How to Set Intentions to Achieve Your Goals

a dart right in the bull's eye of a dartboard
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Several barriers can easily hijack attainment of a goal, including failing to set intentions around the goal. One study found that setting intentions in advance and implementing them as steps toward achieving your goals can greatly enhance the ability to attain them. This requires that goal setting follows the S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) process. Additionally, the study suggests contemplating the “where, when, and how” in advance of implementing goals.

An important note is the difference between a goal and an intention. Goals feel abstract, while intentions are linked with daily action. Goals seem abstract because they’re rooted in the future, while intentions are focused on the present. Daily intentions must be set to realize goal achievement in a timely manner.

Staying on Track

By setting daily intentions and following through, you ensure that you have clear, purposeful objectives directly linked to your goal, helping you become more motivated to stay on track. Without the process of planning your intentions for the day, your goal can easily become lost amid life’s chaos and clutter.   

Think of intentions as the seeds you plant in the present moment; nurture them with care, patience, and action, and watch them grow over time into the goal you desire. Intentions are a way of adhering to a proactive — as opposed to reactive — approach, and they allow you to have firm control over your day and your future.

Use these four guidelines for setting intentions to achieve your goals:  

  1. Make your goals and intentions S.M.A.R.T.

    While you should make your goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely, every intention you set thereafter should also follow the S.M.A.R.T. process. Unless it’s specific, you will lack a goal altogether. If you can’t measure your progress towards your goal, or examine if it’s attainable, it has no parameters.

    Lacking resources, capital, time, or energy will stymy efforts for attaining your goal. Unrealistic goal setting will make your goal impossible to reach. And finally, without a timeline, you will have an ever-moving target. 
  1. Define your values.

    Setting intentions may begin with defining your high-level values and then assigning task-oriented actions that correspond with them — but all these actions must help you progress toward your ultimate goal.

    Defining high-level intentions for yourself provides a framework for setting daily intentions. For example, one daily intention could be to stay up to speed in your industry by reading trade magazines, blogs and newsletters for 15-30 minutes a day. 
  1. Set aside time to plan your intentions.

    Intentionally carve out 15-20 minutes — either at the beginning or the end of the day — to keep track of what you’ve accomplished and what you wish to accomplish in the coming day. Think of this as a review/preview of your goal to ensure you remain on track.

    Making time to set your intentions for the day requires being grounded in the present and having a strong desire to realize your goal by the timeline you set for yourself. 
  1. Keep track of your intentions.

    This involves regularly measuring progress that will ensure goal attainment. Use a spreadsheet or flow chart (or something that works best for you) to record and keep track of each day’s intentions. Break your day into segments — 30 minutes, 60 minutes, etc. — and give your brain a rest in between each task. Schedule your more difficult and challenging tasks for the time of day when you’re most focused.

    Make notes to yourself regarding how they went. Journaling about your intentions may help with troubleshooting any issues now or in the future. 

Make setting daily intentions a habit. It will allow you to remain focused on what you need to accomplish to achieve your goals — and reap the rewards of having attained them!  

Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Book by this Author:

BOOK: Individual Influence

Individual Influence: Find the "I" in Team
by Brian Smith PhD and Mary Griffin

book cover of: Individual Influence: Find the "I" in Team by Brian Smith PhD and Mary GriffinIn Individual Influence, authors Brian Smith and Mary Griffin make a persuasive case that even a company or team of individual players is still an "Individual" at its core ― expressing the collective influence of all those who play a role in it. Thus, there is not just one "I" in team, but many.

In the first installment of this I in Team series, readers will be led on a far-from-typical journey of self-discovery punctuated by often humorous stories and tangible steps to put the wisdom into practice.

For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as an Audiobook and as a Kindle edition. 

About the Author

photo of Brian Smith, PhDBrian Smith, PhD, is founder and senior managing partner of IA Business Advisors, a management consulting firm that has worked with more than 18,000 CEOs, entrepreneurs, managers, and employees worldwide. Together with his daughter, Mary Griffin, he has authored his latest book, Individual Influence: Find the “I” in Team (July 19, 2022), which shares how to become our best self with everyone we influence.

Learn more at

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