We’re All Going Somewhere, but Are We Truly Making the Choice of Where We’re Going?
Lets imagine for a moment that you are on a boat floating down a river. Now, lets further imagine that your boat has no instruments to control the direction you are moving; no sails or motor, no oars or rudder.
In this situation you float listlessly down the river, going where ever the current or the wind might take you. Your trip becomes random and even if you have a location in mind that you would like to reach, you certainly don’t have the capacity to reach it.
This might seem pleasant for an hour or two. You could kick back and relax, enjoy the sunshine, and see where you end up. Sounds pretty nice, huh? The problem is that if you don’t find a way to take control of the boat, at some point, your pleasure cruise will come to an end.
You’ll experience winds and storms that will shake your boat. You’ll be tossed to and fro and you’ll get wet and cold. Eventually you’re going to want to get off the boat. Perhaps you’ll see an ideal destination, somewhere in the distance, but you’ll taste the bitter disappointment of knowing you won’t have a chance to stop and enjoy the spot.
Sometimes life can feel like a boat ride without a rudder. We make decisions based on the influence of our family, friends, or worldly ideals. We make decisions based on difficult emotions; such as the desire to relieve the stress we’re feeling in the moment. Sometimes things are hard to deal with emotionally or mentally, so we don’t want to think about them. Sometimes we would rather be ignorant than know the whole truth, because it makes it easier to sleep at night.
This listlessness can manifest itself in all aspects of our lives. When we shop at the grocery store we buy items because they are on sale, or we make our meal selections based on which items will be the quickest to cook. We buy clothes, kitchen gadgets, and other trinkets on a whim. We become angry with others because of their opinions or the choices they choose to make. We attend religious services on Sunday but find it hard to act on the principles taught, as we go throughout our week. We snap at our children because we’re frustrated.
Everybody struggles with these types of challenges and there are thousands of other examples. Being a person in today’s modern world with so much information and so many responsibilities is really hard. But if we don’t find a way to control our boat, we’ll float through life and never become what we wish to become.
Fortunately for all of us, we have the ability to fasten a rudder to the underside of our boats. If you start small, if you experiment, then you can change the course of your life.
What it Means to Live intentionally
Living intentionally looks different for everybody. We all have our own ideals and our own situations. We come from various background and have a wide range of goals.
Simply put, living intentionally is being aware of the decisions you make and why you make them. It means investing the time to learn about and think about the way you live your life, so that your decisions can be in harmony with you internal voice.
Living with intention is living with purpose and knowing where your destination lies. It requires effort but it can be a thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling experience. Below I’ve laid out 4 reasons why you should build a rudder on your life’s boar and begin living intentionally today.
For more about living according to your inner voice you might want to check out my post How do You Know if You’re Living with Integrity?
4 Reasons Why Intentional Living is For You
1. Peace of Mind
When we understand the decisions that we’re making and why we’re making them, we can be more certain that we’re living according to our own inner voice. I call this living with integrity.
When we first start to think about the choices we’re making and how they are affecting our lives, it can be anything but encouraging. When I started to really focus on living intently, my wife and I began attending therapy together (as a side note I think that everyone should attend therapy, either with their significant other or on their own).
Therapy was great and I usually came out of the sessions feeling rejuvenated, but there was one problem – I was becoming more in-tuned with my true self and more aware of my true emotions. This awareness provided some of the highest highs I’d ever experienced, but it also created some of the lowest lows.
When you really start to think about the choices your making, you will likely experience a bit of guilt and shame at some of the things you’ve allowed yourself to do or become. But there is a very bright silver lining – when you realign your behaviors with the things you discover about yourself, you will begin to feel a heightened sense of peace.
Living with integrity, meaning being intent about your choices and ensuring they are aligned with your personal beliefs, will allow you to live regret free. You’ll have the burden of shame and guilt removed from you. You’ll have peace of mind and feel as though you are becoming your true self.
Living intentionally has a multitude of positive effects on your health, and not just your physical health. Living more consciously provides both direct and indirect benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional health.
The reason for these outcomes is that your mental and emotional health are so connected to your physical health, and vice versa. For me, becoming intentional about my physical health meant that I changed the way I eat. I didn’t go on a ‘diet’, rather I changed my diet.
My philosophy around food (and yours can be different) is largely influenced by the writings of Michael Pollan. His simple mantra, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” changed the way my wife and I shopped and cooked. I gradually lost some of the extra pounds I was carrying, and I’ve kept them off. This change in my physical health has had a direct impact on my emotional health. It’s made me feel better about myself.
My wife and I also got serious about our mental and emotional health. As I mentioned above we began attending therapy together. One of the things I did not expect to experience, as I worked on my emotional health, was to feel better when I played basketball. It surprised me how much joy playing this simple game brought me.
This experience was one of the highs I mentioned above. For days after I played I felt a kind of euphoria. I had so much fun. It was like being a kid again. While focusing on my physical health alone could have made me feel better on the basketball court, it was my focus on my emotional health that allowed me to really enjoy the game.
The reality is that our bodies are a complex system and everything is connected – physical and mental. When we’re mentally and emotionally healthy, we have more energy and more drive. It can take time, as change often does, but getting intentional about all aspects of your health will bring real improvements to your life.
There is a plethora of research demonstrating that the quality of your relationships is one of the biggest indicators of happiness. So, if there is one thing to get intentional about it’s probably your relationships.
We have all kinds of relationships, with our spouse, children, parents, siblings, coworkers, and neighbors. The list could go on. One of the relationships we often overlook is the relationship we have with ourselves.
Margaret Paul, a Ph.D. and best-selling author, says that in her work with clients, she focuses on helping them, first and foremost, connect with themselves — with their feelings and their higher self/personal source of spiritual guidance. The reason for this is that before you look for connection and love from others, you really need to know how to connect with and love yourself.
One of my main purposes for living intentionally is to better understand myself and my relationship with the world. I do this through meditation, prayer, affirmations, and a lot of reading, thinking, and writing.
As you begin to understand yourself, it becomes easier to focus outward on those with whom you have a relationship. My wife and I have pretty busy schedules, which makes it hard to spend time together during the week. But spending time together is a necessity for connection.
To make sure that we are connecting on a regular basis, we’ve set aside 15 minutes each night after we get the kids in bed, to discuss our day. We try to talk not just about the activities of the day, but the feelings we experienced. This was really hard for me early on in our marriage, because I was never comfortable discussing emotions. With practice it has become easier and the time spend talking with my wife has made our relationship deeper and more meaningful.
When you get intentional about your relationship with yourself you start to feel more comfortable in your own skin. As you become intentional about your relationships with others, you feel more connected. This connection can bring more joy into your life and a deeper sense of belonging.
While the first three reasons for living intentionally were more focused, this one is really the crux of the matter. The purpose of living intentionally is pretty simple, it’s to live the best life you can and to be happy.
Happiness is not a passive activity. Just as a boat without a rudder will drift aimlessly, a life without intent cannot provide lasting happiness. By figuring out who you are and living accordingly, you can take control and experience the happiness of a life well lived.
I hope you enjoyed this and that it was helpful in some way. Thanks for reading.
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Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
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