The super simplified definition of intentional living is that you are not living life accidentally. To be intentional, a person must sit down and truly evaluate their values and passions and work to align your life with those principles. Take stock of the things in your life (friends, work, how you spend your free time, how you spend your money), and ask yourself if all of those things are worth investing your time and energy into. Living intentionally requires a lot of deep thinking and brutal honesty with yourself.
You were not meant to work forty years at a job you aren’t satisfied in just so you can wait until you retire to be happy. That is the opposite of intentional living! You are in control of your choices, not the other way around.
To truly live your life intentionally, you’re going to have to set aside time to reflect on your life. This place should be a quiet place where you can be alone. During your time of reflection, you have to be vulnerable and authentic with yourself. That’s the only way intentional living can truly happen.
The first and most important step in living an intentional life is to define your why. Without understanding what makes you tick, you will only end up confused and frustrated. Once you know what is truly important to you, you can shape your life around those values. Confused about how to define your core values? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
With core values in mind, it is time to evaluate how you can build your life around them. The way you live your life should reflect what you believe in. What big-picture changes do you need to make to your current life? Being intentional about your daily habits and even seemingly insignificant choices you make is the main way you will center your life around your core values.
For example, if you value being physically and mentally healthy, what choices and habits are you making in your day-to-day life that reflects that? What type of food are you buying? Are you being mindful of what you put in your body or are you hitting the drive-thru on the way home from work?
If you value financial freedom and being debt-free, how are your finances? Do you budget your money? Are you an impulse buyer or do you save up for a big purchase? If you want healthy relationships, take stock of your current relationships. Are they healthy or toxic? Are you consciously working to improve these relationships or are they on autopilot?
It’s easy to say you value certain things, it’s a totally different mindset when consciously make choices to uphold those values. Before making a decision just ask yourself, “does this fit into the life I am trying to live?” If the answer is no, you know what you need to do.
Now that you know your core values and are conscious of how your habits and choices align with those values, it’s time to identify the parts of your life that are problematic to your new intentional way of living. Being intentional with your time means spending and managing your time wisely instead of floating through life unfocused. Many times, if you don’t keep track of your time, you will end up wasting it.
If you struggle with wasting time it’s time to take control. Start by evaluating where you are wasting your time. Do you scroll through social media for hours a day? Do you binge-watch an entire season on Netflix in one weekend (or day)? Once you know your weakness, set limits for yourself so you can avoid the trap and waste more time. Adding structure to your day is a great way to avoid wasting time. You don’t have to have every second of your day planned out but having a to-do list of what you want to accomplish that day will keep you focused and motivated.
Other tips to deal with the problem areas in your life include getting rid of distractions and only allowing yourself to do things that are meaningful to you. If you need to get some work done but you can’t stop looking at Instagram, consider shutting off your phone until your work is done. If you know you can’t focus on a task if the television is on, don't’ turn it on until you are finished.
Your goal in intentional living is to create a life that revolves around your core values. This sounds nice in theory, but when you sit down to tackle it, it can seem like an insurmountable task. The trick is to take it slowly and one step at a time. Look at the areas you can make an immediate change in. Tweak your morning routine a little to incorporate more quiet time. Start a savings account and budget to put some aside each month. Next, look at goals that are more long term. If you want to be debt-free in five years, what can you start changing now to reach that goal? Create a one year, three year, or even five year plan to reach your goals- whichever one works best in your situation. Don’t just wish for your dream life, start taking steps today that will get you there.
The trend right now is to have a “hustle mindset” where you work and grind until you are absolutely exhausted. This type of crazy work ethic might be sustainable for a short time, your body is not built to maintain that. Humans need to rest! It’s just the way our bodies were made. Listen to your mind and body and respond to them (trust me, they will tell you when you need to take a step back). Your work will benefit from your self-care too. When you take care of yourself, you will come back refreshed and more ready than ever to tackle what needs to be done.
You have a decision to make. You can continue to live a life of unfocused, uninspired mindlessness, or you can create a life you love. Intentional living does not mean you have to have it all figured out right now. It just means that the way you live your life is very calculated and on purpose. You were not meant to work your butt off for forty years at a job you hate so that you can retire and finally be happy. You are meant to love your life and live it to its fullest right now. Now get out there and create a life you can look back on and be satisfied with. Living intentionally will not always be easy, but I promise you it will be so worth it!
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