5 Lessons to Live Every Day With Intention

How do you think your life will look five years from now? Take a moment to consider your ideal future self. Where do you belong? What are your future intentions?

In this article, we look at the nature of setting intentions and further explore ways to ensure we follow through with our intentions every day.

What does it mean to live with Intention?

Live every day with intention

Imagine the entire reality with all its possibilities as a map on your phone or your GPS device. Picture it as a vast landscape, full of twists and turns. This map is like a guide for your life’s journey.

Drop a point to mark where you are in your life path. Call it point A.

Then, imagine a place in life where you want to be. For example, this could be your ideal future self living the life of your dreams.

Where do you see yourself?

This is your destination. Mark it as point B. Now,  you have a clear line that connects points A to B on the map. Imagine you are given a hypothetical bicycle to pedal from A to B. You get on the bike and start. 

There are challenges and setbacks along the way and you might have to take a detour or re-adjust your path.

But how do you make sure that you get to your destination B?

Navigating purpose and intention is like riding a bike on this wild country road.

Let’s see how.

How to navigate a life with intention?

Going on a bike trip to the countryside means we need to keep our eyes on the map and regularly check our current position to avoid getting lost.

Similar to going on a bike trip, living with intention involves three-step:

  • a. Choosing a worthy destination
  • b. Monthly Pause and plan
  • c. Daily checking

a. Choosing a worthy destination

Finding purpose and destination is about knowing your values and what matters. A worthy goal is something meaningful to you. For example, getting in shape, improving relationships, finishing a degree, …

b. Monthly pause and plan

The path to our destination could be long and twisted. And that’s fine because that’s why it’s a worthy purpose.

But this also means we need regular checks and follow-through to make sure we are moving toward our destination.

Monthly pause and plan sessions are meetings with ourselves to do just that. We give ourselves the time to think about alternative strategies and change plans if needed.

To do this, set up a fixed time, every 4 to 6 weeks and sit down for an hour to see how your plans are working out. You can adjust expectations and review what works and what doesn’t.

c. Daily Check-ins

Daily check-ins are small rituals, habits, or mental reminders that guide us along the path each day

They could be as simple as reading your intentions or writing them down. Or they could be working on daily habits that help you reach your plans. How do these steps translate into every day action to help us live with intention. The following are 5 lessons that help you with these small everyday checks.

They could be as simple as reading your intentions or writing them down. Or they could involve working on daily habits that help you reach your plans.

How do these steps translate into everyday actions to help us live with intention? The following are five lessons that help you with these small everyday checks

Here are the 5 lessons to live every day with intention:

1- Visit your goals every day.

Life is complicated and messy at times. And it’s easy to get lost in the brambles along our journey and lose sight of the destination.

But challenges are only a natural part of the journey. So, we need to make sure that we are prepared to pass obstacles and stay on our path.

So, it’s important to watch your intention and give yourself daily reminders about the destination. Even when things get tough and nothing moves forward.

There is extensive research in behavioral psychology that proves the effectiveness of these frequent checks.

In 2015, research published in the American Psychological Association surveyed 138 individual studies with 20,000 participants. All studies explored the relationship between goal progress monitoring and final achievement. All studies came to one conclusion:

  • Regular checking on your goals makes a big difference in achieving them.1
  • You can increase your chance of success by increasing the frequency of checking on their progress.
  • Shared your progress publicly can have a strong effect on the outcome.

To sum up, tracking goals turns your intention into action. Sharing them publicly brings accountability.

Although, sharing goal progress might not be for everyone. But scribbling down your intentions and goals every day could be an effective way of staying on your path.

For example, writing down a few bullet points about your long-term goal every day can improve your chance of success. Or if you are not into journaling, get into the habit of drawing a few doodles that remind you of your goal.

2- Control your thoughts

If you go on a bike trip to a wild country road, you want to check that the bicycle functions right. For example, the gears are aligned and work efficiently.

