You create your own reality.

Unless you live life on autopilot. Which is easy.

Being mindful and setting mindful intentions is much harder. But that’s what allows you to create your own reality, to create a life meant for you.

In today’s post I’d like to share my definition of “intention” and “aim”, how those differ from goals, and how they can help you shape your life.

Most importantly, I’ll try to explain why intentions must be set mindfully; why your true intentions can only be the result of higher awareness and consciousness.

What are mindful intentions?

An intention is… what you’d like to do, experience, or accomplish. A bit of a basic definition, but essentially that’s what it boils down to.

An intention is an aim, an idea that drives your actions, that gives you direction. Whether it’s today, this week, or for your whole life.

Now, when you set intentions, you must be mindful. Otherwise you may end up setting the wrong intentions.

To set intentions mindfully means to formulate an aim (or to discover it) with a very high level of awareness.

It means to silence the chattering mind, go back to a state of stillness, of silence, of emptiness — and only then decide what your intention is.

Intentions vs goals

Intentions reflect your desires. When setting intentions, you become aware of what you want to be and do, of what you desire.

Goals are much more practical. They are a way of expressing your intentions; they help you fulfill the desires, the impulses behind your intentions.

Goals can be measured and achieved. An intention itself cannot be achieved as it simply gives you direction, purpose, and clarity.

You can imagine intentions as a powerful driving force that shapes where you’d like to go, and goals as all the possible paths to get there.

If you set intentions mindfully, then you could say that your goals are the result of those. Your awareness (you) creates intentions, intentions create goals, goals lead to action, actions lead to results.

Typically, “intentions” are short term, while “aims” are long term. You usually set daily or weekly intentions, and have a bigger, overarching, all-encompassing aim that shapes your whole existence.

However, the two words can be synonyms. An intention can be an aim; an aim can also be an intention.

What’s important is that you have a direction, a purpose, a clear idea of who you want to be, do, and have. And both mindful aims and mindful intentions help with that.

A lesson from Gurdjieff

George Gurdjieff was a mystic whose spiritual teachings are now regarded as very influential.

The Fourth Way and In Search of the Miraculous are the two main books about his teachings (the books were written by Pyotr Ouspensky, one of Gurdjieff’s pupils).

Part of Gurdjieff’s work is based on the idea that “man is a machine”, that we human beings tend to live in a dream-like state and have little to no control over our thoughts and actions.

However, there is a way out. Through spiritual practices such as meditation, we may reach awakening; we may awake from sleep, and no longer function as machines, and live consciously.

Have a look at the following quotes:

Man is a machine. All his deeds, actions, words, thoughts, feelings, convictions, and habits are the result of external influences. Out of himself a man cannot produce a single thought, a single action.

G. I. Gurdjieff

Everything he says, does, thinks, feels — all this happens. Man is born, lives, dies, builds houses, writes books, not as he wants to, but as it happens. Everything happens. Man does not love, hate, desire — all this happens.

G. I. Gurdjieff

Man is a machine, but a very peculiar machine. He is a machine which, in right circumstances, and with right treatment, can know that he is a machine, and having fully realized this, he may find the ways to cease to be a machine.

Pyotr Ouspensky

Here is where intentions come into play. When we set intentions, when we have an aim, we cease to be machines, and live consciously instead.

Without an intention, or aim, life happens to us. Even the actions we think we perform simply happen to us.

With a clear aim, we become the creators. We get to shape our inner and outer world; what we experience is the result of our own will and consciousness rather than chaos.

You must have an aim, a serious aim. And you must establish a relationship between your task and your aim, an aim you cannot forget. Your task concerns your aim and brings you to your aim.

G. I. Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff even teaches how to find, or create, an aim. To have a mindful aim, a mindful intention, you must be in a state of mindfulness.

You cannot allow chaotic thoughts, impulses, desires, or images to interfere with the process.

You must be mindful; you must be still. Once you are in a state of relaxation, of stillness, then you can truly get closer to an aim. That’s the very first step toward a more conscious life.

Sit for a period of at least one hour alone. Make all your muscles relaxed. Allow your associations to proceed, but do not be absorbed by them. Say to them: if you will let me do as I wish now, I shall later grant you your wishes. Look on your associations as though they belonged to someone else, to keep yourself from identifying with them.

G. I. Gurdjieff

At the end of an hour, take a piece of paper and write your aim on it. Make this paper your god. Everything else is nothing. Take it out of your pocket and read it constantly, every day. In this way it becomes part of you, at first theoretically, later actually.

G. I. Gurdjieff

Benefits of mindful intentions

I think the way Gurdjieff describes us humans makes perfect sense, and explains the idea behind mindful intentions very well.

A life shaped by mindful intentions is a life shaped by the real you: your highest level of awareness, your highest aim, your highest purpose.

That’s why it can be tricky to set intentions mindfully. Those mindful intentions are yours, and yours alone. Nobody else can go through the process for you.

You cannot ask someone to pick intentions and aims for you. It wouldn’t work.

You have to do the work; you have to be mindful, detached from all distractions, and only then can you find out what your intentions are.

Once you do, you’ll get the chance to live your life consciously. You will be the creator of your own existence; you will have more power, more will.

This in itself is an amazing achievement. When you set mindful intentions, and follow them, you cease to be a machine; you live the life that’s meant for you. Life no longer happens to you.

Once you set mindful intentions (small intentions for the day, or all-encompassing aims that will take you a lifetime), you will notice the following:

  • Stronger will, determination, power
  • A sense of clarity, purpose, direction
  • Less exposure to external influences
  • Less exposure to negative thoughts and feelings
  • Better time management
  • Better priorities
  • A sense of fulfillment

Begin with the end in mind

When you set mindful intentions, you form an idea, or image, of what the end result will look like.

That image allows you to then set goals that will align to it. Remember: intentions are directions, goals are paths.

So before you can choose the right path, before you can “begin with the end in mind”, you need to know where exactly you are directed.

You can have goals that lead to nowhere. You can set the wrong goals, goals that have absolutely nothing to do with the real you.

Or you can choose to have an aim — your aim. You can choose to set intentions, mindfully, and only then set goals that are measurable.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to set aside some time, and set intentions, as a habit. The more often you do it, the more it turns into a habit.

When you wake up, you can resist the temptation to check notifications on your phone, and spend a few minutes setting intentions for the day.

Or, once in a while, you could go for a walk, meditate, or simply force yourself to do nothing for an hour or so, and then formulate a bigger aim, a bigger intention.

The key is to focus, to be distraction free. You cannot set mindful intentions when you are bombarded by distractions (external or internal).

You also want to write down all your intentions — don’t trust your memory, especially at first. Intentions will become part of you only after you’ve developed the habit of setting intentions.

What is YOUR mindful intention?

Is there a recurring intention in your life? If you could only set one intention for the day or week, what would it be?

Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a reply below! 👇