Intentional Living

An Intro to Intentional Living: 7 Things You Need to Know

April 24, 2016

It seems like everybody is talking about intentional living lately, but what the heck does it really mean? And why does it matter?

I’m so glad you asked.

You see, I’m kind of passionate about intentional living – ever since I ‘discovered’ it a few years back and my life got flipped-turned upside down (yes, Fresh Prince style. Fun fact: I actually grew up in a town called Bel Air, but not that Bel Air.)

Anyway, here’s my quick story. I spent most to my twenties, like most women, busy living my life – going to school, building career(s), paying off a mortgage. (I travelled too, but I promise – most of my time was spent in the daily grind.)

I was so busy in fact, that I never took the time to actively decide what I wanted out of life.

Did I need to own a house? Did I like being married? What did I want to do with my life?

I had no idea. I wasn’t asking these question. I was focused on just getting through the week.

How could I get through another boring day at the office? Did I have enough in the bank to pay the mortgage? When would I get caught up on my sleep?

I daydreamed about being somewhere else (hello palm trees and cocktails) but I never really thought about doing something else – at least not very often. It felt uncomfortable.

It was easier to make life decisions based on what I saw around me (ie: what everyone else was doing) and to let the momentum of these choices drag me through life.

Days rolled into weeks, weeks rolled into years. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Until I discovered intentional living. Here’s what you need to know.

It seems like everybody is talking about intentional living lately, but what the heck does it really mean? And why does it matter?  I’m so glad you asked.

INTENTIONAL LIVING IS ABOUT EXAMINING YOUR ‘WHY’

Intentional living is asking yourself why you do things – and being happy with the answers.

Here are just a few questions to consider.

  • Why are your friends your friends?
  • Why did you buy [insert your latest purchase]?
  • Why did you choose your career/job?
  • Why are you with your partner?
  • Why are you working late?

Now how do your answers make you feel? Do they make sense? Or are they confusing/conflicting? Did you struggle to answer some of these questions?

Living with intention means closely examining these answers and if you’re not happy with what you see, re-examining your choices.

RELATED POST: 4 Creative Exercises to Inspire Intentional Living

IT’S NOT ABOUT HAVING EVERYTHING FIGURED OUT

Intentional living doesn’t mean you have to have your whole life figured out.

But it DOES mean is having a purpose behind your actions.

Consider the following two statements:

“I’m taking a creative writing class because I want to write the Great American novel before I’m thirty.”

“I’m taking a creative writing class because I feel inspired when I’m exploring my creativity and I’m considering writing a book one day.”

These are both examples of intentional living – even though the first person probably has a ten year plan and the second person is still deciding what to make for dinner (don’t be offended – I’m in that boat too!)

Know that you can choose to be intentional about your direction without knowing your final destination.

EVERYTHING STARTS WITH YOUR CORE VALUES

You know that whole ‘direction/destination thing’ you just read?

Your core values are how you choose your direction.

You don’t need to have your whole life figured out, but you DO need to know what matters most to you.

Everyone’s core values are different. Mine include care for myself, care for my relationships, lifelong learning, and freedom (just to name a few.)

If you have no idea what your core values are, start by thinking of moments when you’ve felt proud or happy and dig around. Generally, we feel good when we are living and acting in line with our values and we feel bad when we violate our values.

When you know your core values, you can make sure the life you’re living on the outside matches what your heart is saying on the inside.

NEXT, ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY

A huge part of intentional living is accepting that you have power to make choices.

This is where I was stuck for a long time. I wasn’t ready to make hard choices; staying stuck was easier (at least in the short term.)

It’s easy to say things like –

  • Life isn’t supposed to be fun.
  • This is just the way things is.
  • I’m ‘adulting’ – this is what ‘being a grown up’ is supposed to mean.

– and to then use these one liners as excuses to live an ordinary life.

It’s difficult to acknowledge that there are other options, really awesome options actually, but it means doing hard work, facing criticism and making tough choices.

It seems like everybody is talking about intentional living lately, but what the heck does it really mean? And why does it matter?  I’m so glad you asked.

MAKE SMALL, REPEATED DECISIONS

Intentional living is about making the decision every day to live the life you want most.

For example, if you want to be an artist, you can make a big sweeping decision to go to art school.

But this won’t make you an artist. This act, on its own, will not change the course of your life.

You’ll become an artist by picking up a paintbrush, or a sketchbook, and making art every day (even if it sucks.)

Intentional living is deciding to go for a run. Or to bring a packed lunch. Or to say ‘no’ to a disposable coffee cups. Or to spend 10 minutes with your children without distractions.

It’s asking yourself, every day, “what can I do today that will point me in the direction of my dreams?”

Further Reading: Are Your Daily Actions Working for You, or Against You? [Blonde on a Budget]

KNOW THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER

“Intentional Living does not have a moral compass.” – The Finance Girl

Intentional living is about being honest and doing what feels right to you. There is no right or wrong answer.

