About a month after I graduated college, I made my “official” debut into the world of adulting. I say official with quotation marks because up until this point, I had only dabbled in it from the safety of my parents’ house. But there I was, newly graduated, newly married, and newly living in a city that was states away from my family and friends. I was on my own and it was time I figured out how to live my life.
Looking back, I can now laugh about how tragic my attempts to do and be all I thought was the epitome of a “have it all together” adult. I had always been a person that everyone complimented on having it all together and now I was fighting so hard to keep that appearance up that it was resulting in something a therapist would have a field day with.
I was on the verge of a total meltdown when I stumbled upon the idea of intentional living and it pretty much changed everything for me. A similar feeling might be what has led you to ask “what is intentional living?” It might be exactly what’s landed you here on this blog post.
I once wondered the same and after years of trial and error, finding what works for me, and making it a daily habit, I decided to write this post in honor of every other woman out there who is struggling to get a grasp on life and feeling overwhelmed.
Cue wonder woman theme song… Let’s do this.
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What is Intentional Living?
If you had asked me this question when I was first starting out on my own intentional living journey, I would have given you some generic answer like “it’s about being more intentional in every area of your life.”
While I still believe this is a good overall explanation of the idea of living intentionally, I don’t think it fully embodies the spirit of intentional living.
“What is intentional living?”
Intentional living is identifying what is important and what is not for you personally. Then intentionally cultivating more of what you value and intentionally saying no to the things you don’t.
It’s a mindset, a focus, an action, a way of being.
Having the mindset of recognizing what’s important to you and what’s not. It’s slowing down and stepping out of your autopilot mode. It’s becoming aware of your personal values in life and living accordingly.
When we live with intention, we shift our focus from everything to the things that we value. It’s simplifying; weeding out the extra noise of what you don’t value so you can better see the things you do value. When we focus on our values and cultivate more of them in our lives, and less of what we don’t value, we enhance our lives.
Intentional living is a way of living your life so that you are better able to cultivate and enjoy the moments that matter to you.
We tend to get so bogged down and overwhelmed with doing everything that seems important that sometimes we forget to slow down and figure out what is actually important to us personally.
The spirit of intentional living is thinking, focusing, and acting in a way that helps you live your life to the greatest potential of what you envision for yourself.
What is intentional living not?
Just as it’s important to identify what intentional living is, I think it’s important to identify what it’s not. Mostly because as with anything, some people get so focused on trying to succeed, that they can overdo it.
I have been that person on many occasions. I’ve gone all in on something, almost to a fault.
“What is intentional living not?”
Intentional living is not just about minimalism. The two definitely go hand in hand but you can be intentional about something you value like spending more time talking on the phone with your grandmother without ever having to minimize your belongings.
Intentional living is not completely abandoning the things you don’t value. The truth is, there are many things I don’t value that are still necessary like doing the dishes but I’m intentional about when I do those things or how long I spend doing them. That way, I spend more time with my husband when he’s home, something I value more than doing dishes.
Intentional living is not the same for everyone. Not everyone values the same thing. Intentional living looks different for every single person. The point is to figure out what that is for you.
Intentional living is not an all or nothing. Life happens. Some days, certain things I value fall to the wayside for a day or two or a week. It doesn’t mean I’ve ruined my plan to live intentionally. I just focused on what mattered at the moment.
Intentional living is not meant to make life harder. The whole idea behind living intentionally is simplifying your life down to what matters most to you. If living intentionally is stressing you out, it’s time to re-examine your path. It should enhance joy; not stress.
How to live intentionally?
Living with intentionality is a simple but day by day process. I always suggest starting with just one or two areas of life. You don’t have to completely transform your entire life overnight.
5 Tips to Start Your Intentional living Journey
1) Become Aware of Your Autopilot
Most of the things we do and the decisions we make are done on autopilot. Roughly 96% of them. In a recent British study, 47% of people admitted that they say “yes” to something they would rather say “no” to, four times a day. (source)
I challenge you to slow down enough to recognize when you’re on autopilot. Next time you say “yes” when you really mean “no”, recognize it and set an intention to catch yourself next time.
2) Assess Your Current Lifestyle
Does your daily life and habits adhere to what you want your life to look like?
3) Decide What You Want
Have you ever even stepped out of autopilot long enough to really know what you want?
4) Create a Plan for Getting There
Once you know what you want, create a plan get there.
5) Take it day by day, mess up, learn, forgive yourself, adjust, keep going
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.
If you want some extra help figuring out how to start your own intentional living path check out the 7 Simple Days: Kick Start Your Simple + Intentional Living Journey.
“People recognize that the choices they are making don’t add up to the life they want to live. We can all do better at living more purposefully. The opposite of autopilot is purposeful living. ”
-Dr. Mark Williamson
Other Common Questions
What Areas of Life Can I be Intentional About?
You can be intentional about every single area of your life. I haven’t found a situation in life yet that can’t be met with intentionality. If you need help thinking about this in big-picture terms, I categorize life into these 7 areas.
- Health (eating habits, exercise, and affecting lifestyle choices)
- Finances (Income, budgeting and management skills, debt, mindset)
- Personal (self-growth and care: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual)
- Career (making money, work/life balance, skill set, advancement ambitions)
- Relationships (romantic, family, friends)
- Home Life (atmosphere, physical space, and organization)
- Extra Curricular (free time, fun, vacations, hobbies, volunteering, hanging out with friends, etc)
Keep in mind though that every area will have multiple levels and situations that are relevant only to you and your individual values.
How do I know if I’m living intentionally?
There are so many levels of intentionality. They can differ from making one small decision a day to an everyday lifestyle. Only you can really know if you are being intentional in your life. But I would say that if you are in a place where you’ve chosen to make even just one intentional decision a day for right now, then you are on your way there.
I struggle to stick to an intentional living plan, do you have any suggestions?
The primary idea behind intentional living is all about doing more of what you value. When you know what is important to you and why it is important, we are often far more passionate about pursuing those things.
If you find you are struggling to stick to your values then you may want to re-examine what your values are and why they are important to you.
I recently took the Values + Vision course which took me through a deep dive of what I wanted and why it was important in life. It’s an especially helpful resource if you struggle with establishing your values.
How do I get someone to start living more intentionally with me?
Because living intentionally is about personal values, you can’t force or trick someone into intentional living. It never goes the way you hope it will. The best thing you can do is live your own life with intention and persuade through example.
The idea of intentional living feels overwhelming to me but everyone else goes nuts for it. What am I doing wrong?
Probably nothing. Life throws a lot at us and so when someone suggests something like, “live intentionally and simplify your whole life so it will be better” can sound the same as “go through every single item in your house and organize it.” It’s a daunting task for some.
Don’t think about it as a life overhaul. Just start where you are. Pick one little bitty thing to be more intentional about today. Tomorrow, pick the next little thing. The next day, say “no” to something you don’t want to do. One little decision at a time will go a long way.
Life can be big and crazy and hard at times but it doesn’t have to be pointless, meaningless, or built on the expectations of others.
Intentional living is meant to bring some simple beauty back into your life. It’s meant to give you pause, space, appreciation.
It’s meant to enable you, help you take the power of your life back, and live in the present.
“What is intentional living?”
It is a life of purposeful decisions. It is all of the above and more. So much more.
Have you made a decision to live more intentionally? I’d love for you to share it with me in the comment box below!