There’s one pursuit thats just as old and vast as is the pursuit of happiness. And that is the pursuit of meaning. Purpose if you will.
In todays culture it’s easy to get trapped in expectations, lost climbing the wrong ladder and running circles on a hamster wheel of shallow goals. Intent to please someone or prove something we often end up loosing ourselves. We forget about our own purpose.
If we want to live a life that has meaning, we need to start living with intent.
What does it mean to live intentionally?
To live intentionally means to live on purpose. When you’re living intentionally you are actively choosing to live a life aligned with your values, goals and vision. You are making the hard choices rather than living passively and on autopilot.
Living intentionally requires you to slow down, accept responsibility and be mindful with your choices. It requires self knowledge and courage. Therefore, an intentional life can look vastly different for different people and it often changes over time as you progress through different seasons in life and your values and priorities shift.
Many mistakenly assume that living intentionally means adhering to a strict schedule and having everything figured out. But that is not the case. Also, living intentionally does not mean escaping from what you don’t want.
To live life intentionally simply means finding your center, your why. It means accepting that change and surprise are an essential part of life and creating a flexible roadmap leading towards your own version of success. One that you often review and revise.
Why choose an intentional life?
Intentional living can be hard work, so why would we choose an intentional life? When living with intention we connect with our deeper needs, wishes and values. We live a life filled with purpose.
When living your life on purpose, wonderful things happen.
When you live an intentional life, you live a life that matters. A life where you matter. A life where your choices, your actions, your daily habits and your thoughts matter. You live a life full of purpose and that can have an incredible impact on you, your life satisfaction and the people around you.
There are many benefits to living with intention. Below are just some of the more prominent ones:
Intentional living brings freedom
There’s a sense of freedom that comes from realising that perhaps we need less. That we want different things than those around us. That we don’t necessarily need to spend time and energy on things we don’t like. That we don’t need to have it all figured out and can move forward despite it.
Living intentionally forces us to embrace what brings us joy and discard what does not align with life as it should be.
An intentional life is a happier life
When we’re living life intentionally it ultimately means we’re living a fulfilling and purposeful life. When our head hits the pillow at night, we can usually say we had a great day.
Being intentional brings more joy and happiness to our every day by filling your days with things you enjoy and that bring meaning to your life.
With intentional living comes clarity
And with clarity, stress and overwhelm go away. Choices are much easier when we know our direction. Intentional living is intertwined with a greater sense of clarity, purpose and self awareness.
When we remove the clutter it’s easier to see the next step and spot opportunities that we might have never considered before.
Living with intent requires self knowledge
Before we can jump into a more deliberate life, we need to get clear on our needs, wants, values, limitations and so much more. Self knowledge and self awareness are an integral part of being intentional.
Intentional living requires us to dig deep into our need and to figure out what we want from life. It forces us to reassess who we are, where we are and why we are here.
How to live intentionally
Living with intention and life design go hand in hand. It really comes down to figuring out what you truly want and going after it. Living an intentional life is an art, a skill that you don’t acquire over night but rather something you get better at over time and with practice. Shifting from living a reactive life to deliberate living demands work.
Get clear on what you want
The indispensable first step in creating the life you want is to decide what you want. And this can be easier said than done.
We are all born with an innate sense of self, an ability to recognise our wants and our needs. But as we grow up this ability to know what we want gets schooled out of us. As we grow up we are not supposed to or allowed to do certain things and we are expected to do other things and follow a certain path. We are thought that some things are sensible and desirable while others are not.
Getting clear on what you want starts by stripping down layers of schooling, expectations and superficial wants. It requires asking some tough questions and doing some serious soul searching.
Intentional living requires a lot of deep thinking. Only by digging deep you’ll be able to find your core values and your purpose. Your values are the core principles you live by while your purpose is the sweet spot between what you like, what you’re good at and what brings value to others. And your vision can be defined as the ideal life you strive for.
You might find out that you’ve been climbing up the wrong ladder for most of your life and you might realise that your life needs a major overhaul. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. Sometimes small changes can bring a lot of purpose and satisfaction.
Take 100% responsibility
Blaming others or your circumstances for your current situation won’t get you any closer to your desired outcomes. Living a life filled with purpose and meaning starts by realising that you have the ability to choose how to react to anything that gets thrown your way. This can be an empowering and a scary realisation all at once.
You have the power and the responsibility to create the life you love. No one else can do it for you. To live intentionally you need to take 100% responsibility for your actions, and your reactions.
Mike and Harvey from the show Suits often joke that there are 146 other ways to react when you have a gun pointed at your head. I’m telling you that there are at least 146 other ways to react to anything life ever throws at you.
Similarly, there are 146 other consequences to your actions. So before you do anything, be prepared to take 100% responsibility for the results, good or bad.
Break the pattern
Nothing changes if nothing changes. If you want to go from where you are to where you want to be you can’t keep doing what you’ve always done.
Take inventory of your habits, thoughts, projects, commitments, actions … and ask yourself;
- Why am I doing this?
- Is this getting me closer to my ideal life?
If you don’t like the answer, make a change. Weed out through the things that don’t matter and focus on those that do. Focus on growth even if it’s scary.
Realise small actions matter
Eating that cookie. Missing out on a party. Looking someone in the eyes and smiling back. Telling yourself you’re not good enough. Going to the gym. Handing in your resignation letter. These are all small actions that can have a big impact on your life, your health and your happiness.
Eating a cookie once might not matter. But eating a cookie every day, or even several a day will compound over time and have major health implications. Similarly, going to the gym once won’t make you fit. But doing it on a regular basis will.
The most powerful way to change your life is to change your habits. No matter how small, over time, habits have a major impact on your life.
Learn to value your time
Time is your most valuable resource, one that you can never earn or get back. What you spend your time on matters. A lot!
Time that you spend on someone else’s dream is time you can’t spend on your own. Time you spend quietly suffering through a bad movie because you don’t want to offend anyone is time you can’t be enjoying things you love, with people you love.
Luckily, when you know your why, protecting your time becomes a lot easier.
Don’t take the easy road
The best part of life on autopilot is that it is easy. There’s no decisions to be made, no hard choices, no getting out of the comfort zone.
Intentional living is different. Every morning we get to wake up and decide what kind of person we want to be and which path we want to walk down on. It’s generally easier to take the flat one or even walk downhill, but intentional living often requires us to scramble uphill a bit, which takes me to the next point.
When living intentionally you need to make choices that move you towards what you want, even if this sometimes means making choices you don’t want to make.
When you’re clear on your purpose taking action becomes a lot easier and the more you take action, the easier it gets. Purpose and meaning can be a powerful motivator.
Free Living Intentionally Challenge
If you want to dig deeper into intentional living then I invite you to join my free 5-day challenge.
Over the next 5 days you will be getting a daily email with actionable steps for creating a meaningful and intentional life; from finding out what you want, to assessing where you are and making a plan to close this gap.
Sign up bellow to join. It’s free and it will change your life!