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

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

I’m so glad you asked.

I’m actually pretty passionate about intentional living, ever since I discovered it for myself a few years ago and it changed my life. 

Here’s the short story:

I spent most of my twenties, like most women, busy living my life—going to school, building career(s), paying off a mortgage. I was tired and overwhelmed but I thought it was normal.

It was just part of being an adult, right?

Or so I told myself. Deep down, something inside me was screaming “this isn’t right!” but I didn’t the time or energy to listen. I was too worried about keeping my head above water.

Life was “go, go, go” and it felt like I was always chasing something—everything from new shoes to a new house.

I had my eyes on the prize … but I never stopped to ask myself if it worth chasing?

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 made me feel too uncomfortable, which in retrospect was a sign that I needed to take a deeper look.

But I didn’t. Instead, it was easier to make life decisions based on what I saw around me (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.

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7 Things You Should Know About Intentional Living

INTENTIONAL LIVING IS ABOUT EXAMINING YOUR ‘WHY’

Intentional living is asking yourself why you do thingsand then 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 or 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: 7 Questions 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!

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.

Or if you’re still confused about your values, then this will help.

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 the 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 are.
  • 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.

Woman in a white shirt wearing a hat and looking out at the ocean like. Looks like she is contemplating life.

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 could make the big 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 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 in the morning or to bring a packed lunch. It’s saying ‘no’ to disposable coffee cups or deciding 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?”.

RELATED POST: 7 Ways to Kick-start Your Simple Living Journey

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 as long as you’re being true to yourself.

INTENTIONAL LIVING IS A CONTINUOUS PROCESS

There is a popular urban myth in Australia about the Sydney Harbour Bridge: when the bridge painters 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.

RELATED POST: 4 Practical Steps To Creating An Intentional Life

FREE INTENTIONAL LIVING CHALLENGE

If you want to take the next step towards intentional living, then I invite you to join With Intention.

With Intention is a FREE challenge for anyone who is feeling stuck and needs help taking the very first steps towards Simple and Intentional Living.

Over the course of a week, I’ll take you through the pivotal moments of my personal journey towards simple and intentional living. You’ll find my stories, the lessons I learned and also simple activities YOU can do to live With Intention.

Over 1,400 people have taken the challenge and started living With Intention. Will you join them?

Stop living on auto-pilot and start living on purpose.

Click here to join (it’s free!) or to find out more.

How do you feel about your ‘why’? Are you ready for a change in direction or are you happy where you’re going? How are you living with intention today? Let me know in the comments! x

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20 thoughts on “An Intro to Intentional Living: 7 Things You Need to Know”

  1. Hi Jennifer! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/38449f503b75c674fce584923194f67211c31bb3b34ed37e3fac919471fc97e4.jpg

    I am so, so happy I found your blog! I’ve felt for a long time that I’m just aimlessly floating through life, going from one thing to the next just because the opportunity appeared. I am now on a journey to become a more deliberate person, documenting the journey through my own blog. Your posts are extremely inspiring and speak directly to my soul!

    Keep it up, you’re amazing.

    Hannah, aka the Optiminimalist

    Reply
  2. I definitely need a change in my life and I’m glad that I found this article! This explains so well what I’ve been missing since I often tell myself this is the life of an adult. I go to a job that makes me miserable every day and live a life that feels like there’s no purpose.

    I will be trying your tips to find where it should change and how to make me happy. Thank you!!!

    Reply
  3. 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 🙂

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  4. 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 🙂

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  5. 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!

    Reply
  6. 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!

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  7. 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. 🙂

    Reply
  8. 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!

    Reply

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