What does it mean to live intentionally? How do you begin to live with intention? And what are the benefits of such a crazy idea?
The purpose of this post is to share what intentional living means, and how it can be useful. The ideas below are my own personal ideas about living intentionally and can be adopted and molded as needed.
I’m writing in part to ensure that I present a coherent definition of intentional living so that you know what I mean when I use the term and so you can begin to internalize your own definition.
I hope this helps guide you as you think through some ways in which your life could be improved or better managed.
Intentional living means that you are conscious of the decisions you make about how to live your life.
Being conscious means that you understand why you’re making a decision and what the possible consequences of your decision will be.
Being conscious means that you think through decisions and work at them until you get to the core of the matter, so you’re not guided by superficial incentives.
This requires that you question everything. It requires that you ask questions about the answers to your questions.
Being conscious means that you don’t allow decisions to be made for you. When things aren’t going the way you want them to, you make a change.
Being conscious means that you decide what is appropriate for your life, and just as importantly, what can be left out of your life entirely.
What Types of Decisions Can You Be Intentional About?
Everything we do, say and think requires us to make a decision. All too often we allow ourselves to go on autopilot. This can be a useful mechanism for helping us save time and energy.
The problem with autopilot is that we can get into a routine that is not actually healthy for us. Intentional living is all about recognizing the things we’ve set to autopilot and breaking the habits that are harming us.
These habits may include the things we’re consuming; such as food (or things posing as food), television and movies, social media, and even negative ideas.
Many times the habits we’ve set to autopilot have infiltrated our careers, our relationships, our political views and affiliations, and the way we raise our children.
We may have even allowed our autopilot to turn off positive, healthy habits that can be very beneficial for our lives. These habits may include exercise, reading uplifting materials, spending time with and communicating with our significant other, meditating or praying, and spending time outdoors.
Intentional living means that you force yourself to be conscious of the things you’re doing, or not doing, in your life so that you can change and live your life with purpose and integrity.
Living with integrity is one of the fruits of intentional living. Living with integrity means that you live according to your true self.
Once you’ve become conscious of the decisions you are making, you sit at a crossroad. You now have to decide whether to change the way you’re living, so that your decisions are more in line with your inner compass, or remain on the path others have chosen for you.
Living with integrity is not the easy route, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.
Living with integrity allows you to live according to your moral code. It allows your inner voice to guide you.
It means that you live free of peer pressure. Once you begin living with integrity you never have to do something simply because other people are doing that thing.
Are You Bound to Fail at Living with Integrity?
Nobody is perfect. I don’t believe that anybody has the ability to live with perfect integrity (either from a moral standpoint or a personal truth standpoint). It means that you see your own faults and forgive yourself and others
So, if you already know you’re going to fail, is there a point to even trying? The answer is a resounding “Of course!” The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus called it foolish to quit something simply because you would never be the best at it.
In the same way, not trying to live with integrity just because you know you’ll never be perfect at it is faulty reasoning. The joy is in the journey. Especially since there is no eventual destination.
All along the path, you will find yourself struggling with one thing or another. For me right now, I spend way too much time staring at a screen – often times a screen I can hold in my hand.
Its something I’m aware of that I’m working to improve on. Does it mean I’m perfect? No, and I never will be. But again, that’s not the point.
Living intentionally means that you see your own faults and that you’re willing to forgive yourself. It also means that you’re willing to forgive others for their shortcomings.
Striving to live with integrity, living according to the true you, is the point. Integrity will bring you peace of mind, tranquility, and happiness.
I’ve written more extensively about living with integrity in previous posts. You can read about them here (How do You Know if You’re Living With Integrity?) and here (Why Integrity is the Foundation of Happiness).
Living intentionally gives you a sublime feeling of freedom because you know that you are making your own choices and blazing your own trail.
If you’ve taken the time to become conscious of your decisions, and readjusted your life to live with integrity, then you will begin to feel a sense of autonomy and power enter your life.
Having freedom means that you are the master of your own soul. It means that your internal rudder steers your ship through life, in the direction you want to go.
Having freedom means that you act and do not wait to be acted upon. You make decisions, not because someone tells you what is right, but because you’ve come to your own conclusion.
Living intentionally will grant you freedom in many different aspects of your life; including your career, your relationships, and your health.
What Kinds of Freedom Will You Enjoy?
You’ll find that you spend more time doing things that you want to be doing and not what your autopilot was fooling you into doing. You’ll spend more quality time with loved ones. You’ll spend more time outside enjoying nature. You’ll spend more time on hobbies that make you happy.
You’ll spend more quality time with loved ones. You’ll spend more time outside enjoying nature. You’ll spend more time on hobbies and activities that make you happy.
Your mind will be free to focus on things that really matter to you. For example: rather than worrying so much about the major projects you have going on at work, you’ll spend time thinking about what you can do to make your family more connected.
You’ll begin to enjoy freedom from possessions, as you come realize the small value they actually provide in your life. You’ll be more grateful for what you have and think less about the things that you want.
When you begin to live intentionally, others may begin to think that you are crazy. Anytime you do something different from everyone else, there will be some level of backlash.
It’s true that others may not understand why you have suddenly changed, but that’s alright. Intentional living will set you free from worrying about what others think.
One of the greatest forms of freedom you will experience is the assurance that only you get to decide who you are and what makes you happy.
Intentional living gives you a vision of what the world could be and allows you to align your behavior with that vision.
Living intentionally means that you see the world for what it can be. It means that you focus on what is truly important.
It means that you can make your world a big as you can by experiencing as many different ideas, cultures, and places as possible. It means that you try to see things through others eyes.
Intentional living is about being conscious not only of your world but the world others live in as well.
Intentional living will give you a brighter outlook on what is possible and what can be done by you and others.
Living intentionally means that you aren’t afraid to change your mind, iterate on your beliefs, or make changes to your actions.
When you live with intention, you strive to do the right thing, whatever that may be. Often times, we make decisions on incomplete or inaccurate information.
Which means that we’ll be faced with the experience of realizing we were wrong. Realizing that you’ve made a mistake is the first step in correcting that mistake.
You can change your views and your actions, and thus realign yourself with a proper course of action. This idea is emphasized throughout various religions, but often in the context of sin.
In our lives, we will do things that are not wrong in a religious sense but often violate our internal compass. Once we’ve come to understand something in a new light or we receive additional information, living intentionally would dictate that we make a conscious change.
In essence, intentional living means testing new ideas, trying new things, and new approaches. It means not being afraid to make a change.
After all, you can change without growing, but you can’t grow without changing.
Change while necessarily is not easy. I’d recommend baby steps in this regard. Choose one or two things you think that you could be more intentional about and start there.
I hope this was helpful for you in some way. These are my thoughts on intentional living as of today, but I am always open to ideas and suggestions on what could be included. Please let me know what you think, by leaving a comment below. Thanks.
Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
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