your mindset from something passive, to possibility and potential. They help reframe your current situation so you see it as a springboard for many new directions.

Intentions are also a powerful tool of self-empowerment, and setting them can be a statement of reclamation! Where life may have been dictated to you by others, or you feel you’re a victim of circumstances you have little control over, setting intentions can make you feel hopeful, positive, and purposeful.

WHEN to set intentions

Once you’re clear on the benefits of setting intentions, next you need to think about the timing of your intention setting practice (if you want to make it into a practice at all…?)

The most common routines are setting daily intentions, and setting monthly intentions. For the more witchy among us, these are often set at the New Moon phase.

READ THIS: The essential step-by-step New Moon Ritual guide


How to set intentions – Step by step

The formula for how to set intentions is pretty easy – tweak and adjust as necessary. If you’re setting daily intentions, you’ll be able to do this in just a few minutes!

1. Find your intention

I say “find” your intention, because your intention exists already! You don’t need to create it out of thin air, you need to tune into it.

There are so many ways to do this, but here’s one simple, effective method:

  • Take a pen and paper and write down all the things you desire. From big, lifelong goals, to daily fancies, get them all down on paper.
  • Next, read through each one in turn and see how it lands in your body. How do you feel when you read the words?
    Do you feel hopeful, and expansive? Does the thought of it lift you up and make you smile?
    OR, do you feel triggered, like it’s something you’re missing out on, something you “should” have in your life, or feel ashamed not to have already?
  • Now number the items on your list, with 1 being the one/s that gave you the most fulfilling feeling, and 10 the one’s that triggered you, or made you feel less-than.
  • Next, re-write the list including only the highest numbers – all the 1s or 2s. Or maybe 3s, depending on how many items on your whole list.
  • Now make your personal choice from these. You can base this choice on instinct, timing, resources, astrology, and any other factors you’re swimming around in right now. But don’t overthink it – it’s better to pick a couple, and move on.

2. Get clear + specific

With luck, the previous activity will have done most of this for you, but if not, it’s vital to get the wording of your intention super clear and specific from the offset. This also includes using quantities and timelines.

Fluffy intentions will reap fluffy rewards.

An example of this is, instead of stating “I will drink plenty of water today”, state “I will drink 5 big glasses of water today”. And instead of saying “I aim to earn more money”, state “I will earn £10,000 this calendar month!”.

This kind of specificity and clarity around what you want to attain, aligns you with a concrete goal – which will give shape to your efforts – PLUS the accountability to get you there. It creates a hook for your attention, an anchor point for your vision, and the real probability of your desire manifesting!

So start your intentions with phrasing like: “I am…” and “I will…”. If you don’t feel confident enough to state things in such an affirmative way, try “I will practice…” or “I am becoming”.

3. Write your intentions down, and speak them aloud

At this point, you’ve likely already done a fair bit of writing! But it’s important to purposefully write those intentions down one last time. Do it on a fresh page of your journal, or on a piece of paper you can pin up somewhere prominent.

Research actually shows that people who write their goals down are three times more likely to achieve them, than those who just have some vague plan of what they want.

It’s the same with setting intentions. Writing them down forms the commitment. It’s laying the foundation for the greatest chance of your success.

It’s also essential to make a verbal statement of your intentions

Doing this begins turning the wheels of motion, so your desires can take flight in the world! Uttering the words into being with your breath creates a certain kind of ripple in the world. It gives your intention a life of its own outside of your own mind, where there’s space for it to expand!

Saying your intention aloud is a spoken promise.

It’s a declaration to the elements of nature, a petition for their help and support in re-shaping the fabric of life around you, to bring into being what you desire. And It’s an honouring of the partnership of creation, a spell cast in the wind.

You can also set your intention in community.

Try doing this whole intention-setting exercise with a friend, and share your intimate wishes with each other. Or declare it in a circle of sisters or brothers – in the presence of others who will hold your intention with you. A shared belief in something is incredibly potent when it comes to bringing it to life!

You may also want to post your personal intentions on social media – this is an incredible (and slightly frightening!) way to generate accountability.

4. Ritualise your intention

This is a step that’s often overlooked, but it’s truly foundational when working with personal intentions.

See if you can create a daily ritual around your intended desire. Something simple – a daily action that’s repetitive, not too challenging or time-consuming, and can be incorporated into your routine.

For example, if your intention is to develop your spirituality, then set up an altar for yourself with a candle and matches by your bedside, so you can spend 5 minutes meditating before bed. Make it unavoidable! Or if your intention is to be more light-hearted and playful, go buy yourself a jokebook and read (and share) 5 jokes a day for the next couple of weeks.

Don’t overthink it – often the simplest most actionable thing is what will work! You want to make your ritual doable but also juuust uncomfortable enough to challenge you to step into a new way of being.

5. Keep working on your limiting beliefs

Once you’ve figured out how to set intentions, and had a go at actually doing it, you’re still not out of the woods!

… And the reason for this is most likely to be your own limiting beliefs.

We all have limiting beliefs – I don’t’ know anyone who’s immune from them! Limiting beliefs can be defined as the acceptance of something as true, even when it limits your capabilities and the way you live your life.

They’re kind of like little rules you hold for yourself and your life, that get in the way of what you think is possible for you, for other people, and as a consequence, for the world.

When setting intentions, it’s a very good idea to keep tabs on any limiting beliefs you uncover, that directly contrast with your intention. AND get to work at dismantling them!

This is an ongoing process, like peeling back the layers of an onion skin.

** To dive deep into this work with me, and lean how to uncover and dismantle your own limiting beliefs, you can take the Honeyed Shadow 13-day journey. CLICK here and join me!

TIPS for how to set intentions effectively (and keep them!)

  • Keep them simple
  • Keep your intentions positive and affirmative
  • Have no more than a handful at any one time
  • Keep a record
  • BE compassionate
  • Be aware of what’s not working
  • Create a regular routine (setting daily, or New Moon intentions for eg.)
  • Revisit your intentions throughout the day
  • Keep your intentions realistic

You can create any kind of intention for your life, but the most effective ones will be personal

Whether you’re setting up a huge, grand, sweeping plan, or a simple next-day desire, try to ensure that your intention has at least a glimmer of realism!

The ‘best’ intentions will be feasible and actionable – remember that unless you participate in the energy raised by setting your intention, it will stay just that. An intention.

So ensure you also pay attention to your levels of motivation and willpower – these are also vital ingredients in the intention setting method.


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