Intentional living is a practice of making thoughtful, examined choices.
But rather than living with intention, we often live life on autopilot. We fall into habits that become established through the comfort of repetition and predictability. We don't pause to consider whether or not the ways in which we spend our time really reflect what we say we value. We wonder how an entire day, week, month, or year has gone by in a flash.
We get ourselves through school and hopefully acquire some intellectual and academic skills. We are taught to read, to write, to solve mathematical equations. But we also need to know how to communicate effectively, approach others with empathy, and regulate an array of emotions. More often than not, these just-as-essential skills are not directly taught. Some people may be fortunate enough to pick them up along the way. But why, exactly, are these intrapersonal and interpersonal skills left to chance?
Thoughtful, examined, intentional living can allow us to step out of autopilot, to identify our strengths as well as those skills we may be lacking, and choose to do something different. This does not mean that we have to get mired in an analysis of every thought or next step we take. It does mean being more mindful in the act of connecting with ourselves.
Choosing to live an intentional life can involve:
- giving more consideration to your intrapersonal relationship—your relationship with yourself. It's the most enduring relationship in your life, so it should certainly be a healthy one.
- taking a closer look at whether or not the choices we make in our relationships, careers, finances, and lifestyle choices are in alignment with our values. When there is a mismatch between our values and our lived experience, we feel the imbalance but may not be able to explain it.
- identifying the skills we need to utilize in our everyday encounters and zeroing in on the ones we have not yet been taught. There is not a time or an age limit on learning how to identify and express feelings, examine biases or evaluate the ways in which we make decisions.
- listening more closely to our self talk. We all talk to ourselves, and the messages we repeat have power and impact. We can choose to use that power productively instead of destructively.
- distinguishing between the choices we have made for ourselves and the choices that others have made for us. We know that whether it's through our family of origin, popular culture, or long-standing social norms, we are influenced and shaped by the opinions of other people. Just because a message was passed down from a powerful source or has rooted itself in collective consciousness doesn't mean it is just or true or deserving of endurance.
The decision to live with intention is not a one-time choice, and it is not a destination. It is a series of deliberate, purposeful pauses, which give us the opportunity to check in with ourselves, confirm what we know, seek resources as needed, and move forward mindfully. Taking these pauses allows us to notice whatever is within us and around us along the journey, keeping us aware of our pathway more than our end point.