If 2020 has united us in a single way, it has reminded us to slow down and take stock of what truly matters in our lives. Life is full of choices; small, incremental choices and monumental, fate-altering ones. We can choose to live actively–to take control of the direction we take in life. Or, we can succumb to the monotony of human existence and let life happen to us.
We can do all the “things:” land the job, get married, have children, and have enough money in our retirement account by age 55. But, at the end of it all, does it mean that we’re truly happy? Are we proud of the life we led? Did we positively impact the world in our own meaningful way? That’s where intentional living comes in.
Intentional living is a lifestyle based on an individual or group’s conscious attempts to live according to their values and beliefs, stripping away the clutter and distraction that life can frivolously provide. It is a framework for living a life full of significance, simplicity, and joy. Every day holds a new opportunity to make different decisions than you have in the past, and to transform the way you look at people and situations.
How to Lay the Foundation for Intentional Living
First Thing’s First: Be Aware
Begin to notice things you may not have given much thought to before. Every minute action and trivial pursuit adds up to patterns and behaviors that, if evaluated on a macro scale, might make you think or act differently. Being conscious of your emotions, and even physical reactions to people and places, can help you decide what you want to do or say no to.
Be mindful of how you are spending your time, what people you are spending your time with, and where you are spending your energy. Understand how you are feeling as you go about your day. What makes you feel good? What doesn’t? When you strip away societal norms and pressures or comparison traps, what really makes you tick?
“Life is not lived in a vacuum,” Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less, wrote on his website Becoming Minimalist. The people we surround ourselves with, the cities we choose to live in, and the direction they are heading are outside of your control. But your participation is not. Step back far enough to evaluate if the direction of the culture you’re living in is in line with your values.
Be Kind to Yourself
Don’t be hard on yourself if you find that you’ve been doing something for too long that isn’t bringing you joy. Without judgment, simply course correct with the next opportunity.
Define Your Why
Each of us has the opportunity to find a passion and purpose in life that truly drives us. It is what gets us out of bed every day and motivates us to continuously progress. However, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of jobs that pay the bills but don’t offer us true fulfillment. And we end up losing that zest for life that we once knew as children.
Find your art: the work that gives you meaning, purpose and place in this world. And define your core values: the principles or standards that you want to use as your decision-making rubric. As you go through this exercise, practice thinking without judgment and acting without fear of failure.
How to Act With Intentionality
Make Brave Decisions
Focus on the things that bring you the most joy. And learn to let go of those that don’t serve you. You have a finite amount of time on this earth. Evaluate where you are investing your time and energy, so you can elevate your quality of life.
If we come to know ourselves well enough, we can steer our life in the desired direction. If we continue throughout life without direction, we can end up asking ourselves “why did this happen to me?” You can prevent that by taking a proactive approach to your direction and goals.
Write down what you want to accomplish. Make them S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely), so that you can create an effective plan of action. Break down your larger goals into smaller steps. They will add up to create lasting results that are in line with your values. Your goals will keep you motivated, and give you something to measure your time and efforts against.
If you’re not achieving what you set out to do, consider what is holding you back. What are your current roadblocks? Are you procrastinating because it’s not what you really want? Or, are you afraid of achieving your goals? Being vulnerable with yourself will give you the strength to turn fear into fuel.
View Setbacks as New Opportunities
As the saying goes, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” Use your agency to optimize the results. Create a better reality by dreaming even bigger given the new circumstances.
Learn From Others
As children, we do this automatically. We take it all in by observing others and learning from their behaviors. Yet, as we get older, we can become “stuck in our ways” and we forget how much we can learn from others through non-judgmental observation. Take every opportunity to learn what to do, or what not to do, and observe how you might have handled things differently.
Live with Gratitude
We may be individuals, but we do nothing alone. Having an attitude of gratitude can give us the feeling that we have enough and that we are enough, leaving us happier and feeling less depressed.
There is no right or wrong. There is only progress. By taking an active approach to life through intentional living, you can be in control of your fate and experience fulfillment the way you dreamed of when you were young.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. We have to remember that we are complicated organisms. You are the best health expert for you. Pay attention to your health. And consult a medical doctor when appropriate. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.