With the start of each new year, we tend to take stock of the last 365 days and maybe contemplate things we wish we had done differently. While it’s helpful to take inventory of how we are progressing towards the life we want, try to move quickly through the regret phase. Whether you wish you had done things differently or feel opportunities were missed, the best part of life is that every morning you get to decide what you want your life to be.
Intentional living is making deliberate choices towards who and what is important in your life. Think of intentional living as a self creating roadmap to help navigate a life filled with endless decisions and choices; it helps you to align these decisions and goals with your life purpose. Some great resources are listed at the end of this post for you to check out!
Is now the time to contribute more to your community? Follow your dreams? Start something that seems scary but is important to you and your values? Do things or spend time with others who are important to you? The ball is in your court!
So how does one begin to start living an intentional life? So glad you asked.
Define Your Purpose
When you imagine your perfect day, what does it look like? Think of what is important to you, who are you with? Take note of the things that are included and things that are not. What do you want your life to be like this time next year? How about five or twenty years from now? It’s rare for people to mention spending time on social media during their ideal day which is where many of us are spending our time these days; endlessly scrolling. Is your time being used with intent?
These questions force us to think more about life as a whole, not only the here and now. Find a passion to live for – something bigger than yourself – and then start weaving it into your everyday life.
Set short- and long-term goals that align with your purpose to develop your overarching life plans. By their very nature, goals will introduce intentionality to your life (intentionality: the quality of mental states - thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes, etc. - that consists in their being directed toward some object or state of affairs).
While it may sound counter-intuitive, the smaller the action, the better. Whether it’s one minute of meditation, one push-up a day, or reading a few pages of a book; consistent action is more effective in the making that big picture happen; so what are the steps—break it down!
Today our lives are filled with infinite distractions that are demanding our constant attention. We are connected to the world and information in ways no humans have been in the past; though our human brain still works the same way as in the past. To truly focus we must learn to turn off distractions. Be curious and look to others to learn how they found their purpose and started going after their goals. Obstacles are unavoidable on the way to getting what we want; being open to receiving feedback from our environment, others, and learning to find alternative paths forward will make the journey much easier.
Commit to Action
Determining your purpose and setting goals are nothing without action. Start by getting a strong handle on your passions, talents, abilities, and weaknesses. Give precious time and energy to this endeavor, reflecting on who you truly are and want to be. When you feel lost and hopeless on your journey, rather than focusing on the outside crisis, try looking inwards. Having hope is an active, decisive mindset etched into every single moment and it can nurture your ability to be of service to yourself and your community and create a life that is meaningful and with purpose.
Here are some ideas on how to move in this direction; giving to others or yourself.
Help your boss with something that’s not your responsibility
Write about what you’ve learned in life
Leave your phone/tablet at the door
Teach a child in your life a life skills, such as using jumper cables or cooking
30 minute tech disconnection rule at the start of each day
Show up for a friend who you know needs you
Go to the gym
Remember that it is you who gets to decide how to spend the next year, and years, of your life. Dreams experienced are the goals small intentional, seemingly insignificant decisions, each and every day. Start here and now—commit yourself to living intentionally.
For a little extra help, check out:
Project Wayfinder - On Living a Meaningful Life
The Happiness Trap
Purpose Fairy - Deep Questions to Ask Yourself