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.
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.
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