If you’re like me (and most entrepreneurs), you’d much rather plan for the future than look to the past. Yet this time of year invites us to reflect on what did and didn’t work in 2017, and year-end reviews help us to plan for the coming year. I’m a proponent of writing goals down, for both business growth and personal development. That said, I think many of us miss a critical first step in the goal-setting process that happens each new year. It starts with setting intention.

Thousands of years ago, the sages of India observed that destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads declares, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”

Setting intention is something yogis practice regularly, whether at the beginning of a yoga session, the start of the day or within a larger meditation. Intentions guide goals and visions and help create clarity in life. As a metaphor, setting an intention is like drawing a map of where you wish to go. Without a map (intention), you are driving down a road with no destination in mind.

Consider intention the seed from which your creations – whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening or love – form and flourish. “Like real seeds, intentions can’t grow if you hold on to them,” writes Deepak Chopra, M.D., a best-selling author, physician, and founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. “Only when you release your intentions into the fertile depths of your consciousness can they grow and flourish.”

How to Set an Intention
Don’t confuse intentions with goals, such as losing 10 pounds or meditating 5 times a week. Intentions should reflect your personal thoughts, values and perspective on life. They can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase to align yourself with such as “open your mind and heart.” Keep your intention positive. For example, rather than saying, “stop being a coward,” rephrase your intention to “be courageous.”

Consider these things when setting your intention:

  • What matters most to you?
  • What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?
  • What would you like to let go of?
  • Who would you like to forgive in your life?
  • How do you feel when you are your happiest self?
  • What makes you proud?
  • What word(s) would you like to align yourself with?
  • What fears would you like to release?
  • What are you grateful for?

Or, if finding your own intention is daunting, borrow of these and put your own spin on it:

  • Find balance
  • Open your mind and heart
  • Peace
  • Stay steady, calm and focused
  • Act with courage
  • Embrace change
  • Give and receive love
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable
  • Connect with others
  • Love

Silently stating your intention at the beginning of your day or yoga practice is a good start, but you should also revisit it often and when needed. Call your invention to the center of your mind when you need a guide or feel stress as a way to help you stay grounded and reconnect with what matters most.

I invite you to explore the idea of setting intention, even if it feels foreign. This Inc. article further explains the difference between intentions and goals, and you can read more about the process of setting intentions from Deepak Chopra here. One of my intentions is to remain curious and open to new information and opportunity. In this spirit, I hope you will email me with the results of your intention setting. As a yoga teacher, I am always eager to learn how others incorporate the practice’s ancient teachings into daily life.

“Intentions compressed into words enfold magical power.”
— Deepak Chopra