What is Intentional Living and Why Should You Want to Live an Intentional Life?

“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”

–Nora Roberts

At the beginning of a new year, many people take the time to set New Year’s Resolutions and goals for ways they can improve themselves and be better in the coming year and into the foreseeable future. Although, goals and resolutions can be made at any time, they are most commonly made and talked about at the beginning of the new year. While many resolutions and goals are made with the best of intentions, many are merely words on a page with not much thought given a week into the new year, or a few days after being made. In fact, a majority of people go so far as to forget their resolutions and goals entirely, never to look at them again after they are written down.  So, why is it that so many people take the time and effort to make and write down their resolutions only to forget about them shortly thereafter? Many, myself included, like to write down goals and resolutions as a means to try and find a way to give our life purpose, to improve and become better; yet shortly thereafter we return to normal life, not giving a second thought to the goals and resolutions we made for the new year.

One way to improve and to structure your goals, with the intention of giving your life purpose is to implement the idea of intentional living. If you are like me, and many others, you might be wondering, “what is intentional living?  Why should I try to live intentionally?”. I am so glad you asked! There are many reasons and perks as to why you should consider implementing an intentional lifestyle. The idea of living an intentional life, is very freeing and exciting, as it helps you to find and provide direction and purpose to your life, all while living your best life. It helps you to remember your goals long after the new year has passed, making your goals and resolutions more than mere words on a page.

The concept of living an intentional life is meant to help you be more aware of what you do and why you do it. This can apply to every aspect of your life—education, career, family, relationships, etc. All of this is intended to help you to be more aware of your choices, ultimately helping you to live the life that you want. Whether you have short term or long-term goals, living intentionally can help you achieve these goals and stay accountable to yourself and others.

What is Intentional Living?

Intentional living has been defined countless different ways, by more people than you can count. The way in which I found, intentional living defined, that resonated the most with me, at its most basic definition is: “intentional living is being able to answer why in regards to why you do things in your life and being happy with the answer”. Sounds simple enough, but there is actually more to it. Intentional living is being aware of what you do in your life and why you do the things you do. This enables you to live your life with purpose, instead of just going through the motions; living with no direction or purpose.

This can pertain to every aspect of your life, from why you work where you work to why you socialize with whom you socialize with, and every other aspect of your life. Developing an understanding of your why, generally stems from your core beliefs and values. It also comes from the desire to live a life that is full of purpose. Be the author of your own story, and write a story of your life that you are proud of and leave behind the legacy you want to be remembered for.

It is not all that uncommon for young adults to find themselves at a crossroad where they aren’t sure what it is that they want to do with their life. It is at these pivotal moments that they have a decision to make regarding how they are going to live their life these decisions are vital for what direction their life will take and affect their future. Are they simply going to drift through life or are they going to live with purpose and intention? Although, it is most common among young adults, older adults who are going through, what is commonly referred to as a “mid-life crisis” also experience similar feelings of not knowing what to do with their lives. In these instances, there are a few things you can do, to determine the best course of action for moving forward. 

Start by thinking about and describing what a perfect day would look like in your life. Be sure to include every tiny detail, accounting for every second from the moment your eyes open up in the morning to when your head hits the pillow at night. What would you do to fill the time during the day? Who would you spend the day with? Where would you be, at home or on an exotic island?

While this might seem like a simple, almost too simple idea, but it does serve a couple of different purposes, to help you establish an intentional lifestyle. First, when you take the time to imagine every tiny detail of your perfect day, you are helping to clarify your priorities, values and dreams. You are able to determine the specifics of your perfect day, which provides you with direction to work towards. For example, if your perfect day consists of you traveling around the world—what exactly will that look like? Will you work hard while you’re younger so that you are able to travel the world without having to return to the office in between trips? Will you travel alone or with a significant other or friend? Knowing the specifics of your perfect day, will help you understand what it is exactly that you are working towards, while providing you with valuable motivation.

Secondly, when you picture your perfect day, use it to compare to your current “everyday” situation. How are they similar? How are they different? Are there any small changes that you could make now that will help you to work towards your ultimate perfect day? Are there things that you could let go of that will make it easier for you to achieve your perfect day? Use the idea of comparing the two days as motivation to help you get started making the changes and setting goals to work towards where you ultimately want your life to end up.

