There are few pursuits more important than living an intentional life. Indeed, it is the value of our commitment that determines the direction of our lives.
To choose a life that is not wasted, but to center our energies on pursuits of lasting value is one of the best decisions we can make. But in a world that calls repeatedly for our attention and affection, intentional living can be difficult and requires daily focus.
I learned the discipline of setting my intention each morning when I was in college. Over 20 years later, I still recite the sentence every morning.
A spiritual mentor was the first person to share the idea with me. He said it like this, “Every morning, before I start my day, I set my intention with a simple sentence that goes like this:
Today, I commit myself to ____________________.”
The sentence above, intentionally left blank, gets to be filled and concluded each morning however you choose to complete it.
- Today, I commit myself to being the best mother I can be.
- Today, I commit myself to being a faithful spouse.
- Today, I commit myself to healthy eating.
- Today, I commit myself to selflessness.
- Today, I commit myself to a specific spiritual pursuit.
- Today, I commit myself to this work goal.
- Today, I commit myself to getting out of debt.
A thousand people may read this article and a thousand different sentences may emerge. The possibilities are endless, but your specific sentence should be singular. Choose one intention (the most important and consequential) and set your mind, your day, and yourself in that direction.
It is not difficult to do and has served to be life-changing for me.
How the Intention-Setting Sentence Works
Here are a few things to keep in mind about the practice:
1. Set your intention as early in the morning as possible.
At the beginning, combine the statement with a trigger action: taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or your first sip of coffee. Choose a time before the day gets away from you or distraction sets in (an email, a boss, or a crying baby) and state your intention aloud.
2. Your intention-setting sentence can be completed in a second or meditated on for hours.
This intention-setting sentence holds value in the few seconds it takes to recite. It reminds your mind, heart, and soul of your desire for the day.
But it is also a statement that can be meditated upon for hours if time permits. What does it mean for me to be the best parent that I can be? What are the most important projects I should be working hard on? What does it look like to live selfless today?
Most days, I set my intention with just a few words while I shower. But I have never regretted the meditative time of focusing deeper upon it.
3. Setting your intention each morning does not eliminate distractions.
I have set my intention each morning for decades, but have still been distracted from it on countless occasions. Stating your intention does not mean you will never slip up in your pursuit of it. But it does remind you each morning of your goal for the day and sets your affection upon it. Beginning your day focused on an intentional approach beats drifting every day.
4. Your intention is not the only thing you will do that day.
You are not uttering a statement of exclusion. You can commit yourself in the morning to be an intentional father while still going to work and focusing on your career goals. But your stated intention will help keep your focus in the right place.
5. Your intention may change each day or it may stay the same.
My intention each morning centers around my faith and it does not change. It is my most important pursuit every day as I seek to live the most fulfilling and abundant life I can. But it is not required each morning to keep it the same. I would warn against changing it every day, but it is perfectly natural for our goals and intentions to change as we pass through the various seasons of life.
6. Setting your intention gets easier over time.
Try it, right now, before you read further. What is it that you most want your life to be focused on today? Even if there are only a few hours left in your day, try it for the first time.
Now, try to remember to repeat it again in the morning. If you forget (you probably will), don’t worry. Just set your intention as soon as you remember to do so. Over time, you will find it easier and easier to remember in the morning. Soon, it will be part of your regular routine.
How to Choose Your Intention
If you don’t know what intention is worth setting each morning, here are some helpful questions to get you started:
- What are the 2-3 most important things you want to accomplish in your life? Does one stand out above the others?
- Is there a role in your life you feel compelled to succeed at?
- Is there an overarching spiritual belief or worldview that helps you make sense of the world? Does it motivate you to live a full life?
- What current healthy life change are you pursuing?
- When you close your eyes at night, what daily pursuit or accomplishment leaves you feeling the most fulfilled?
Did any of those questions draw out a pursuit more important than the others? Did you notice any recurring themes in your answers? Did any of your responses surprise you? Were there any words or phrases that seem to represent your passions better than others?
If you are struggling to come up with the perfect wording to complete your intention-setting sentence, please don’t.
Start with what you know to be true. You can change it as soon as tomorrow.
Intentional living is one of the best gifts we can ever give ourselves. It is also one of the most significant gifts we can give to the people we love and the world around us.
Get started with one sentence every morning:
“Today, I commit myself to ____________________.”