3 Reasons Why Your Intentions Aren't Materializing (and What To Do Instead)

Setting intentions is a must for anyone wanting to create true and lasting change in their lives.

But how we set our intentions can make all the difference.

Here are three major reasons why perhaps your intentions aren’t materializing the way you’d like and what you might consider trying instead.

  1. Your intention is ego-based.

Ok. Listen up dear ones. I know the art of manifesting and The Secret are a deep part of our consciousness today. Because when we do get really clear on what we want, it oftentimes has a way of happening. 

But things get tricky when the ego is running the show. 

This is when you have an intention of winning an Academy Award so you can prove to all the kids who made fun of you in high school how cool you are now. Or when you want to write a screenplay or a novel so you can get invited onto Super Soul Sunday. Or when you want to do a TEDTalk to prove to your ex what a mistake he made.

Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to win an Oscar per se. 

The problem is that if you’re looking to get it to prop up your ego —  the fear-based, scarcity-driven, attention-seeking part we all have —  even if your intentions do start to manifest, they most likely aren’t going to give you wanted (or not for very long anyway). 

I mean, think about how many times you have gone on a diet thinking, “If only I could only lose 5 pounds” and then you did it and still had to face dirty laundry, a challenging relationship with your teenager and headlines proclaiming unprecedented levels of inequality and the climate crisis?

A better way to set intentions is a two-part process that you can try on for size:

  1. What do I really want to create in my life and how it will benefit me?

  2. What do I really want to create in my life and how it will benefit others?

Did you get that? 

If you are looking to master resilience to stress, anxiety and trauma and have a more meaningful impact in the world, you must bring that world into each of your intentions. Otherwise even if you get what you intended, you still won’t feel connected, inspired and be on a sustainable trajectory. 

It’s lonely having a big ego, to be honest. 

Sure you might dream of your TED Talk, but maybe what you really want is to know you matter on a deeper level. 

To know that your presence, exactly as you are in this moment, is important.
To know that you are seen.

To know that your life has value and worth even if you do absolutely nothing. Because you have worth exactly as you are.

So you still might want to lose 5 pounds or get out of a highly lucrative but toxic work environment or feel more confident when you’re asked to be interviewed for one of your favorite magazines, but you do it by reflecting on how you might have more energy to play with your kids, spend more time with your aging parents or how you can be a role model and pave the way for other women in your highly-male dominated field. 

That energy changes everything.

So give adding others to your intentions a shot and see what happens. 

2. You aren’t in proximity to resources. 

At the outset, let me say straight up that I believe all human beings are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. We have infinite creativity and can manifest the most incredible things. 

There is no limit to the expansion of the human soul. 

And we also need to talk straight up about resources.

So often I see folks on a spiritual or personal development path being told that they can manifest anything they put their minds to. 

I’m calling bullshit. 

This is not only untrue. It’s harmful.

As someone raised in a working poor family who has experienced homelessness, I can tell you I had plenty of hopes, dreams and intentions as a kid. My folks just didn’t have the resources for me to do many of the things other kids did and took for granted.

I was deeply grateful when Hala Khouri, one of the founders of the global non-profit Off the Mat, Into the World, a friend and mentor shared some thoughts with me on this.

If you’re a single mother with a hundred of thousands of dollars of unpaid student loans and someone is telling you that if you just use the right mantra, chant the right number of oms or do 108 sun salutations every day, you’ll have financial abundance and all your dreams will come true, run don’t walk to the nearest exit. 

This kind of spiritual bypass is toxic, harmful and, unfortunately, extremely common. 

The solution, as I see it, especially if you are in a position of authority - like teachers, doctors, coaches, counselors, therapists, etc - is to be extremely mindful of vague platitudes about intention setting. 

As income inequality in the US skyrockets, issues related to the fair and equitable access to resources of all human beings are entering more and more conversations. If you’re in any kind of leadership role in particular, it’s especially important to be mindful that we can’t all manifest our intentions, not because we as individuals are flawed, less than or not trying hard enough, but simply because we don’t all have the same access to emotional, physical, financial and spiritual resources in the systems we are in.

This should seem obvious, but it’s often not.

In other words, if your intentions aren’t manifesting as quickly as you’d like, perhaps you need to cut yourself some slack, take a look at the resources you do have, and see how you might leverage those more skillfully. Maybe that means setting up a mutually beneficial and equitable barter exchange with another creative, exchanging dog-walking with your tech savvy neighbor or reaching out to family and friends with specific, clear and actionable ways they can support you. 

3. You aren’t taking action.

By now you’ve heard the story of how Jim Carrey once wrote a check for a million dollars when he was just starting out, put it into his wallet and then ended up becoming a millionaire many times over. 

Yes, he had an intention.

Yes, he wrote it down (a good thing).

Yes, he looked at it frequently (an even better thing).

But you know what else Jim did?

He took action! Massive, aligned action.

That’s right. He got out there, went on gazillions of auditions, showed up for gigs that others might have shunned and got busy. 

So often I see folks get into intention setting, create gorgeous vision boards, and then completely avoid or be paralyzed by taking action. 

(And I know this because I’ve done it, too!)

Now from the perspective of the chakras this makes sense. 

If you aren’t aware of what the chakras really are (and are frankly weirded out by them like I was for years) stay with me here. 

In very simple terms, the chakras are simply energy centers throughout the body. They are like the software programming that affects our bodies, emotions, self-esteem, relationships, creativity, intuition and spirituality. 

Most systems speak of 7 chakras that are each associated with physical organs and our emotional, physical and spiritual development. The lower chakras have to do with safety and security, the body, our sexuality, money and sense of self, while the upper chakras are more related to our sense of conscious connection, love, spirituality and union. 

(For more on this, see the fantastic book Seane Corn suggested to me called Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith.)

Someone who loves to create intentions and vision boards but who doesn’t take any action may be someone who is highly intuitive and deeply spiritual (with developed 6th and 7th chakras) but may not have a strong enough ego-identity or sense of self in the 3rd chakra to make and keep her word to herself. 

If this is you, don’t freak out. 

It was me, too. And when I’m not fully practicing all of my practices, it’s a pattern I can still sometimes slip into. 

The solution though isn’t to give up on setting intentions, it’s on healing the 3rd chakra and cultivating the self-esteem necessary to be able to make and keep your commitments to yourself. 

The key to strengthening self-esteem is by taking risks and rising to the challenge. The single most effective way I’ve found this to happen? By keeping your word to yourself. 

For one person, it might be having a talk with your alcoholic husband about what you will no longer tolerate. For another, it might be taking a leap of faith and signing a lease for your own office after spending years at the kitchen table. For another, it might be simply admitting you need some help to get stuff done and have a life.

(Read this blog post if that’s you).

Whatever it is, we must take radical, consistent, aligned action to bring our intentions into fruition. This isn’t a one-and-done thing. It’s a way of being in the world that helps you create the life you were meant to in this life-time.

Moral of the story? 

If your intentions aren’t manifesting, it may be time to tweak them a little bit. Try these three tips and see what you can create.

Let us know in the comments below: Have you struggled with manifesting your intentions? Which of these 3 tips can you try to make your dreams come true?