Have you ever dreamed about living an intentional life?
We live in a busy, hectic, and at times stressful world.
Competition is often the name of the game for everyone including children, adolescents, young adults, and middle-aged individuals.
Ambition and healthy competition are worthwhile values but, in the struggle to get ahead we can all lose sight of what really matters. It isn’t surprising that physical, mental, and emotional stress is so common nowadays.
According to the American Institute of Stress, the major causes of stress include money, work, violence, crime, and the political climate. Admittedly, these are serious concerns that we all need to pay attention to. But, allowing these concerns to be the driving force in our lives can easily take the focus away from our own purpose. Quite simply, it can stop us living a more fulfilling life.
Living with intention is about finding your ‘why’ – even when so much is going on in the larger world and in our own worlds.
Living an intentional life is not about blocking out all the stuff on the outside and living in a self-made, perfect bubble.
Rather, intentional living is about acknowledging what is happening around you, being fully aware of your external and internal environments, and choosing to live a meaningful life anyway.
What Does Living an Intentional Life Look Like?
One definition of intention is “a mental state that represents a commitment to carry out an action”.
This is an excellent definition for several reasons. First, to live intentionally, you must develop a certain state of mind. Secondly, you need to demonstrate a commitment to doing certain things that will allow you to live a meaningful life right now.
So, we might say:
Intentional Living= State of Mind + Commitment
Living an intentional life requires a mindset shift. This might mean less focus on consumerism and more on living with just what you need.
A mindset shift might mean less focus on fierce competition and unhealthy comparisons and a greater focus on nurturing yourself – such as doing meaningful work or seeking cooperation.
Living with intention might mean less focus on trying to get everything done and more focus on doing your best every day, letting go more often, delegating, relinquishing the need to be perfect.
To live intentionally also requires making a commitment to undertake certain actions for the long haul. It’s about living with just what you need, nurturing yourself and letting go of the need to control.
You need a mindset shift.
When you understand that intentional living requires a mindset shift and long-term commitment, incredible things happen. You will start each day knowing you are completely in charge of your life, thoughts, feelings, and how you respond to the outside environment.
When you start to live intentionally, you can choose how you want to feel every day, what activities will help you make the most of your day, how to interact with strangers and loved ones, and how to be truly at one with the world.
More importantly, when you commit to living intentionally, you will begin to pay more attention to your body and the clear messages it sends you.
You will understand when your body needs rest, love, and extra care which will help to avoid a complete breakdown.
The best part about intentional living is that you do not have to abide by any hard and fast rules.
The way you choose to transform your life into one that is full of meaningful purpose is entirely up to you.
Here are some useful tips to help you create a more intentional life.
1. Evaluate Your Current Life
One of the reasons why you want to live intentionally is because you seek to improve one or more aspects of your life.
You are probably at a crossroad, dealing with a crisis, recovering from an unexpected breakdown, or you simply feel in your core that something in your life needs to change.
Take some time to evaluate your life and then identify at least three of the most important priorities in your life. What are the most valuable things in your life?
As you evaluate your life, see whether the way you are living today supports your life priorities.
If your current lifestyle does not support what is truly important to you, imagine the kind of life you would live if you had the chance to prioritize the important things you’ve listed. Then, decide what you need to do to bring this to reality.
Everyone has different priorities. Priorities are simply the things you value the most.
For some, this may be freedom, financial security, and relationships, while for others, their priorities may be the acquisition of knowledge, exploration, and connection.
If you cannot tell what your priorities are, think of instances that made you happy and proud of yourself. The things that make you feel good bring meaning to your life.
These are the things you value the most and these are the priorities that if you focus on, you will begin living an intentional life.
Remember, you do not need to have your entire life figured out—most people don’t. However, you need to identify the things that are truly important to you.
When you are clear about what is important to you, you can start to organize your life in a way that reflects these priorities.
You will know that you are on the right track, that you are living intentionally because it will feel good, just right.
2. Know Yourself
Once you understand your priorities, the next step is to examine yourself.
- Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are?
- How about your talents and abilities?
- What are you passionate about?
Knowing who you are is about becoming self-aware.
According to one study, up to 95 percent of people think they are self-aware but only 10-15 percent of us actually are!
People who live fulfilling lives are usually in tune with themselves.