Similarly, when setting an intention to reach a destination in life we want to make sure that the mind supports us in reaching our goal.

To do that, it’s important to be vigilant of our thought patterns.

Because negative and ruminating thought patterns can hijack our mental processes and lower our chances of reaching our goals.

Ruminations are repetitive negative thoughts that go into our minds without our permission.

They could be all sorts of bothersome thoughts. For example, how they might make us re-live a painful experience.

Ruminating thoughts can consume much of our mental energy and leave us stressed, distracted, and too tired to attend to what we need to do to reach our goals.

Moreover, research on rumination and goal achievement shows that ruminating thoughts decrease our ability for problem-solving and goal achievement. 2

Moreover, over time, these negative thoughts can turn from “dwelling on problems” into “learned habits”. 3 This means, they stick around and dominate our mind even when we don’t want them to.

When that happens, nothing can move us forward in life.

This is like, the gears on our hypothetical bicycles are jammed and we get stuck where we are.

But there is much hope in finding a way to move forward

Research from the University of Exeter, UK, found that in as short as two weeks participants can reduce their depressive rumination.

But, how? By using Nature-Based Meditation.

What is nature-based meditation?

Nature-based meditation is a wide range of practices that combines mindfulness training and exposure to nature.

Exposure to nature is known for its benefits from cognitive improvement to wellbeing and happiness. 4

Nature-based meditation refers to a wide range of mindfulness interventions involving nature. It could be as simple as gardening, raking leaves, yoga, or a nature walk.

It boils down to spending time in nature and paying attention to nature, sounds, colors, shapes, and what is happening.

Participant in the “Nature-Based Meditation” at the University of Exter study, not only significantly decreased rumination but also improved their well-being. 5

The key here is to focus the attention away from the self and onto the natural surroundings. This could mean, paying attention to shapes, colors, sounds, etc.

Moving Water Meditation

Flowing water Practice is an example of this nature-based meditation. This practice is simple but you need a flowing body of water, like a river, a waterfall, or a stream. To start, sit close by and focus on the sound of the water. Closing your eyes might help with keeping focus.

3- Take control of your emotions

Living with intentions and acting on them requires taking control of our emotions. Letting go of anger, worry, frustration, sadness, and excessive excitement can derail us from staying focused on our destination.

Our emotions have a strong grip on how we perceive the world around us. Our perception process translates reality and tailors it to fit our feelings and thoughts.

This means, a negative emotional state, might make us understand a friendly nod as a treat.

Or see a favorable opportunity in a negative light.

In turn, controlling our emotions helps us make better decisions. And move more effectively toward our goals.

This is how controlling emotions can help us stick to our plan:

  • Focused attention: Managing emotions means focusing on what truly matters to you.
  • Emotional Understanding: When you are in control of your emotions, you remove the ineffective biases. This means you better understand cues to interpret how you and others around you feel.
  • Grit: Controlling emotions means less distress when facing challenges. This means you are more likely to stay and continue your effort despite the setbacks.
  • Self-efficacy: Controlling emotions also comes with higher self-esteem. Knowing you can control your actions gives you confidence when facing unknown situations.

4- Make it a habit

Aiming for a long-term destination could be a long and challenging path.

Success and positive feedback motivate us and keep us on the path. Naturally, not seeing any positive outcome for a long time could be discouraging and decrease our motivation. But what if reaching our purpose requires a long period of working without success?

For example, starting a business or writing a book might require a few years of focused effort before things pick up. What could motivate us then?

This is where habits can help.

Habits are automatic behavior patterns. This means doing them requires less effort and self-control. We create habits by repeating something until it becomes automatic. Creating daily habits that align with our long-term goal can be an “effortless strategy” in reaching our destination.

For example, this could mean going to a coffee shop every morning to write for a few hours.

Or it could be setting aside time to go to the local library every Friday to plan how to market your business idea.

