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But today, we are going to talk about living life on purpose. If you’re like many people, you spend your life on auto-pilot, living out the same routine every day. But when you’re intentional in your life, not only are your priorities clearly defined, you’re also aware of what you want to get out of life, which leads your actions to have a relevant result and a level of clarity.
In this article, we’ll start by looking at what intentional living is and its benefits, then we’ll review 18 things that you can do to be more intentional in your life.
Let’s get started.
What Is Intentional Living?
What does it mean to be intentional? Society dictates many people’s lives. You go through school, go to college, get a job with a retirement package, have some kids, and then enter into retirement. And for a lot of people, that sounds just fine. But that doesn’t mean this standard course of life is perfect for everyone.
Have you taken the time to pause and reflect on your everyday life to really analyze whether or not you’re spending your time in a way that is conducive to ultimately fulfilling your dreams? Is your list of things to do getting more of your attention than your core values and priorities?
I know I fall into this trap regularly. Sometimes when I am home with my daughter, I have to intentionally stop to remind myself she won’t be a child forever–which leads me to put down my work (no matter how far behind I am) and spend some one-on-one time with her.
Being intentional with your life means you know your values and priorities, and you act accordingly. But, with the amount of stuff that we pack onto our plates, this is easier said than done.
While I would love to spend all of my time at home with my daughter, throwing laundry, dishes, work, home maintenance, pet care, and other responsibilities to the wind, I have to be intentional with how I spend my time, so I can be efficient, not let anything completely fail, and dedicate quality time to my #1 priority.
To be an intentional person, I need to be proactive in making my own decisions in life before allowing other people’s decisions to be my deciding factor for anything.
Why, you ask?
What Are the Benefits of Living an Intentional Life?
We live in a society that loves to tell us we need to have it all. You need to have the latest and greatest technology (and are often almost forced into acquiring increasingly complex products that have more features than you would ever use), you need to wear stylish clothes, and you should acquire goods that you do not need.
It hasn’t been until recent years that the motivations behind consumer behavior have been picked apart. And while experts once assumed that people generally fulfill their needs rationally, more recent research on consumption habits reports that people’s purchases are often used as a communication tool to reflect their self-perceived image instead of being directly related to their priorities and values.
Ecological research has found that modern consumption levels in many developed countries have become unsustainable because of this.
But from a consumer’s standpoint, when you’re successful, you can acquire more things, which leads to happiness, contentment, and a sense of fulfillment, right?
A growing number of people would certainly disagree with this, arguing that less is best – the fewer things you have – whether that’s tangible belongings or commitments – the more room you will have in your life for the things that really matter to you.
And the concept of being intentional in your life is the idea of having a strict screening process for the things that you do and do not allow in, allowing you to live the life that you want instead of the life that has been planned for you.
Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to be more intentional in your life.
18 Ways to Be More Intentional in Your Life
1. Develop Healthy Habits
Seeing as you’re on this site, you probably already have good intentions when it comes to your everyday habits. You probably recognize the importance of taking care of yourself, getting exercise, and eating healthy foods.
You don’t need to go overboard to be intentional about how you treat your body–just make healthy choices. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, bring a healthy snack to work, and sleep at a reasonable hour.
When you’re buying food for the week, plan ahead, so you don’t rely on fast food options to get through the day. When you maintain healthy habits, you’ll have more energy and feel better, which will help you enjoy a more fulfilling, happier life.
2. Define Your Values
Living intentionally is nearly impossible if you don’t know what you want to get out of life. You need to know what to focus on, what to let in, and what to let go of–and you can only do this if your values are defined.
If you don’t know your values, you can’t be sure of your intentions. Your personal values encompass anything important to you, the things that motivate you, and anything that helps guide your decisions.
For example, if you value kindness, you may get excited when you’re faced with an opportunity to help others. You’re generally willing to volunteer your time or resources to causes or people you deem worthy.
So, what makes you tick? This is different for everyone–while one person may value security, another may value risk or adventure. Defining your unique personal values and then making intentional decisions to live by them can help you feel more fulfilled and help you make choices that increase your happiness– even if those choices don’t make sense to everyone else.
