The Science of Intentions

Science of Intentions

Intentions are a powerful tool that can change your life and the science of intentions is quite interesting. Intentions can be used throughout our days on an ongoing basis. They can be simple or they can be more elaborate but they are definitely worth experimenting with and why is well rooted in the science of the human mind.

Personally, I have experienced a big change in my life through the use of intentions and they weren’t something I had ever really considered using before about a year ago. I read the book The Law of Attraction by Abraham Hicks and it described using intentions throughout your day to help guide your actions and how things went. I kind of shrugged it off until Lauren and I went on a trip to Costa Rica last February. Throughout this trip, I kept hearing from different people especially at Envision Festival about setting intentions and how it has made a difference to them. I then started to set intentions for myself for example when waking up in the morning “I intend to have a great day and see what makes me feel good” and guess what, I would have a great day and be able to focus and see things that made me feel good that I may have otherwise missed, like a mother taking their child to school, really simple but beautiful things.

One thing I love about intentions is that this simple thing helps us to consciously create our own reality versus being very reactive to it. This happens through our intentions helping to create and control our perceptions. See our perception controls events since no event is truly good or bad but our perception labels it as one. An clear example of this is an airplane delay, for someone who is in a rush or wants to be somewhere this is a bad event, for another who wants to miss a family dinner this could be seen as a good event. It is the same event, however, only the perception of it is different. By being in more control of our perception we can colour our reality the way we want it to be

Event –> Perception –> Reaction

The science of intentions works through a couple of different mechanisms, priming, anchoring and goal-setting, we will talk about each of these and how psychology helps to explain the power of intentions.

Priming:

Mental priming works by influencing our behaviours, actions and feelings through a stimulus. That stimulus can be something we do not even realize for example seeing money can cause some people to act more selfish and individualistic while others can become more pro-social (once again perception plays a major role).[1] This can all happen without us consciously noticing it. However, we can use priming to hack our lives through intentions. It has been shown that even thinking about aspects that are conductive to success can help to improve performance.[2] Therefore, we can see intentions as a form of priming ourselves for the day or the activity ahead of us. If we use the following intention before a workout “I will try my hardest and when it gets hard I will use my grit to get through it” then we have now effectively primed ourselves for a good workout. Intentions prime our brains for positive action, behaviours and feelings.

Anchoring:

Anchoring happens all the time without us realizing it and it happens most of the time during negotiations; for example, if I wanted to sell you a house and I set the price at $1 million dollars that would be the price we would then base our negotiations off of, that is the anchor. Our minds become attached to that anchor and then we use that as we go through things. Another example is as follows:

Was George Washington more or less then 133 years old when he died?
How old was George Washington when he died?

You more then likely used the 133 years as an anchor to help make your decision on how George Washington was when he dies (spoiler 67). Now intentions work in a similar way we set our intention and that works as an anchor for our experiences through the day it helps to guide our perception of events.

Goal-setting:

Intentions can also be seen as a mini goal that we set throughout the day that can help to keep us on track. Now psychology tells us that we are motivated by goals because of our aversion to failing.[3] This can work for our intentions if we set an intention that we are going to look for the positives throughout our day we do not want to fail so we will continue to look for positives through the day, making our day better for that!

Conclusion:

Intentions are amazing and I have come to absolutely love them. They work for a variety of reasons most notably they help to prime our brains towards certain actions, feeling and behaviours. They help to control our perceptions throughout the day so we can see the good, and if we see the good we feel good. Try using intentions throughout your days and let us know how it goes!

Sources:

  1. Katherine Vohs. Money Priming Can Change People’s Thoughts, Feelings, Motivations, and Behaviors: An Update on 10 Years of Experiments.
  2. Margaret Shih, et al. Stereotype Susceptibility: Identity Salience and Shifts in Quantitative Performance. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.843.445&rep=rep1&type=pdf
  3. Sian Beilock. Choke: what the secrets of the brain revel about getting it right when you have to.