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The Power of Setting Intentions

Creating the life you want.

Years ago, after getting divorced from my first husband, I was a mess. I didn’t know myself, or what I wanted, or where I was going. I felt wrecked, in disarray. I was falling into unhealthy dating patterns. I was miserable, unfocused, and hopeless. I knew I needed to do something to pull myself out of that sinkhole, but I had no idea what to do.

Vivian Wagner
My vision board from 2011.
Source: Vivian Wagner

In the middle of all of that, I happened upon a book by Diana Kirschner called Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love. I’m not usually all that into self-help books, but I was so desperate for help wherever I could find it that once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. And honestly, page-by-page, it helped bring me back from the brink.

What I found was that the book focused less on dating tips and tricks than it did on working on myself—remembering who I was and creating and sustaining who I wanted to become. It was about feeling strong and powerful, with or without a partner. And finding a partner, according to the book, was not really a matter of constantly seeking outside myself for “the one,” but rather nurturing myself so that I became the one.

I loved the book, and it helped me so much that when I saw Kirschner also provided a coaching service with “love mentors,” I signed up right away. Over the course of several months, I met with my love mentor by phone, and she guided me through a variety of journaling, creativity, self-care, and imaginative exercises. One of these was to put together a vision board representing the life that I wanted to create for myself, the life that I hoped to live.

It seemed kind of silly, like something one might do in kindergarten, but I did it—going through stacks of magazines and finding pictures that captured some element or experience that I wanted to see in my life. There were a few pictures of couples kissing or romancing, since I did want that, but there were also many others—kayaking, camping, a star chart, a Buddha, healthy food, Suze Orman, a picnic, a cabin, containers full of berries.

They were all things I wanted to see become a part of my life, and somehow in the process of creating the vision board I actually started to see them—literally, right there in front of me, a wild array of imaginings taped onto a poster board.

After a few more months, I finished up the coaching sessions, feeling alive and full of promise. I’d actually gotten off dating sites and was already starting to create the life I wanted, without worrying too much about whether someone would be there to share it with me. I folded up my vision board and put it at the back of my closet.

And then, dear reader, it happened. Without really predicting it or planning for it, a relationship with someone I’d known in high school started to form—first through social media and then in real life. He flew down from Alaska to meet me in Oregon, and we drove my late father’s truck across the country so I could give it to my son. We’ve gone sailing and kayaking and scuba diving and flying. We’ve hiked and camped and gazed at stars. We’ve even done a fair amount of berry-picking. We’re in love. And now, seven years later, we’re engaged to be married.

I don’t really know how these things work. I know it’s not entirely scientific to say that when you put a wish out into the universe it just comes to you. I know the process must have something more to do with recognizing and valuing what happens when it does, and with finding an enduring sense of happiness and contentedness within oneself, rather than expecting it to come from someone else.

At any rate, something sort of magical happened here, and it’s continuing to happen. What I learned, and what I’m still learning, is that there’s real power in setting intentions, in visualizing them, and in believing that they’ll come to fruition. We’re co-creators with the universe, imagining our lives into being. And it’s a mysterious, beautiful ride.