They understand their limits and capabilities. They also know their purpose and passion, or at least are committed to discovering their various purposes and passions.
Self-awareness will allow you to stay calm in the middle of a storm and respond deliberately to situations and those you interact with. You’ll choose your battles wisely and have a better understanding of how the world works, and perceive things with greater clarity.
Self-awareness allows you to stay grounded and therefore live intentionally no matter how crazy or exciting things get.
With self-awareness, you will see the futility of unhealthy comparison. When you know yourself, you know your unique strengths, opportunities, and capabilities, which are different to everyone else’s.
When you are self-aware, you also understand that everyone is on his or her own path and you are in charge of creating the life you desire.
Here are a few pointers for developing a strong sense of self-awareness:
Developing Self Awareness:
Understand your life story: Your past experiences have a great influence on how you frame your present life. Confronting your experiences can improve your mental health, give you more clarity, and help you build a better life now.
Make time for self-reflection: Self-reflection can take various forms, for example, keeping a journal, taking long walks, and meditating. Self-reflection creates much-needed head-space, which allows you to develop mindfulness and the habit of living in the present moment.
Ask for feedback: Remember the study about how most of us think that we are are self-aware when we actually aren’t? Ask your trusted friends, loved ones, or mentors how you come across to them. You might be surprised!
Self-awareness is not just about understanding yourself but also about understanding how others perceive you because how you come across to others can affect the quality of your important relationships.
Receiving feedback may not always be easy but this kind of information can help you know what triggers your defences, why you are defensive, and how to let go of this defensiveness in order to live a more meaningful life.
3. Take It A Day at A Time
Start small. Imagine what a perfect day would look like for you from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed.
- How will you make the most of your time today?
- What will you work on just that day?
- What will success look like for you at the end of the day?
Then, take small actions that can help you create your ideal day. Not your ideal week, month, year, or lifetime. Just your ideal day.
This might be waking up early to meditate, spending a few more minutes with a loved one, putting in five minutes for a quick gym session, or dedicating a few minutes to your side-business.
Quick and immediate results are not important here. Rather, the most important thing is commitment and consistency created by small actions.
Why small actions?
Small actions are less overwhelming, enable you to stick to the plan, help with gradual personality development, and allow you to build positive habits that will form the foundation of your intentional life.
4. Commit to Taking Control of Your Life
Intentional living is about making a firm commitment to take certain actions that will allow you to live a more purposeful life.
As you establish your priorities and values, nurture your sense of self-awareness, and begin taking small everyday actions, commit to taking full charge of your life every single day.
Intentional living is not about reacting to life events. Rather it is about choosing, very deliberately, how to frame these events and every interaction you have.
How do you take charge?
Here are a few principles you can live by to help you remain in control of your life:
Realize That You Have Choices
From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, you are presented with a series of endless choices.
You can choose to dwell on the bad weather or you can choose to feel grateful for having a roof over your head.
There is a choice to sulk and complain about your job, or you can choose to find new ways to improve your experiences at work, or, alternatively, you can choose to find work that is more meaningful.
You can choose to spend time with your loved one or you can choose to spend the day working.
Choices exist. You can change your outward reality. When you realize that every day presents new opportunities, you begin to understand that you can build your ideal life.
This is exactly what intentional or purposeful living is all about.
Live Your Life
You only have one life to live and you should live it to the fullest and on your own terms.
In the age of social media, it’s become so easy to compare ourselves to others. This is a sure way to lose track of what is really important and to forget about the many things in our own lives that we should actually be grateful for.
To begin living intentionally, choose to live for yourself and not based on other people’s definition of success.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself.
Instead of keeping track of how well others say they are doing, keep track of how far you have come and how far you are going.
Finally, be your own competition.
Find Something to Live For
To live purposefully, you need a purpose. Find something to drive you, something that will give you a reason to live from one day to the next. A purpose, a passion, a goal will bring a sense of intentionality into your life.
There is no single, clear-cut path to intentional living.
You don’t have a right or wrong way to go about it.
You’ll find that there is no end destination.
All that exists is a beautiful journey.
Intentional living is about understanding yourself deeply, knowing what is important to you, being in charge, and taking deliberate steps each day to create a life that gives you a sense of purpose.