Research on habits and self-control shows that sustaining a new habit for 3 months can turn it into a habit. 6

Breaking down and planning what we need to do into daily habits is an effective way of making sure we stay true to our destination.

5- Stay flexible and embrace change

If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve.
Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,
chances are that you’ll cut yourself.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Ch 74

When reaching our goal and destination, we can try to control as much as we can. This might not be easy to achieve while living in a changing universe.

Similarly, life doesn’t always follow our plans. So, trying to control the future could be more harmful than intended.

Instead, acceptance of the turns and twists along our path can help us be less resistant to change and become more resilient in the face of challenges.

In the book Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson tells a story about two mice Sniff and Scurry, and two “little people” Hem and Haw. 7

They look through a maze looking for cheese, cheese is a metaphor representing success and happiness.

Looking through the maze for cheese they all find Cheese Station C, and they all enjoy the cheese until it is there.

When the cheese at the station finally ran out, Sniff and Scurry realizing that station C had no cheese moved on to look for a new cheese station.

However, Hem and Haw were living very comfortably with their cheese station C and didn’t want to see it go. Being fearful of exploring new possibilities, they went to the old cheese station every day and argued: what happened? Who took it? Why it happened?

Meanwhile, the two mice had found a new cheese station, a bigger and better supply of cheese! According to Spencer Johnson, here is why accepting change and letting go of old cheese is the best thing you can do for your survival:

  • The faster you let go of the old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.
  • Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.
  • Imagining yourself enjoying your new cheese leads you to it.

Key takeaways for living every day with intention

Set a Clear Destination:

  • identify and define your goals and values.
  • Understand where you are now (Point A) and where you want to be (Point B).

Regularly Review and Adjust Plans:

  • Conduct monthly self-check-ins to assess progress and adjust strategies.
  • Set aside time every 4 to 6 weeks to reflect and plan.

Daily Reminders and Habits:

  • Establish daily rituals to keep your goals top of mind.
  • Write down your intentions and track progress regularly.

Manage Thoughts and Emotions:

  • Stay vigilant about negative thought patterns and practice mindfulness.
  • Engage in nature-based meditation to reduce rumination and improve well-being.

Stay Flexible and Embrace Change:

  • Accept that plans may need to adapt over time.
  • Embrace change as an opportunity for growth and resilience.


  1. Harkin, Benjamin, Thomas L. Webb, Betty P. I. Chang, Andrew Prestwich, Mark Conner, Ian Kellar, Yael Benn, and Paschal Sheeran. 2016. “Does Monitoring Goal Progress Promote Goal Attainment? A Meta-Analysis of the Experimental Evidence.” Psychological Bulletin 142 (2): 198–229. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000025. ↩︎
  2. Michel-Kröhler, A., Wessa, M., & Berti, S. (2023). Experimental induction of state rumination: A study evaluating the efficacy of goal-cueing task in different experimental settings. PLOS ONE, 18(11), e0288450. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0288450 ↩︎
  3. Watkins ER, Roberts H. Reflecting on rumination: Consequences, causes, mechanisms and treatment of rumination. Behav Res Ther. 2020 Apr;127:103573. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2020.103573. Epub 2020 Jan 31. PMID: 32087393. ↩︎
  4. Nurtured by nature. (n.d.). Https://Www.Apa.Org. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature ↩︎
  5. Owens, M., & Bunce, H. L. I. (2022). Nature-Based Meditation, Rumination, and Mental Wellbeing. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(15), Article 15. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159118 ↩︎
  6. van der Weiden A, Benjamins J, Gillebaart M, Ybema JF and de Ridder D (2020) How to Form Good Habits? A Longitudinal Field Study on the Role of Self-Control in Habit Formation. Front. Psychol. 11:560. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00560 ↩︎
  7. Johnson, S. (2002). Who moved my cheese? It is an amazing way to deal with change in your work and your life. Putnam. ↩︎