Many of us have been there - rushing through life on autopilot until we suddenly find ourselves in a place we didn’t intend to end up in. Could this have been prevented if we were living with intention more?
Most likely, yes. While life is full of uncertainties, we mostly have control over the choices we make. This allows us to set our own path and stay on it, if we want to. Living life with intention is all about finding your purpose and setting goals while carving out your own path in life. It’s about letting go of things that don’t serve you any more and making conscious decisions on what and who to include in your life.
In this article, I’ll take a look at what it means to live with intention, why it’s good for you and most importantly, how to live life with intention.
What is living with intention?
Simply put, living with intention is living with a plan. It’s all about making stuff happen instead of letting stuff happen to you, about staying on your path and not getting sidetracked by life’s distractions.
One way to think about living with intention is to think of life as a series of choices you have to make. While there are things that will influence your choices and you may not have all of the options all of the time, you are in charge of choosing your own path.
Living with intention is closely related to having a purpose in life.
It’s easier to take control of your life when you have found your purpose and know why you do the things you do and where you want to end up.
Another close, yet distinct phenomenon is slow living, which is all about only filling your life with things that are important and have meaning and value, and decreasing clutter in all areas of life.
Slow living means curating all areas of your life carefully and with intention. Every object and action serves a purpose, and nothing is there just for the sake of it. As an antithesis to fast fashion, fast food and the generally fast pace of modern life, it’s about finding contentment in simplicity.
To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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Why is living with intention good for you?
Being intentional about how you live your life can have plenty of benefits.
For example, people who live life with intention are more likely to have an internal locus of control - they believe that they can make stuff happen.
In turn, internal locus of control has been found to be positively correlated with happiness.
Another way in which living with intention can benefit you is related to having a purpose.
For example, having a purpose in life is related to overall positive mental and physical health outcomes, happiness and life satisfaction, and a reduced risk of mortality.
How to live life with intention
Turning off the autopilot and starting to live your life with intention can be scary at first.
Or maybe you’re all for living intently, but you just don’t know where to start.
Here are four simple steps you can take towards a life lived with intention.
1. Find your why
In order to set a plan, you need to know what you’re working towards.
If you’ve never thought about your purpose in life or haven’t figured out what you’re passionate about yet, this is the most important step to take on the way to living with intention.
To find your purpose, explore your interests and consider your values. Journaling is a great way of self-discovery that can help you discover your purpose, as long as you keep an open mind while exploring.
Another great, and slightly less introspective way to find your why, is to find inspiration in other people. Talk to your friends and family, as well as people who you don’t know that well, to expand your horizons.
2. Set goals
Whether you’ve found your purpose, or are still working on it, setting smaller goals is a good way to make sure that you’re working towards something and not just coasting through your days on autopilot.
You can set goals in whatever area of life you like and they can be short-term - for example, sorting through your closet this week - or long-term - for example, reaching a follower milestone on your blog in the next month. But remember, good goals are always specific and measurable.
A goal without a plan is a daydream.Rick Conlow
Many people find their lives to be cluttered and stressful, which can leave little room for intention and purpose. You can be the curator of your own life, so take full advantage of this power and make sure that everything in your life is there for a reason.
This can mean going through your belongings and donating the things that don’t serve a purpose for you anymore, unfollowing accounts that don’t speak to you on social media, or changing your career to something with less stress and more meaning.
4. Take care of yourself
As a psychologist, I have many tools and methods, but I am my most important tool.
No amount of training in different therapies is going to help my clients if I’m burnt out. And I think that this mindset should apply to everyone. Your skills and knowledge only work if you do.
A good craftsman always takes care of his tools, and if you’re looking to carve your life into one lived with intention, you need to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally.
Make sure that your basic physical needs like sleeping, eating and exercise are taken care of, and that you’re not under immense loads of stress. When one of our basic needs is unfulfilled, our first priority is satisfying that need. You can’t live with intention if you’re constantly putting out fires.
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Living with intention can make you happier and healthier by realizing that you can make stuff happen instead of letting it happen to you. As the name implies, living with intention is all about conscious choices, finding your purpose, setting goals and letting go of the things that don’t serve you. It might sound a little scary at first, but everyone can live life with intention - you just need to be intent on taking the first step!
What do you think? Do you live a life with intention? Or do you often find yourself distracted or working towards something that you're not passionate about? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!
2 thoughts on “4 Simple Ways to Live With Intention (and Choose Your Own Path)”
This is very interesting and I have been looking for something to help me find a purpose and life since my husband of almost 60 years passed away a year and a half ago. I have been retired for several years and my life revolved around him and the girls. They are both married, happily, with children and grandchildren. One lives 8 hours away and the other lives a block away. Greatgrandchildren are same distance. Other family within driving distance. This is not enough to keep me occupied and entertained. My life has always revolved around the family. That status is now gone. I am alone with no direction. I have no idea where, how or what to do, nothing. Life is just so mundane. Other than taking classes, volunteering, or other similar activities, with Covid lockdown, all of this seems daunting. How do I start living a "life"? What directions do I take? After being involved in a life of "have to's", it is difficult to "decide" what to do with my time.. It may sound childish but that is how I feel. "Have to do" has been my whole life. Now "want to do" is very scary... Where do I start? Thank you.
>After being involved in a life of “have to’s”, it is difficult to “decide” what to do with my time.. It may sound childish but that is how I feel. “Have to do” has been my whole life. Now “want to do” is very scary…
I just want to say that you worded that beautifully.
We've written a couple of articles on this subject, that may help you explore this aspect of your life. Perhaps you'll like this one about finding a purpose in life, or this one about trying new things.
These are all part of our bigger guide on how to be happy, which includes more articles like these.
All the best,