What You Need to Know About Living an Intentional Life

When you live your life with intention, you have direction and purpose to help you achieve the life that you want to live. This way of living also creates an environment for growth, peace and happiness. It forces you to reflect on your current life and make the necessary changes to get you living the life you want.

Intentional living does not mean you have everything for your whole life figured out at this very moment. Even though you probably don’t have every detail of your life figured out, living an intentional life does mean that you live with purpose; having purpose behind your daily actions. When implementing an intentional living lifestyle, it is good to keep in mind that you can choose to be intentional about the direction in which you want your life to go, without knowing what the final destination is going to be. Having an idea of where you want your life to go and what you want to achieve in your life, can give you a starting place, a jumping off point so to speak, even if you don’t have all the details figured out. This enables you to start working towards your ultimate end goals, while all the small details along the way work themselves out.

The driving force behind intentional living is your core values, which dictate how you choose the direction your life is going to go. Essentially this means that while you don’t need to have your entire life figured out, you do need to know what is most important to you. Every one’s core values are going to be different from one another. For most, their core values stem from society, their family, religious beliefs, and even television and media ideas of what is most important. Examples of core values can include loyalty, honesty, commitment, open-mindedness, and dependability. For me, my values include my relationships with others, family and furthering my education, just to name a few. Knowing what my core values are, has helped me to live my life with purpose. Ensuring that my choices lead me to achieving the goals  I have set for myself and for my future.

If you are unsure as to what your core values are, take some time to think about moments and times in your life when you experienced happiness or felt proud. Use these moments as jumping off points and dig a little deeper. Think about the things that are most important for you in your life. Are you concerned with building and maintaining relationships with others? What about honesty, integrity or loyalty—are they important to you? What traits would you consider yourself to possesses? For most people, when we are living and acting in accordance with our core values, we experience joy and pride, which help us to align our lives with what we believe to be of most importance. Using this as your guide, you can align your decisions when navigating your life to ultimately reach your goals in life.   

Once you have determined what your core values are, you are able to start living an intentional life. Using your core values and beliefs as your moral compass that provides you with valuable direction, focused on what is most important to you in your life.

How to Live an Intentional Life

There are a few easy steps you can incorporate into your daily life, to enable you to start living life with intention. These steps include:

·         Taking Responsibility

·         Making the Decision Daily

·         Embrace the Process

Taking Responsibility

The biggest part about living intentional is taking responsibility for actions, and outcomes. Because life can and is unpredictable, even the most well laid plans don’t always turn out the way we intended, anticipate or hope that they will. It is at these times that it is important to take responsibility, regarding how you will respond to instances beyond your control. Such as, the dream job you applied for but didn’t get, are you going to let that hinder you from applying for other jobs and turn you into a couch potato living in your parent’s basement? Or are you going to learn from it and apply for other jobs; keep putting yourself out there, ultimately discovering the end result is better than what you were originally seeking.  Once you learn how to take responsibility and learn how to adjust to the different hiccups, twist and turns life throws our way, the easier it will be for you to be able to adjust to the hiccups that come up and disrupt your plans. The easiest way to respond and take action to the various curveballs that life tends to throw our way is to take responsibility for your life.

Make the Decision Daily

aGoodCause - man bare feet in the sand and arrows

The whole idea behind intentional living is making the daily decision, the daily effort to live the life that you want to live. To live the life that pleases you and brings you the greatest joy. In order to achieve this, it will require you to consciously and subconsciously make the decision that will keep you focused on the bigger picture. Make decisions that will get you closer to achieving your ultimate goals for life; personal, professional, educational, etc. When you start to question the reason for why you make the decisions that you make, you will begin to see a change in your life as your life aligns with your goals.

Embrace the Process

After deciding to adopt an intuitive lifestyle it is important to remember that it doesn’t just happen overnight. It is a process, a personal journey that will take time, but yields tremendous results. Although there is no final destination, no finish line to cross, it is all about making and implementing small improvements throughout your life, adjusting your way of thinking so that it is in line with the life that you want to live.

For me, the idea and practice of living an intentional life came about after I hit an especially low point in my life. I was in my mid-twenties, I was happily married and had graduated college with my undergraduate degree. I had all these hopes and dreams for the future—career, family and life goals in general.