Resource: Here are 13 worksheets to help you define your core values.
3. Maintain Structure
Keep a consistent daily routine by having a clear framework so you can start and end your day in a beneficial way–no matter how chaotic it becomes in the middle. You want to start your mornings off right to set the tone for the day and then have a simple evening routine to help you wind down and prepare to rest and reset yourself for the next day.
Be intentional about the habits that you get into. Whether you value exercise, meditation, reading, or something else you want to devote time to do every day, keep that as part of your daily routine.
Knowing what you will do with your time and how you will spend your energy each day will make your days more purposeful.
Resource: Check out this article to learn how to stick to a schedule.
4. Reassess Regularly
Whatever schedule you’ve decided to stick to–it’s not going to be a “forever” thing. Every few weeks or so, take the time to look at your schedule to make sure everything you’re doing is still on track with your long-term goals.
How do you feel when looking at your upcoming month on paper? Is it overwhelming? Or is there a lot of blank space you could fill? Do you feel dread? Or do you feel inspired? Reassess your schedule and adjust as needed regularly to ensure you continue to be intentional in your life.
Resource: Here are some free weekly planner templates to download and use to create your schedule.
5. Choose Kindness
Sometimes you need to stop and consider why you’re about to say whatever is about to come out of your mouth. Whether you’re telling someone a story or responding to something they said, are you saying it to benefit the person or benefit yourself?
Sometimes when we say things to make ourselves feel good, it can be hurtful to others. And other times, it can just not reflect well on one’s own character. But when you choose kindness over everything else, you’re taking one step closer to making the world a better place.
In addition to holding yourself back from being unkind, spreading kindness by offering it to other people will inspire others and benefit you. Many studies have demonstrated the positive result that being kind to other people can have on you, so being intentional about this act is a great way to benefit yourself in the long run.
Resource: Check out these random acts of kindness you can do to brighten other people’s day.
6. Be Kind to Yourself Also
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in doing things for other people that we forget to tend to our own needs. You need to find the limit where you’re crossing over the line of being kind to others at the expense of your own health.
Treating yourself with compassion will help you be resilient when faced with challenges, so be intentional about asking yourself what you need in the moment, eliminate any habits of self-sabotage, and use positive affirmations to lift yourself up.
7. Limit Your Media Intake
Most of us consume a lot of content every day–between the internet, tv, podcasts, etc. And this can be a good thing when you’re intentional about how and why you consume information. But it can also be overwhelming and even harmful if you start to waste your time or experience negative consequences (like reduced feelings of self-worth).
The key is to be intentional when it comes to the media you’re exposed to. Set boundaries before getting lost in social media or letting hours go by in front of the television. Ask yourself why you’re reading or watching something and identify how doing so serves you. If it doesn’t have a solid purpose, consider doing something more constructive with your time.
8. Think Before You Buy
Of course, it’s easy to waste money, whether you’re bored, it’s some type of special occasion, or you’re feeling down in the dumps and feel like you need to treat yourself. And while getting new things is always nice, it’s not good to waste money on things that will end up cluttering your space.
Be intentional with your spending to minimize the excess and waste accumulated in your life.
9. Nurture Your Relationships
When you have a lot going on, it’s easy to neglect your relationships, especially those you have had for a long time, like a cousin, a childhood friend, or even a sibling. You may take these relationships for granted when you don’t “need” them by not making an effort to connect with those who mean the most to you.
Be intentional about the people with whom you associate or spend your time. Nurture mutually supportive relationships and spend limited time with people who aren’t a positive influence in your life.
10. Be Productive
As long as you’re working toward success, you’re being productive.
But remember, if you’re busy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being productive. You have to be intentional about planning your workflow so you can work smarter, not harder. You don’t want to look back on your day just to realize that you did a lot of irrelevant or unnecessary work because you didn’t work with intention.
At the same time, you don’t always have to be doing something to be productive. Sometimes doing something completely unrelated to your goals, like engaging in self-care, is productive because it sets you up to perform better tomorrow.
