The Conscious Actor: Setting Intentions

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Are you aware of what you want? Having clarity of your desires moves you closer towards them. Confusion around priorities will leave you floundering in circles of frustration. Do you know what your ideal life looks like? Can you visualize it? If you’re having difficulty answering these questions, you might find yourself having difficulty building a life that leads you towards fulfilling your goals.

Setting Long-Term Intentions

The first step towards living a fulfilled life is to make sure that what you want is aligned with what is in your heart. Are you living the life you want to live and not someone else’s version of it? Is your dream really yours? Are you unconsciously wanting fame and fortune because you’re living one of your parent’s unfulfilled dreams? People are ready to give advice on what you should do and how to do it. Sometimes it comes from a very loving place, but nonetheless, it’s coming from someone else, not you. Only you can know and decide what’s best for you. No one knows you as well as you know yourself. Remember that.

People pay lots of money to get advice because they want to know what they should do. They can’t stand staying in the unknown. I repeatedly tell patients who come to therapy wanting advice that I don’t give advice. If I give them advice, and it goes well, they will be dependent on me to tell them what to do and not learn to develop their own inner wisdom. If I give them advice and it doesn’t turn out well — I’m an idiot. Either way it’s a bad idea. Therapy is a self-study, the purpose being to know yourself really well, so that you can make choices coming from a place of wisdom, not fear. It takes courage and insight to make good decisions.

Your long-term intentions are the values that guide your life. Research shows that clear intentions bring focus and empower all the parts of your being to achieve the best results. They’re like the compass of the heart. When faced with important choices or confusing situations you can always ask, “Is this choice or action following the deepest intention I have set for my life?” Whenever you take the time to pause and tune into your intentions, short or long term, you will begin to notice an increased ability to align your life with your best goals, and enhance your well-being. Once you take the time to explore what your intent in life is, it will be clearer which choices will lead you closer to it, and which choices will take you farther from it.

Setting Short-Term Intentions

Learn to use the power of short-term intention to your advantage. When you set an intention, it gives you the freedom to think about how you want to act, instead of operating on auto-pilot. For example, before going on an audition, you might set the intention to have a joyful experience. Your focus and actions in the audition will exude that intention and will be communicated to others. Interpersonal neurobiology shows that our brains are highly attuned to read the intentions of others. If you go into the audition scared and desperate with the intention just to get the job, that is what the casting agents will pick up from you. Not very appealing, is it? Remember, your intentions have a powerful effect on others and help shape their responses to you. So, after you spend hours preparing for the audition, memorizing lines, and rehearsing, don’t forget to prepare your mental state by setting your intention before you walk through the door.

Knowing your intention can help ease your way as you face challenges in your relationships. When you get triggered by a hurtful comment, and you want to react and say something mean or hurt them the way they hurt you, you can take a different route. Hit the pause button, take a moment, and ask yourself, “What is the best, most compassionate intention I can set for the well being of all involved?” This small step can help you get out of the reactive zone and into a more controlled empowered place.

Setting intentions will help you have access to a higher version of yourself. The best possible you is always available when you follow the simple guidelines of stopping, setting your intention, and then moving forward with intelligence and dignity. Your future depends on how you relate to what’s happening right now. The power is yours.


I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Samuel French Bookshop

Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.

Bonnie Katz, MFT is a licensed therapist in private practice. Her goal as a therapist is to help clients reach “optimal mental wellness”, so that they can feel happiness, fulfillment and joy in their everyday lives. For more information on Bonnie’s therapy practice, visit her website.

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