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The Inner Compass: Your Guide to Intentional Living

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

Intentions 101

What is an intention?

An intention is what we want the most, what our heart would ask for if it could speak. The origin of the word “intention” comes from the verb “intend”:

Intend (verb)

From the Latin intendere with root words in “inwards” and ten “towards”; intendere means to “turn one’s attention”, “to strain in quest” and “to stretch out, extend towards”.

To “intend” is to move both inwards and towards. To intend is to turn one’s attention inwards, to bring clarity to one’s focus, to listen in quest of something.

Intention (noun)

From the Latin intensio, “a stretching, exertion” or “effort to stretch outwards”. From the Latin intensionem, “the action of stretching and straining towards”.

An intention is a will, a wish a purpose, or an aim. An intention is a movement towards something from our centre. Intentions come from inside us and they direct us forward in quest of what we want.

Seven Steps Towards Intentional Living:

  1. Be present. Notice what it’s like to be alive.

  2. Slow down. Pause. Be quiet.

  3. In silence, listen inwardly.

  4. Imagine what you want.

  5. Stretch towards the centre of your desires by asking “why?”.

  6. Clarify what you intend. Bring your attention inward and toward your intention.

  7. Act in accordance with your intention.

Intention-setting is simple, intentional living is a bit more complicated.

You must work towards your intentions. Work is a reality of life – you don’t get what you want without moving towards it. Follow the steps above to live with intention and repeat daily.

Want the ultimate guide to intentional living? Pre-order "Intention" by Dani Sullivan, LCSW to get your exclusive signed copy of this 10 chapter therapeutic guide to living with purpose.


The Inner Compass

Your inner being is carrying a compass. This compass is simple: it acts like any old compass, it helps you to position yourselves and locate where you are. Traditional compasses provide a sense of direction as we navigate through the Earth’s terrain. Your inner compass offers direction as you navigate your life.

On any journey you take, it is likely you will lose your way. When trying to find your way home, you must stop, pause at your current location and hold your compass level to get a sense of direction. Then you must use a map or any reference materials you have to geolocate yourself.

When we pause, we have time to rest. Rest is anything that connects our mind and body. In rest, we can look inwards and imagine our intentions. Intention setting doesn’t happen without slowing down. You can’t read your inner compass without pausing.

The Earth has a North and a South Pole. These opposite poles attract, they hold the Earth together. The magnetic needle in a traditional compass is suspended in liquid and responds to our movement and location as we travel. When we hold our compass level and pause to geolocate, we can identify the “magnetic north”. This geomagnetic field is one of the invisible forces holding our world together.

The magnetic North Pole of Earth does not match up perfectly with our geographic North Pole, or what we call “true north”. The magnetic north is not stable or fixed, our northernmost magnetic point is always changing. What we know to be “north” moves around as our planet’s magnetic field warps over time. Some estimate that in the last century, the magnetic North Pole has moved nearly 965 kilometres (600 miles) towards Siberia. What beautiful, natural evidence of change.

In the same way that the Earth has a natural geomagnetic field, we have our own field of inner energy.

There is a whole world inside us, it is teeming with life and changing all the time.

I like to remember I am from this Earth. I am a part of nature, a form of complex life on planet Earth.

We all are, essentially, nature.

So, in the same way the Earth has direction, energy and change, so too does my life.

To use a compass, you have to look up, down and all around to orient yourself to your world and environment. Knowing which direction is North and South is our map to returning home. Our inner compass is responding not to the North and South magnetic Poles but to our own perception of good and bad, right and wrong.

The needle in our compass points to our truth, and our deepest values. The inner compass is a tool that truth seekers can use to find the light.

We can use our inner compass to find our way home. Just like the magnetic north is always changing, our truth and values adapt as we move through our life.

The truth is something we can orient towards, reference and integrate, but we never get to “the pure, full truth”. This is because the truth is always changing.

The truth is complex and intersectional. Finding the truth is an individual and personal practice as much as it is a collective and communal need. Truth seeking isn’t about the destination. You don’t ever “get there” as long as you’re alive, you just learn more about what is true for you.

Why Set Intentions?

Intentions help us to read our inner compass. Essentially, they help us to define our truth.

Intentions are deeply personal, there are no universal intentions.

They are unique to each individual person – we all have different prayers and desires, and requests of life.

Setting intentions is about aiming towards what you want for yourself. Without them, we can feel aimless, unsure of what we care about, or lacking in passion, resolve and will. Many feel lost, lonely, disconnected and unfocused.

Are you wandering around without aim?

When using a bow and arrow, you must pause first to focus on your target. Before you aim, you pull back on the bow, moving inwards. This inward movement is necessary for your arrow to fly with force towards its target.

If you want to reach your goals, you are going to have to look inside yourself.

Try setting some intentions…

Intention Setting Formula:

What We Want + What We Need + What We Do

Ask yourself:

  1. What do I want for myself?

  2. What do I need to survive?

  3. How can I move forward with my needs and desires in focus?

We all have the capacity to live our truth with intention. Intention setting happens in the present, and acknowledges our current needs, desires, and values. The practice of looking inward for clarity, and trusting what we find is the ultimate way we can be with uncertainty.

Join us in working toward Intentional Living!

If you are looking for an emotionally nurturing virtual group to experience self healing and collective care, consider applying for our next round of groups. Sliding scale options are available and limited spots apply. Learn more:

Intentions Therapy is a queer-affirming and client centered virtual private practice run by Dani Sullivan, LCSW.Specializing in serving LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples, neurodivergent individuals, folks healing from complex or developmental trauma, and anyone struggling to cultivate self-love. Learn more about our services.

If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and seeking healing with an emotionally nurturing small group of peers, apply for our virtual Neuroqueer Group to explore your identity and heal in connection.

Are you looking to clarify your own intentions?

Try out our printable Intention Clarification Worksheet:

Are you looking for your purpose? We have the ultimate guide to intentional living: Pre-order "Intention" by Dani Sullivan, LCSW to get your exclusive signed copy of this 10 chapter therapeutic guide to living with purpose.

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