It seems like everybody is talking about intentional living lately, but what the does it really mean and why does it matter?
I’m sure it will shock you to learn that I first encountered the word “intentional” in a book I was reading over a decade ago. Prior to that discovery 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 is my take on it….
Personal Take 1~
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.
Personal Take 2~
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.
Personal Take 3~
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. I’ve written about values and Simon’s celery test many times–
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 LOVE, care for myself, care for my relationships, honesty and integrity.
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.
Personal Take ~ 4
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. I need to be responsible. I’ll have time to enjoy life later.
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.
Personal Take ~ 5
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 author, you can make a big sweeping decision to align with a publishing company. But this won’t make you an author. This act, on its own, will not change the course of your life. You’ll become an author by putting pen to paper, and creating stories every day (even if they suck)
Intentional living is deciding to go for a run. Or to bring a packed lunch. Or to say ‘no’ to a fountain diet pepsi. 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?”
Personal Take ~ 6
KNOW THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER
Intentional living is about being honest and doing what feels right to you. There is no right or wrong answer.
Personal Take ~ 7
INTENTIONAL LIVING IS A CONTINUAL PROCESS
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?