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Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.
The concept of intentional living has been on my mind a lot recently.
I’ve been having the same conversations with different people, all centred around one key idea: living with intention.
How many of us are really taking the time to think about what we want from life, what makes us happy, and how we can place more emphasis on those things and less on every other distraction?
We live in a world where a fast-pace, selfish attitude, a busy lifestyle is encouraged. A minimalist lifestyle is undoubtedly still an approach a minority take – but I genuinely believe it can give us all the tools we need to start living a life that we love, the world’s expectations be damned.
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How To Live A More Intentional Life
Living an intentional life places a focus on living in the now. On bringing mindfulness and meaning to your actions and your plans, and staying in touch with who you really are and what really brings value to your life.
Below are 21 ways to live a more intentional life, categorised into intentional living for the mind, body, and spirit.
For Your Mind
1. Recognise that you are in control of your own destiny
Every time you wake up, you have the choice to decide what your attitude is going to be, what your mindset is going to be, and how you’re going to approach the day. Cheesy as it might sound, you really do have control of your destiny. While you might not be able to change your life into your ‘dream’ in one day, you do have the capacity to choose what your mindset will be.
2. Make a choice about your attitude
Make a decision on how you are going to approach things that happen to you. Take, for example, when you’re driving to work and dealing with traffic the whole way there. A car cuts you up. You could get angry and frustrated and let it ruin your entire morning. Or, you could think to yourself ‘what did that person have going on that made them need to act that way today?’ and instead of anger, have empathy. A simple shift in mindset, but one that can re-shape your outlook on the whole world.
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3. Learn to separate the inner critic from who ‘you’ really are
Eckhart Tolle’s seminal book, The Power Of Now, teaches you how to disconnect the analytical mind – the ego – from your true self. It is one of the best books of mindfulness I have ever read, both teaching me something while also simply revealing what I already knew all along. If you struggle to get out your head and into the present, I highly recommend reading it.
4. Constantly evaluate your surroundings
Get out of the habit of simply accepting that this is the way things always have been, and always will be. Evaluate your surroundings, and their effect on your mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t find the culture you’re moving in to really suit you, change it.
5. Question yourself
Living an intentional life means teaching yourself to question your intentions. Rather than simply acting and reacting, start to ask yourself why do I feel this way? why do I want to react to this situation in this way? It may not change your actions, but at least you are bringing thought to your everyday actions.
Know who you are and what you want
To live an intentional life, you need to know who you are and where you want to fit in this world. Know what your passions are, your strengths, your weaknesses, what drives you. Know your priorities. Determine the things you want to put your energy into in life – it’s one of the most valuable things you’ll do.
Define your real purpose in life
On the same vein, mindfulness means bringing meaning to your life. Do you know your purpose? Do you know what kind of a mark you want to make with your life?
Be grateful for what you have
You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Santosha, one of the Niyamas of yoga, encourages us to find contentment with what we have right now – moving forward in life with more gratitude and ease. There is a difference between recognising the beauty in what you have right now and setting a plan for the future, and simply striving to change everything about your life right now.
Set yourself goals
Setting yourself goals in life can be extremely valuable. Goals shape our lives, and if set in line with our purpose and values, they can define us for the better.
What makes you feel disconnected from life? Social media, TV, a busy and crowded commute, mindless binge eating, shutting yourself inside for an entire day..? Identify the things that prevent you from living your life intentionally, and consider what you can do to reduce those distractions.
Connect with other people
Humans are social creatures, and we have an instinctive need to create bonds with other people and animals. Living in your own head can be helpful at times, but creating bonds and connecting with others is equally important.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
Being able to say no, without guilt and hesitation, for your own well-being is such an important skill to acquire, and harder than it sounds for many people.
For Your Body
Take care of yourself
Your body isn’t a temple; it’s a home you’ll live in forever. Take care of it. – Colin Wright.
We get one body, and it’s the best project you’ll ever work on. Treat your body kindly, talk to it like you would your best friend, love yourself.
Look after your environment
A tidy home is a tidy mind, and making an effort to present in your surroundings is fundamental to living a more intentional life. This goes further than simply keeping yourself and your home clean and tidy. Evaluate the impact you are having on the world around you. Could you be doing more? Do your actions align with your values?
Take a moment
There is nothing in the world to stop you from pausing for a second and taking one full, deep breath, right now. Such a small, simple act can have a tremendous impact on each and every one of us. Get into the habit of reminding yourself to take a breath. To pause, and have a moment for now.
For Your Spirit
Consider your ideal day
What would your ideal day look like? Visualize what you would do, your attitude, how you would feel, who you would talk to. Then, take note of the things that weren’t included in your perfect day. How many of those things do you do on a daily basis? For example, an hour scrolling through social media is a common part of a lot of people’s days, but is it really a part of your ideal day?
Stop comparing yourself to others
Comparison is the thief of joy. You could be perfectly content, living in the present, until you see someone somewhere else doing some different – and suddenly that comparison takes something away from your own perfectly perfect life. Live your own damn life.
Allow yourself to express your creativity
Let yourself be creative. Journal. Draw. Write. Paint. Sing. Dance. Run. Let yourself fully live in the moment and simply be, without judgement or expectation.
Find out what makes you passionate
What drives you? What topic could you talk about for hours? Is there something that stirs up a fire inside of you like nothing else? Finding our passions in life is so important to be able to shape our lives around the things that really bring value.
Aspire to be inspired
Have you ever read something that inspires you so much it sets off a dozen thoughts in your mind like a pinball machine? There’s something magical about feeling inspired – never stop aspiring to find that next thing that will set fireworks off in your mind.
Never stop learning
Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, trying, learning, and being grateful. ― Roy T. Bennett
It’s never too late to stop learning, trying new things, and challenging yourself. Living an intentional life is acknowledging that you are always growing, and always have the capacity to learn from others. Be humble, identify the people living in ways you aspire to, and learn from them.