INTENTIONAL LIVING IS A CONTINUAL PROCESS

There is a popular urban myth in Australia about the Sydney Harbour Bridge – when the painters on the Sydney Harbour Bridge get to the end, they go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Unfortunately this isn’t true, which is a shame, because it’s a great analogy for intentional living.

There is no finish line. Living with intention means being in constant communication with yourself, deciding what’s working (and what’s not) and making small adjustments every day.

It’s hard work but it’s the best kind – creating a life you truly love.

How do you feel about your ‘why’? Are you ready for a change in direction or are you happy where you’re going? (Maybe it’s just about those daily decisions now!) How are you living with intention today? Let me know in the comments! x

photo credit : unsplash.com / used with permission

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  • This was a great post, Jen! I loved many of the points you brought up: not figuring it all out, starting with core values, continually working at it, & especially taking responsibility. That last one resonated with me as it’s indeed harder to face our choices than to bury our heads in denial. Hope you have a good week!

    • That last one was super tough for me too! I’m so glad this resonated with your Daisy – thanks for stopping by xx

  • I know I say this all the time, but I love this post Jen! I actually had no clue what I was swinging towards was considered intentional living. But it just sounds so freaking POWERFUL, ya know? Being able to figure out why you do the things you do is an important step to making you happy. Or at least making me happy. Thanks so much for the post, I’m going to sit down with these questions this week. 🙂

    • How have I not responded to this yet?? So sorry for my slow response Amanda!! But thanks so much for your amazing comment. I know exactly how you feel – I started to embrace intentional living before I knew it was a ‘thing’, but giving it a name does make it feel powerful! Thanks again for stopping by xx

      • Just wanted to let you know that this morning I sat down with this post and my journal. And it was just really lovely. I’m excited to keep on digging deeper. 🙂

  • Your post reminds me of The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. Have you read it yet? It can be a really great way to hone in on your wants/needs/intentions + desires. I feel like it’s an ongoing project and I keep changing/tweaking what my desires are. So, yeah, it’s good for you to say that it’s a con’t process, because it sooo is. Even when I think I have them – I have my “goals”. I end up changing my mind 3-6 months later. Life happens and then I’m like, “wait a minute…what I really mean is…” Cheers for a great post!

    • Hey Lani! Nope, I haven’t read it but it’s on my list; I’ve heard a lot about it and I think I’d enjoy it! Thanks for the reminder 🙂 And yep, it’s totally a process isn’t it? My intentions have actually stayed mostly the same for the past few years, but for me it’s more that I need to remind myself of them. I’ll know that x is for my focus and where I want to be heading, but I’ll get distracted by something else and just forget about x for a while … if that makes sense?! Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts (and for the reading reminder!) x

  • Too many people accept the 9-5 as the norm, the necessary, without even considering the alternatives. I think you’ve covered some really important points so consider it shared 🙂 Thanks for writing!

    • So true Sophie! There is nothing wrong with the 9-5 if it makes you happy … but if it doesn’t then it’s so important to think about other options. Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

  • Maddy Tav

    Wow, love this! <3 Thanks

  • Suzanne Lloyd

    Hi! Ive been sniffing around these subjects of intentional living and minimalism for what feels like forever without really doing much but Your artist v artist school analogy has really stuck in my brain. This is so what I do, I buy the makeup brushes so I can be good at makeup I buy the gym membership so I can be fit I buy the recipe books so I can be a great cook etc etc etc but none of this makes me anything except feel guilty about my lack of achievement re said wishes. It’s so obvious but I couldn’t see it clearly. Thank you very much. I’m finding your blog really helpful 🙂 I feel like I finally know how to start 🙂

    • Hi Suzanne! I’m so sorry I missed your comment!! Thanks you so much for your feedback and I’m so glad this post spoke to you. I used to be exactly the same way (and I’m not always immune now.) It’s definitely a continual process and I’m always tweaking things here and there! Good luck with everything and thank you again for commenting and sharing your story xo

  • alli

    I LOVE THIS! Such awesome advice on how to start living with intention. I feel like the hard part is just getting started- that is where people get stuck. The piece about making small repeated decisions really resonated with me. I feel that living with intention is an everyday choice and like you said, a continuous process. I have a blog that you might like to check out called lunachicks.org at http://www.lunachicklife.blogspot.com. I talk about some of the same things! Thanks so much for this 🙂

    • Hi Alli! Thanks so much for your comment. I definitely agree – getting started is often the hardest bit. The good news is once you get started with small changes, the momentum really helps carry your forward 🙂 And I had a look at your blog – it’s great! I really enjoyed reading your posts, thank you so much for sharing your perspectives. I think sharing our stories is so powerful . x Jen