Stop Living on Auto Pilot – Cultivating Intentional Living
Intentional living seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue these days. That's all well and good, but what does intentional living mean?
It's all about examining your why.
If you want to cultivate an intentional life, then you have to start asking yourself why you do the things you do. And you have to be prepared to get happy with your answers.
It's asking yourself why your friends are your friends.
It's thinking about why you make the purchases you do.
Intentional living demands that you think about why you chose the career path or job that you did.
It's being considerate about choosing a partner. Or, understanding why you chose your partner.
It's asking why you keep working late or starting early.
It might threaten your sense of self. It may force you to face up to uncomfortable truths or feelings. You need to pay attention to how the answers to your questions make you feel. Do those feelings make sense? Or do they make you confused or conflicted?
Did you struggle to come up with answers to these questions?
Intentional living requires you to closely examine your life's choices. And, if you see things, you aren't happy with, you need to be prepared to take action to change things.
Intentional living isn't about figuring everything out immediately. You don't need to have it figured out already, you don't need to figure it out quickly, and you need to get comfortable with the idea you might not ever figure it all out. It does mean that you identify and understand the purpose behind your thoughts and actions.
Consider the following:
I'm taking a cooking class because I want to be a chef before I'm 40.
I'm taking a cooking class because I feel inspired when I explore my palate and I might like to be a chef one day.
They are similar, but different statements. However, they are both excellent examples of intentional living. While the first statement reflects a life plan. The latter is following a different path, but still making clear decisions to expand their knowledge.
You can be intentional with your direction, even if you don't know the final destination. You don't need to have it all figured out. It's okay if you never have it all figured out, but you can still live intentionally. The mistakes you make are the lessons you will learn. But nothing will change until you take the first step forward.
Cultivate Intentional Living
How do you cultivate intentional living? Use the tips below to get started.
Visualize Your Intentional Self
Before you do anything, sit down in a quiet, comfortable place for a moment of meditation. Close your eyes and allow yourself five to ten minutes of meditation. Breathe in and out, focus on your breath and repeat it for ten breath cycles.
Answer the following questions:
◦ Where do I envision a contented version of myself?
◦ What does my intentional self-look like?
◦ What kind of routine does my intentional self-engage in?
◦ What is important and valuable to your intentional self?
◦ What positive qualities do you see in your intentional self?
The purpose of this exercise is to help you visualize what your intentional self looks like and how you can work toward being that person.
A List of Intentions
Grab a piece of paper, open your laptop, or use the notes app on your smartphone. Write the current month at the top of your note and then the numbers one through ten. This is your opportunity to set ten intentions for the month.
To simplify the process, you can create segments of financial, relationships, health, and career. Set your highest priorities. Remember, it's only for a month so, you don't need to think too big. If you give yourself too much to do it will be difficult to maintain motivation. And they don't need to be things you accomplish within a month. It can be something you carry forward month to month.
How you choose to frame your intentions can hinder or help your progress. Don't simply write things like eat less junk food or complain less or use my phone less. You need to be more positive in your framing. I'm going to nourish my body with good food choices and I'm going to speak with positivity and purpose and I'm going to be more present. Set aspirational intentions rather than accusatory intentions.
Write your intention in bite-size reminders on post-it's so you can put them in visible places like mini cue card reminders.
Setting An Intention Each Morning
While I recommend a morning meditation routine before you sit down to do this you should read your intentions. Make it part of your morning routine. You can visualize yourself as having achieved your intentions if it helps breathe life into them.
Reflection In the Evening
You have your morning routine; you should also have an evening routine. Think of it as your before and after. The after is your opportunity to journal about what was successful about the day. Reflect on your intentions and how they played an active role in your day. Consider how you could improve tomorrow. You don't have to write a novel, a few sentences are more than enough.
Change is challenging. The reason people set intentions is that they want to grow and you cannot grow without first making changes. If your intention is to be more generous, then it will probably sting a little when you give up the last slice of pizza for someone else. Engage in self-compassion because a journey of growth is a long and winding road.
Living With Intention means overriding auto-pilot behaviors. Think of it as rewiring your brain. And to do this you need greater awareness of your mental process.