How to Stop Living on Autopilot and Be More Intentional

Energy flows where intention goes.

Many people have referred to the global pandemic as “The Great Pause”, jolting us out of our routines and making space for introspection.

Some people have stopped to ask themselves if the ladder they’re climbing is leaned against the right wall. Others have decidedly removed that ladder and placed it elsewhere.

Being forced to break routines could be an opportunity to turn off autopilot and start living more intentionally.

Setting clear intentions can help with decision making, accomplishing goals, and paving a clear path to following your greatest good or higher self.

I find writing intentions down and having fun with them can fuel motivation, discipline, and establish a routine or daily ritual that leads to long-term changes.

Here are a few tips to begin setting your intentions and working toward them. Start every month by sitting down and really thinking or better yet, feeling out where you want to channel your energy.

1. Imagine Your Higher Self

Sit down in a quiet place in comfortable clothing. Light incense or a candle if it helps you foster a meditative environment. Close your eyes in a comfortable upright position. Set a timer for 10 minutes and engage in the following meditation.

  • Breathe in for a count of 2.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 4.
  • Breathe out for a count of 8.
  • Repeat this 10 times.

Ask yourself the following questions and allow the answers to flow to you in a feeling, a visual representation, or any other manifestation.

Where do I see the most content version of myself?

What does my higher self look like?

What kind of daily routine does my higher self engage in?

What is important to my higher self?

What qualities are strongest in my higher self?

After the sound of the timer, journal the answers that came to you in your meditation. This practice is meant to guide you to the higher self you would like to work toward. From here, you can begin to act in a way that is in line with the way of this ideal self-image.

2. Write Down 10 Intentions

Find a blank canvas, whether that be a large chalkboard or a blank piece of white paper in a notebook. Write the month on top of the page and jot down numbers one through ten along the left side. Begin to list the intentions you want to set for this month.

It helps to segment each intention into a category such as health, financial, career, or relationships. Select the highest priority for each section and try to keep it simple. Focusing on too many goals at once can reduce motivation.

3. Reframe Intentions Positively

The way you frame your intentions can help or hinder your progress in accomplishing them. Instead of jotting down:

  • “Complain less.”
  • “Stop wasting time on my phone.”
  • “Cut out junk food.”

Re-frame intentions to be positive in nature. These three intentions can be re-imagined as:

  • “Speak with purpose and positivity.”
  • “Be present in real-time.”
  • “Nourish my body with healthy food.”

When you look at your intentions and they are aspirational instead of accusing, you will feel more motivated and less scolded for your current behavioural habits.

4. Create Mini Reminders

Write down your intentions in snackable form so you can take them with you wherever you go. This could be as simple as writing one word on a cue card and sliding it in your wallet or making an inspirational quote related to your goals as your phone background.

Keeping intentions close will allow your actions to reflect them throughout the day. Every morning I engage in a morning intention setting that sets the tone for the day.

5. Morning Intention Setting

Read your intentions before your morning meditation and repeat them in a routine chant. Taking ten minutes to set the intentions for the day will help with ensuring changes are long-lasting instead of short-lived.

I also engage in something I call a “creative workshop” where I listen to uplifting music to increase my positive energy levels and then write several pages of detailed visualization.

This visualization usually includes a detailed description of my dream home, dream body, dream career, dream partner, etc. Have fun with it! Daydreaming feels nostalgic and it’s excellent at stimulating creativity.

6. Evening Reflection

Similar to your morning ritual, create a “before-bed-brief” where you journal about the success of your day. Reflect on which intentions were an active part of your day and which you could improve on tomorrow.

This doesn’t have to be a long exhaustive list. You can simply end the day with one line that answers the question: “how did I do today?”

7. Be Compassionate to Yourself

Making changes can feel challenging at first. We often set intentions because we want to grow and this doesn’t happen without a few growing pains.

If we set an intention to be more generous we may feel a little pinch inside as we offer up our last slice of pizza. Be kind to yourself as you embark on a journey of self-betterment. Often the rewards that are most worthwhile take time and involve overcoming challenges.

Every time you decide to override your autopilot behaviours you’re actually rewiring your brain. The awareness of your mental process and the efforts you take to reprogram can set up new routines on a neurological level.

8. Trade Candy For Gold

The ultimate prize is the gift of transformation. We meditate on our ideal self or higher self because it shows us the path to our greatest good. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu said in Skillful Shelter:

“In trading the pleasure of an ordinary life for a meditative life, you’re trading candy for gold.”

Today’s Practice:

Start trading candy for gold! Set intentions for the month and engage in the suggested steps above to decide where you will send your energy. Reflect on the intentions at the end of the month and start again for the next.