What does it mean to live an intentional life?
Have you ever wondered how did you end up where you were in life? Have you ever felt disconnected from your True Self? Or maybe you don’t even know what a True Self means in your case?
If you have, maybe it’s time to live a bit more intentionally.
By definition, intentional means ‚done by intention or design’ instead of living ‚accidently’ or ‚by chance.’ As some say, it’s about you making life happen than just allowing life to happen to you.
BY DESIGN AND BY CHOICE
Our lives are a set of choices, so it’s crucial to make our choices more deliberate and aligned with our core life values. To do it, however, we need to investigate our values, talents, and beliefs first. Having the kind of clarity is the most important step. But to live an intentional life, it is not enough to have the clarity, but also to make deliberate choices and take action.
Intentional living is about seeing the big picture, focusing on what really matters, and getting closer to that. Often in a simple, gentle, zen-like way.
We often start by focusing on What instead of our Why. We follow the masses and trends instead of learning about our own preferences and values.
As Steve Jobs eloquently put it in his Stanford Commencement Speech:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
DEFINING YOUR WHY
For me, it is essential to take the time to reflect on what we want our life to be like. In today’s fast-paced world, it is also about focusing on our WHY, not just the WHAT and HOW.
It’s easy to fall into following the masses and believing the current trends are the only way to live your life and forget about our lives’ big picture.
WE ONLY HAVE ONE LIFE
And what is the single most important fact we need to deal with in life? For me, it’s the fact that we have one finite life. That should be enough to make us try our best and have the best possible experience.
It’s so easy to lose that perspective, temporarily suspend the uncomfortable truth and live like we could be around forever.
My point is not to scare you or depress you, but rather take action and live a more mindful life.
Just to set the stage for my ideas, here are some of the leading life regrets.
According to Bonnie Ware, an Australian hospice nurse and author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, here are the top five regrets of her patients facing imminent death:
- Not living your life on your terms, but the life others expect us to live; being true to yourself
- Working too hard
- Not having the courage to express your feelings.
- Forgetting about our friends or even family, and not nurturing meaningful relationships in life.
- Not letting yourself be happy.
Very often, we are the only obstacle in our way to happiness. By staying bound to some unhealthy thinking patterns and habits, we bereave our lives of playfulness and pure joy.
Don’t take things too seriously. Having the time and resources to have a happy life is not everything – you also need to give yourself permission to do that.
It’s not unusual to chase after something – a thing, a status – achieving it and feeling disillusioned and not satisfied.
Defining what it means to you to live a good life and taking the time to live.
THE WHY OF AN INTENTIONAL LIFE
The purpose of living a more mindful and intentional life is, simply put, to be happier and fulfilled. Being aware of our limited time in life and making the most of it.
Doing the important stuff, not just be busy for the sake of doing ‘stuff’; it means embracing the idea of enoughness- learning how much of everything is enough for you and voluntarily giving up the pursuit of more when it’s not necessary or does not contribute to your wellbeing. Whether it is more money, more fun, or more stuff.
In today’s ‚hectic’ world, where busyness is often worn as a badge of honor, it takes courage to stop and really reflect what we want in life and set your intentions.
THE HOW OF INTENTIONAL LIVING
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Most of us are not able to quit our jobs and move to a beautiful forest cabin by the lake.
We have stuff to do, obligations, families, aspirations. But living a more deliberate, purposeful life does not need to take a zen monk lifestyle.
To live a more intentional life, the change does not have to be dramatic.
Sometimes all it takes is to carve out some time and space to reflect on things. To live with a purpose. To make the time to decide what really is essential and what isn’t. Taking the time to live. By being aware of what we genuinely want and gently correcting the trajectory of our life.
All you really need is to bring more awareness to your everyday. Being more mindful in life is the first step.
HOW TO START LIVING A MORE INTENTIONAL LIFE
- Journaling is a great way to pause and reflect on things. You can either do it in a free writing manner or a more structured one, where you have a set of questions to provoke some thinking.
I find mixing both to be the most beneficial.
Even taking a couple of minutes every day to take stock of your reality and feelings may help.
- Taking time to do things in an unhurried, deliberate, focused way.
- Learning to put yourself in an airplane mode. Disconnecting from input to connect with your true self.
- Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. Being constantly overtired or eating poorly is sometimes merely a choice.
There are many ways of improving your wellbeing without taking a sabbatical or a trip to Bali. From batching meal prep to adopting some small habits, like meditation or mindfulness practice.
- Make sure to take some time and reconnect with the natural world.
We may live a hi-tech life, removed from nature, but that does not mean we don’t need it. We do, more than we might think. Contact with nature can help you reconnect with your existence’s physical side, lower your stress levels, and boost your immune system.
- Adopting a healthy perspective.
Is what you’re stressing about, really worth it? It may seem like it is now, but how about in a week? Or in a month? Or in 10 years? Will the things you’re chasing now, appreciate in value over time or lose value?
- Try meditation, it’s simple. Although not easy. It has the potential to change your life.
- Learn to balance living in the moment with the big picture. Kids grow up fast. Work problems are rarely real problems. You are where you are. Alive. At that very moment.
- Ask yourself some critical questions: why do I want the things I want? How do I expect to feel if I get what I’m after?
We rarely really want things; we usually associate having some things with feeling a certain way. Start with how you want to feel instead of what items you wish to have.
Most importantly, if you try to practice any of it, it’s important to remind yourself often, why you’re doing what you’re doing, what your intention is. Otherwise, it can feel like another task on your already bust to-do list.