There’s a lot of buzz these days around the phrase “intentional living” or “living with intention.” But what does intentional living really mean? Why is it important? And how can you live an intentional life?
What is intentional living?
The Cambridge dictionary defines intention as “something that you want and plan to do; an aim.”
In a nutshell, intentional living means having an aim for how you want to live your life. It’s about defining what you want your life to look like and having a plan to move you towards that life.
When you live with intention you live in accordance with your beliefs.
- Your actions align with your values
- You make conscious choices about what you do
- You know WHY you are doing something
Living intentionally means making choices that get you closer to where you want to be and how you want to live your life.
It means you make decisions with awareness. Decisions that have a positive impact on your life, both day-to-day, and in the future.
These decisions could be to do with the type of food you eat, what (or how often) you drink, how often you exercise, how you spend your money, and how you spend your time.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives
– Annie Dillard.
When you live intentionally you do things on purpose.
Compare this with living in auto-pilot mode. Where you drift along without a clear plan. Or you are distracted. You are busy. You do all the things. But you don’t feel as if you are getting anywhere.
The opposite of intention is mindlessness. Mindless consumption. Mindless spending. Mindless eating. Mindless scrolling.
Do you want to be debt free? Fitter? Healthier? Have more spare time? Learn to play a musical instrument? These things won’t happen unless you are intentional about how you spend your time.
Living intentionally is not about wishing things were different. It’s about taking action. Actions that moves you towards the life you want to live.
Why is intentional living important?
When you live with intention you recognise that you only have one life to live, and you take steps to make the most of your life.
You make decisions with more awareness.
When you live in a state of awareness your self-knowledge improves. You become aware of your spending habits, your eating and exercise habits, your self-care habits (or lack of).
It doesn’t mean you never do anything mindless, nobody is perfect. It just means that you recognise when you are doing it.
When you start living with intention, you may realise that you don’t want a house overflowing with stuff that means nothing to you. You realise that you want to feel calm in your surroundings and cherish your possessions.
You may realise that you don’t want to spend hours of your precious time mindlessly scrolling through social media. You want to spend it with friends or loved ones, face-to-face while they speak to you. Or you want to spend it learning a new skill or hobby.
How to live intentionally
There’s no one way, or correct way to live an intentional life. However, these steps can help you move towards living a life that is right for you.
Rushing, filling your calendar with events, and days with busy-work, is not the way to get to where you want to be. Being intentional with your time is. Slow down and give yourself time to think and reflect.
Pay attention to how you spend your time. What is working for you and what isn’t? If something isn’t working for you, take steps to change it.
Define your values
Think about what’s important to you.
- Where do you want to be?
- How do you want to live?
- What would your ideal day look like?
Remember, intentional living is about living with purpose, values, dreams and goals that are important to YOU.
Once you are clear on your vision, craft a lifestyle that supports this by setting goals.
- What small actions can you do to move towards your vision?
- What habit changes can you make?
- How can you do more of what you love and less of what you don’t?
Goals will help you take actions, no matter how small, to move towards the life you want to live.
You won’t get to where you want to go until you start to take action.
Small but consistent actions over time will have a significant positive impact on your life. Those small intentional steps you take each day will compound over time, to create a fulfilling life in line with your values.
A good life is made of a series of good days, starting with today
– Annie Dillard
Learn to say no
Living intentionally requires focus. There are so many distractions that can pull you away from what is important.
Learn to say no so that you can stay true to your values in the face of all the demands and distractions that come your way.
Until you cultivate the ability to say no to the things that fill your life but not your soul, you’ll never have the space to bring into it the things your desperately want to say yes to
– Jonathan Fields, How to Live a Good Life.
My Intentional Life
The following points sum up my values, aims and plans. Whenever I make decisions about how to spend my time, money and energy I try to reflect back to these intentions.
I don’t always make the right decisions at the right time (no one’s perfect, right?) However, living intentionally helps me recognise when I’m going off course and helps steer me back to what’s important.
- My aim is to be fit and healthy, at whatever age I am, with the freedom, time and energy to enjoy the company of my friends and family.
- I want to spend time in a cozy, organised and peaceful home, providing a calm haven for my family in a sometimes noisy and chaotic world.
- I value experiences over things, so travelling is important to me – both returning to favourite destinations and discovering new places.
- As an avid life-long learner, I plan to continue learning new things as long as I can.
- It’s important to me to contribute to my community and support others to live happier, fulfilling lives.
- I recognize that self-care and time spent relaxing and recharging is important so that I have the energy I need to pursue my plans.
What are your values, aims and plans? What small steps can you take to move towards the life you want?
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