Around this time of year (January) we can all be a bit too rigid, fixed and obsessed with habits and goals. Even more so if you’re already a person who’s interested in self-development, or you’re highly ambitious.
But…Life is to be lived, let’s not forget!
Life is the thing that happens between the planning…
And that’s a good thing.
Spontaneous adventure is thrilling and it can bring gifts we would never have foreseen for ourselves. But if you are too strict about everything in your life, you will miss this wonderful opportunity which regular life presents to us.
Instead, simply adopting an Intentional Lifestyle could be all you really need to ensure you’re productive, successful and happy, while also allowing room for weird and wonderful happenstance…
For me, an Intentional Lifestyle is something you think about. You don’t just act or feel without any thought. You consider what you’re doing and why (within limits). And so, here are the Four Pillars of an Intentional Lifestyle (according to me)…
1 – Reasons behind the big things
An intentional lifestyle (or intentional living) means having a reason behind why you do the things you do. You’re conscious to who you are and why you do things.
It is important not to take this too far, though. Restricting and pre-planning every little thing will only stifle your endeavours and not to mention burn you out. Instead, focus on the big things…
Most of us spend the majority of our time working, and so, this is a pretty massive area of your lives! It takes up our time and energy, so we must be careful about what we choose to do.
We work for money, yes, something we need in this world. Getting a job, any job, to make money that you need is completely understandable and we all do it. But that doesn’t mean you should do this forever…
You could have a job you don’t like while finding, exploring, or building one you do like. I have a job that brings me money, while studying creative writing and practising my craft, which will hopefully become my income later.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Doing a job you like does not mean it will be sunshine and rainbows everyday! You’ll still have to work hard. You’ll still have days when you don’t want to show up. But when you enjoy what you do, you do it better and feel healthier and happier doing it.
Please, be intentional about your relationships! We are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with, and so, be selective. We sometimes can’t help it (i.e. who are colleagues are at work) but we can choose how much time and energy we give to the wrong people.
Our environment can have a negative or positive effect on our health and happiness; people are part of our environment. So, have a reason for the people you give your time and energy to. What do they bring into your life? How do you feel when you’re around them? Are you giving time to them at the expense of yourself? Is it because you’re afraid of being alone?
I’ve felt more lonely in a crowd of people who don’t understand me, than alone by myself.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about what it means to be who we are (you can check out my essays on the Identity Series on my site).
We are, generally and literally speaking, the things we do. You can’t say you’re a writer if you never write, right? You can’t be a traveller if you’ve never left your homeland! We aren’t what we think or feel; these are ever-changing, fleeting elements or expressions of consciousness…or something!
The only real way that we can be intentional about ourselves is to be aware and have reasons behind what we do. Not controlling (I really can’t stress this enough) but just more considerate.
Think before you speak, because what we say matters and affects others.
Don’t just do random things just because (all the time), instead connect with your inner world (mind, spirit, whatever) and ask yourself what would be really interesting, fulfilling, or challenging for you personally?
Hobbies, passions, projects, self-expression, and whatever else take up time and energy. They affect you mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. So, consider these with a little more awareness and intention.
Pick what you put into your mind and body with intention. Have an awareness of what you consume and how it affects you personally.
This is food and drink but it is also content online and television and film etc. It’s the opinions of others and everything in-between. What’s getting inside you, why, and how does it feel?
2 – Awareness
You need to be aware, awake, to what you do and who you are in order to be intentional. Again, don’t take this too far and be overly aware of yourself and thus self-conscious or anal about what you do.
It’s simply about being perceptive and vigilant.
You can be aware that you’re watching a lot of TV lately. That you’ve been feeling stressed or sad. Or of having spent too much money.
You don’t need to necessarily do anything about these things (that would be a personal judgement call for you to make), but being aware of them is the important part.
For health and happiness, you need to be aware of what you think, feel, and do. This will help you be more present and mindful. It will help you be more grateful for what you have. It will help you gain information to use for change, if necessary.
3 – Focus
This, for me, is like a North Star. A purpose or larger goal for your life. This is not to say that you should have only one goal or passion or purpose. Or that once that thing is achieved, that’s it you can die now!
Your goals or purpose or passions can (and likely will) change as you do.
And that’s ok.
But having one is key to an intentional lifestyle. It will guide you in decision-making and action-taking.
My more traditional purpose is to write stories and make a living that way. But my guiding North Star and mission statement is to feel at peace within myself. To be in service to others when healing myself. To achieve balance in life.
It’s not about the how of your life, it’s the why that drives you forwards.
4 – Authenticity
Lastly, to live an intentional life you need to be authentic about it. As in, your lifestyle, your choices, your actions, your words need to be genuine; real. They need to be wholly you.
We are shaped by those around us and with things like television and social media, we are shaped by what we see on screens on a regular basis, too. This is normal. However, we need to be careful not to become something we’re not.
Intentional living and authenticity means knowing who you are and developing a love/acceptance for that person. It means witnessing outside influences, but allowing them to pass through our internal filter; “does this resonate with who I am or who I want to be?” and then acting accordingly.
Are you saying or doing certain things just to fit in?
Do you dress or act a certain way to be more appealing to others, while making yourself uncomfortable or unhappy?
Are you working that job because it feels right and true to you, or because of the money or someone else’s approval?
It often comes down to the influences, judgement or threat of other people; this is when our authentic selves can slip. But when you show up each day, and choose in each moment to be yourself (yes, it’s a regular and often hard choice, as Brene Brown says), then we are being intentional and authentic. We are staying true to who we are, what we believe in, and what we enjoy.
It’s about knowing and honouring your values.
It’s about integrity.
It’s about self-truth.
How to be more intentional and mindful:
- Take your time – Rushing and reacting is the opposite of mindfulness and intention. Instead, take your time. Look within. Breathe. What do you want, need, or value? How can you make the right decisions that suit those wants and needs?
- Write it out – Not only does it help you understand and see clearly, it also serves as a reminder when confused or conflicted.
- Self-talk – It’s not just society that’s against us, unfortunately, it’s also our worst critic: Ourselves. Be aware of your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself on a regular basis? Is it affecting your actions, beliefs and decisions? If so, rewire your thoughts. Use a mantra or reminder; you know who you really are and what you want and the negative self-talk is inauthentic and not true. This will help you make decisions with intention because you’re mindful of the thoughts behind them.
- Belief system analysis – Question your beliefs. Question what you have come to accept as real and true. This will help you to reset (or set) intentions with real, strong, true foundations.
Good luck with your more intentional lifestyle, guys!