It wasn’t until I found myself without a job for the first time in a decade that I was forced to reevaluate my life and what it was that I wanted out of it. For about the first week, I found myself not really eating, hardly sleeping; I was barely surviving from day to day. It wasn’t until I realized that I had the power within myself to change my situation. I couldn’t wake up the next day and miraculously have my dream job, but I could do little things that would help me work towards finding and landing that job.

I started by doing small things that I knew I had control over, simple things such as making my bed, doing laundry and even deciding what to eat for dinner. It was these small acts that gave me the motivation I needed to look beyond my current situation and plan for my future.

I knew I needed to find a job, even if it wasn’t a job I necessarily wanted to work at for the rest of my life. What ended up happening is that I was able to find a temporary job, and through that job I made connections that helped me to eventually land a job in the future that was similar to the job that I had originally been striving for.

This was all possible because I asked myself, “why”. Why was I in my current predicament and why did I want out of it? Once I knew the answer to these questions, I was then able to develop a plan of living intentionally so that I could change my life to what I wanted it to be. It started with me recognizing what my core values were, and what I ultimately wanted out of my life.

Learning to live an intentional life isn’t difficult, but it does take some time and work on your part. You have to be willing to make a change or multiple changes, and live with purpose. Stop doing things just to do them, do things because you have a reason to do them. For me, it was making my bed every day because that was one thing in my life that I was in control of at that moment, and it set the tone for the rest of the day.

Implementing an Intentional Lifestyle

 Implementing an intentional lifestyle into your daily life is quite easy to do, once you make the decision to do so. It all starts with having the desire that take your current life, and elevate it to what it can be, what you ultimately want it to be. Start by asking yourself the hard questions about why you do what you do with your life, and what you want to do and achieve. A common question that everyone hears all growing up, and into adulthood, is “where do you see yourself in five years?” ten years?”. Using this type of questioning, ask yourself, where you picture you and your life to be. Do you picture yourself to be retired, living on a private island, or perhaps you see yourself as the CEO of a fortune 500 company that you started?

Not only do you need to determine the direction that you want your life to go, you need to figure out the “why” for the ultimate vision you have for your life. Why do you want to retire on a private island? Why do you want to be the CEO? Why do you want your company to be a fortune 500 company? Why do you picture yourself, where you ultimately want to be in the future?

In addition to being able to answer the “why” in regards to the choices and decisions that you make for your life. It is important to remember that it doesn’t matter what others think regarding the way you are living your life. Most people are too busy trying to make a life that others will approve of, instead of trying to live their best life. When you focus on your own life, you don’t have time to worry about what others are doing or thinking; instead you are able to achieve your own goals.

Challenge

Now that you know a little bit more about intentional living, hopefully, you like me, are now inspired to implement this practice into your life. Set goals for your life, determine what your “why” is and what you can do to achieve what you want out of life. Figure out the “why” for your life and make it happen!  Set yourself up for some small wins, little things that you can accomplish with minimal effort daily. This helps to boost your confidence in deciding to live an intentional life and knowing you can reach the goals you have set for yourself.

Remember living an intentional lifestyle is not a list of checkboxes that need to be checked off. It is a continual process, something that evolves and changes as your ideas and goals for life change. Keep asking yourself “why” you do or want things in your life, and be happy with your answers.  This will lead to you living an intentional life with purpose that is unique to you and what you want out of life.

Author:  Ashley Christensen

Sources:

“4 Creative Exercises to Inspire Intentional Living.” Simply Fiercely, 14 May 2017, www.simplyfiercely.com/4-creative-exercises-to-inspire-intentional-living/.

“The Helpful Guide to Living an Intentional Life.” Becoming Minimalist, 25 Sept. 2014, www.becomingminimalist.com/the-helpful-guide-to-living-an-intentional-life/.

“An Intro to Intentional Living: 7 Things You Need to Know.” Simply Fiercely, 28 Mar. 2019, www.simplyfiercely.com/an-intro-to-intentional-living/.

“Intentional Living: What It Is and How It Works • Simple & Soul.” Simple & Soul, 23 Feb. 2017, simpleandsoul.com/intentional-living/.

“3 Simple Actions You Can Take To Live An Intentional Life.” Life Goals Mag, 29 June 2017, lifegoalsmag.com/3-simple-actions-can-take-live-intentional-life/. 

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