Everything in your home costs you something–whether that’s money or the time and energy it takes to care for it or maintain it. Be intentional about the things that you own by getting rid of the things that don’t add value to your life. If you don’t need it or love it, eliminate it.
Living in a decluttered space is easier to uphold, which will allow you more time, energy, and space for the things that mean something to you.
Resource: Here is how you can start a declutter habit.
12. Don’t Waste Time
No matter your circumstances, there’s nothing you can do to slow down or stop the passing of time. If you want to be more intentional in your life, one of the key factors is how you choose to spend your time.
Time is arguably the most limited resource we have–as it is something you can never get back once it’s gone. Unfortunately, this may also be one of our most wasted resources as well. I’m sure if you stopped to think about it, you could come up with a few instances just in the last 24 hours where you wasted your time. Be mindful of these moments and how easy it is to get lost in them.
13. Learn to Say No
Being intentional about how you spend your time means only accepting meaningful obligations, not taking on too many responsibilities, and learning how to say no. Choose to spend your time only in ways that align with your values or long-term goals.
Resource: Here are some strategies that will help you learn how to say no.
14. Focus on Time Management
Time management is one of the guiding principles of living intentionally. Good time management isn’t just about avoiding wasting time; it’s about figuring out what needs to be done and acting in the most efficient way to achieve success. Yes, this does help prevent you from wasting time on pointless endeavors, but it also helps ensure that you set enough time aside for the things that impact your long-term success.
15. Practice Gratitude
Being grateful for the things you have instead of stressing over the things you don’t have is an important part of living intentionally. You will never feel fulfilled if you’re constantly looking elsewhere for things to make you happy or successful. Most of the time, people have everything they need to be happy already, and living intentionally helps people realize that.
16. Try Visualizing Your Achievements
When living intentionally, try visualizing what you wish to accomplish in your daily life. How will it feel when you reach the goals you set for yourself? Visualizing your achievements is a great way to keep you motivated while providing you with the inspiration you need to continue following your daily routines.
17. Do What Makes You Happy
One of the best and easiest ways for you to be more intentional each day is by doing what makes you happy. When you do this, you make your life more meaningful, and it feels worthwhile. Define what success is to you, find ways to get the most out of each day, and figure out what brings you joy.
18. Become an Active Listener
Important relationships in our life are also valuable, so make sure you spend that quality time with people you love. We are happy connecting to people that make us feel good. A good way to build these connections is through active listening. Make an effort to listen and understand what someone is saying to you. Not only will this strengthen the important relationships in your life, but it will also help you with your own personal growth.
Will Being Intentional with Your Time Really Make a Difference?
Yes! Being intentional with your time will make a difference in your life. Being intentional can highlight areas of your life where you can be more efficient, but it also shows you things you can remove. You can streamline your to-do lists, learn better ways to be productive, and find a more positive perspective on things.
When writing out your tasks for the day, categorize what you have to do. Then ask yourself why you are going to do these things. Some of us have the mindset that we just don't have enough time in our day, or we are too busy, or the list is too long.
However, we are the creators of our time. So, when we complain that there is simply not enough time, we are actually saying we just don't have time for this particular activity.
What Is the Importance of Intentional Living?
Joshua Becker, author of The Helpful Guide to Living an Intentional Life, says that living a simple life certainly requires intentional living. What does this mean? To begin living intentionally, we have to lay the proper foundation and then add the most practical steps on top of that foundation.
Being more intentional means realizing your goals and priorities and setting specific and actionable goals. With intentional living and simple things, you know what you want out of life, and you have the motivation to go after your goals. It is almost as if there is a conscious design for your life – an intentional lifestyle – an intentional choice in everything you set out to do in your daily life.
Final Thoughts on Being More Intentional in Your Life
Intentional living leads you in setting the correct course for your life rather than just passing through life aimlessly. Follow the tips laid out in this article to obtain the flexibility you need in life to make time for the things that are important to you and disregard the rest.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.