Sometimes you need a jolt or push to make a change.
Like most of us, I know that the person I am today is not who I want to be. I want to be someone who makes time for other people, stresses less, and loves more. I also want to be a person of integrity who can’t help but stand up for what she believes in instead of cowering in the corner, sucking her thumb.
Essentially, I want to live an intentional life.
What is An Intentional Life?
Intentional living is a way of life that embraces being aware of who you are and what you want. It’s about understanding your core beliefs and values and allowing your behavior to reflect them in everything you do.
It’s a conscious way of living that allows us to live a deeper, more meaningful life. It creates a consciousness that overcomes going through the motions. It’s about committing to decisions with a purpose and intentionally living for that purpose.
4 Steps to a More Intentional Life
You won’t achieve an intentional life overnight. It’s a lifelong process of seeking purpose and living for that purpose. If you find yourself in a place where your life isn’t what you want, or you aren’t who you want to become, it’s time to reevaluate. Here are the steps I took to live a more intentional life, and I hope they can help you too.
1. Evaluate Your Life
If you’re like me, you naturally evaluate yourself and your life. The. Time. Constant evaluation and self-reflection can be healthy when it drives you to change and become a better person. If you want to make changes to your life, what are they? What drives you crazy about yourself or the way you are living?
Focus on the things you have control over. I’m not talking about petty things like how your eyebrows grow in or your hair color. You can change those things if you want, but those things might be part of what makes you…you.
One thing I don’t want for my life anymore is stressing about what people think about me. I know that this insecurity causes me to live in fear, back down when it’s important not to, and avoid people. What is it for you?
2. Decide What You Want
What you want out of life might be the opposite of what you just decided you don’t want, or it might be different. Sometimes what we don’t want isn’t all bad; it just needs to be used in a more healthy, effective way.
For example, my insecurity isn’t all bad. It keeps me humble, causes me to be self-aware, and helps me see the needs of others. I don’t want to do away with my insecurity…I want to channel it into the mentioned areas and stop letting it cause fear.
Maybe you don’t want to devote as much time to your career as you once thought and instead spend more time with your family. Or perhaps you want to be a better friend. Maybe you want to be known for your integrity, honesty, or humility.
Whatever it is, name it. Write it down. Read it over and over until you know it is what you want for your life, no matter what, and at all costs. Define who you are and what you need to live an intentional life.
3. Make Changes to Get There
Making changes to get to the ideal you or your ideal life will take baby steps. It will not happen overnight, and you will have to work on it for your entire lifetime.
The second you stop taking steps toward your goal, you begin sliding backward without even realizing it. This is why it is essential that you truly decide on what is most important to you. Because if you are taking steps towards these things, other things will have to slip away.
If you want to be better at public speaking, you’ll want to start small. Let’s say that you can’t sleep the night before you have to present a project to your supervisor and a few colleagues.
You might start improving public speaking by just walking through your ideas with one colleague. Or practice with a close friend. This small step, if practiced repeatedly, will help you get to the point where presenting to several coworkers isn’t downright terrifying.
Start small, and work your way up.
Living an intentional life is about taking small daily steps toward your goals.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. -Proverbs 4:26
4. Stay the Course
All of this will be for nothing if you lose focus on what matters to you. Visualize the life you want or the person you want to be, and keep it at the forefront of your mind.
Put sticky notes on your bathroom mirror. Ask a friend to keep asking you about your progress. You could even put checkpoints on your calendar for the next few years.
Do whatever you need to stay the course and live more intentionally.
Most importantly, keep your eyes on the life you want, or you’ll end up living one you never intended.
When you mow your lawn, you can see where you’ve been and, therefore, where you need to go by following the lines in the grass. But if your lawn is anything like mine…dry, sparse, full of weeds and dead spots where the dog peed…it’s harder to see which way to go unless you look 10 feet ahead. Then, you can faintly identify the line you need to follow. You will need to focus seriously to avoid losing sight of that line.
Like in life, if you lose focus on which way to go, you will likely have to backtrack to get the missed spots. Going off track isn’t the end of the world, but it will take more time and energy to clean up your mistakes, change old habits, or realign your priorities.
Our Attempt to Pursue an Intentional Life
I’ve found myself in a spot of backtracking, which is why we have felt the need to start over by moving to a new community. I’m not saying that something so drastic is necessary for each of us to reach our goals.
But for us, when we evaluated our life, decided what we wanted out of life, and thought about the changes that needed to happen to get there, we agreed that moving and getting a fresh start was most effective. It would drive us to where we wanted to be and who we wanted to be sooner.
The new community we chose is a better fit for our family…further out from the hustle and bustle of city life where slow living just makes less sense.
So what is it for you?
What do you want from life that you have been neglecting to develop? Do you need to do anything today to start moving in that direction or to help you stay the course? What does living an intentional life look like for you?
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.