Let's start by defining what living intentionally means. When I googled it, this is the definition that I found: Intentional living is any lifestyle based on an individual or group's conscious attempts to live according to their values and beliefs.
If I had to create my own definition I would something along these lines: Intentional living is living with a why and show up consistently in alignment with that why. In other words, living in congruence with your purpose. Living intentionally, it's about creating a life you want for yourself based on what you think and believe is important for you so you can live your best life.
Because we all have a different purpose, different believes and values, intentional living is going to look different for everyone.
Imagine for a minute that you could craft a life with more of what matters and less of everything else. How good would that feel? I know all of that sounds great, but how do you do that, and where to start to live an intentional life?
From my perspective in order to live and intentional life you need to:
Let's break these down!
Be clear on what your core values are and act in congruence with your values
Your core values are how you choose your direction. 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
If you have no idea what your core values are, start by thinking of moments when you have 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.
Define your Purpose
Purpose is clarity. Being clear on who you are, why you’re here, and the direction you want to go. It is the thing that gives you energy, self-confidence, and self-assuredness. Having a clear purpose can help us live a more fulfilling life and improve our quality of life overall and allows us to me happier, healthier and feel more significant.
To be clear, simple and intentional living doesn’t mean that you will have everything figured out, automatically achieve every goal you set for yourself, or never have to deal with stress again—BUT it does mean that you will move forward with purpose. Know that you can choose to be intentional about your direction without knowing your final destination.
When we don't take personal responsibility for our lives we find ourselves making up excuses. Think about this for a minute, think about the areas of you life where you don't feel responsible for, I bet these are the areas where you tent to make the most excuse. On the other hand, when we take personal responsibility for the decision and choices we make and the consequences of those, in other words, when we take personal responsibility for our lives and what happens in our lives instead of finding excuses we find a way to figure things out, we find a way to make things happen despite anything happening around us. We can't live intentionally unless we take personal responsibility for our lives.
Make living intentionally a habit
I love this quote form John Maxwell what says, "Everything worth pursuing in life is uphill". Living intentionally is not an exception. But I believe that if we make intentional living a habit, we can reduce the resistance that comes from going uphill.
You need a system that helps you:
Continually clarify and connect with what matters most (the more you connect with this personal vision, the more real it will become)
Audit your life—a clear way of reviewing what is supporting your vision and what is not (so you can align your life accordingly)
Move forward and ACT on your intentions (this is so important because it’s not intentional living if you’re not following through with intentional action!)
Focus one day at a time, one small action at a time
When you look at your vision and purpose it can feel overwhelming, but you can do something or anything for just one day. Ask yourself every morning "What can I do today to live more intentionally?". At the end of the day, that is what life is, a recollection of days lived, is up to you how you want to live each day in your life. So, choose every day how you want to feel, what you want to do that will fulfill you. Every morning, as part of my morning routine, I write down the three things I want to accomplish that day, I call these my "non-negotiables". When these things are aligned with your purpose and vision, if you just do one, two or three things every day, no matter how small these things are, you will see how these little things compound over time to create the life you want to live.
Listen to your heart, do more of what you love and let go of all the rest.
I mentioned this in previous blog posts, but I think joy is something that we choose every day. Since we have been at home as a result of COVID, one thing that I've been doing is that everyday I have been very intentional about adding at least one thing during my day that brings me joy.
It has been a game changer! I could easily be depressed or anxious because of everything going around and is sometimes easy to give up and it's easy to find excuses in the circumstances around me, but I think that two things can help change that perspective: practicing gratitude and being intentional about adding things in my day, every day, that brings me joy.
One thing that has always amazed me about life is how much it can change in such a short period of time. COVID has proved that to us, how our world, our lives have changed in the last six, seven months, but just like an external dramatic event. Like this can change our lives. We can change our lives too. If I could go back in time and give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be this:
If you want to live a life you truly love, the first and most important step is to define what matters most to you. After all, if you don’t know what you want your life to look like, how can you create it?
Today, I encourage you to follow through and think about what small changes you can make today to turn your vision into a reality. The key is to come up with ideas that are so small, you can’t not do them!
Here are some examples:
If you want more time with friends and family, can you find just five minutes to write an email or pick up the phone?
If you want to read more often, can you commit to finishing just one page today?
If you’d love to get more sleep, could you move your bedtime forward just 15 minutes?
If you want to clear the clutter from your home, can you choose just one thing to let go of?
Write your list and then, when you’re finished, I want you to choose one thing off your list and do it today—no excuses. It can be big or small but commit to doing something that matters to you.
This is key to intentional living: choosing a direction and then taking the first step, no matter how small that step might be. Over time you will see the compound effect of all these small actions you intentionally take every day.
Go and live intentionally today!