This is a story about how to live an intentional life.
How to live an intentional life – and why, undisputedly, it is important.
Towards the end of my relationship, I had a consistent building urge to leave everything I had behind, get in the car and drive with nothing else but the clothes I was wearing. This eventually dipped into more severe suicidal thoughts, but I was lucky enough to dig my way back out of those moments and I put that mostly down to being a parent. Turning my thoughts to the children in those times was honestly what held me back from doing something so stupid.
I tried to mask everything from the kids as best I could but my situation and mental state utterly changed who I was and how I was as a parent. I didn’t function well and was prone to sudden outbursts of rage which I couldn’t control and were over the top for any of the situations. The distinct moment it hit me that things needed to change, was when my daughter who was 3 at the time stood there in tears in front of me – as I was having a moment – and said “don’t ever leave me”.
I have no idea how she picked up that that was going on inside my head and it still rattles me to this day that she was that in tune with who I was and what I was feeling.
I think the best way of thinking that I came across during my breakup was actually from a motivational speech that the actor Matthew McConaughey made. It was mostly about trying to simplify everything (I can’t quote it verbatim):
“If you eliminate everything negative from your life, naturally you’re only left with what is good.”
From this message, came the realisation that I don’t have to engage with what I don’t want to. If I don’t want to do something, that’s my choice to make. I have found that one line to be very helpful in simplifying everything.
I think I have almost pulled a complete 180 on where I had been. I no longer take any forms of medication, I don’t need to see the psychologist, I’ve picked up on my hobbies again and just generally enjoy life more.
Perhaps to oversimplify it. These movements ask you to look at your material possessions, life, and lifestyle and strip right back to a bare minimum, the core essentials, or a level that brings you peace and calm.
There is a myriad of methods and checklists out there to help you declutter your closest or fully audit your life. The industry is going strong.
The reported benefits include increased gratitude, reduced stress of living in the moment, greater clarity on goals and a more positive approach to life. All of which is great.
Intentional living can come in all shapes and sizes
When it comes to how to live an intentional life – I think it is important to step back from the noise, methods and devotees. Find the space to self-reflect and tune into your life.
Be aware of what you are doing and why. Take a moment from the neverending rabbit hole that our lives can be – and check in with reality. Make sure it’s one that works for you.
The story above is not by an expert. The story above is not someone that knows anything about the intentional, minimalist or decluttering movements. It is someone that heard a speech about minimalising the negative in their lives.
On the face of it – this doesn’t seem like a revelational message. Yet, it helped them to examine their lives from another angle. It supported them to turn their lives around from the depths of human sadness and presented a practical way forward.
I think the moral of the story is – if we are carried with life’s busy routines. Or, trying to achieve goals and success. Maybe trying to be the best version of ourselves. Or, just trying to survive. We need to be able to take a step back and observe for a moment.
What is sparking joy in your life at the moment?
If you take a moment to self-reflect and realise you need to let go of some negative things in your life – to make room for the good stuff – that sounds like a win-win situation.
But, now a tricky balance presents itself. Are you sacrificing what feels good now – for what might be good for you in the future?
If my personal growth journey to live with more purpose isn’t bringing me joy (sometimes change and purposeful activities aren’t fun) – there is an argument to drop it. Instead of putting in the hard and uncomfortable work now – I might choose to spend my time eating ice cream sundaes and taking trips to the beach.
But, research reports that a purposeful life brings overall feelings of fulfillment and wellbeing to our lives in the long run. So, this suggests that Future Me will be better off with a little more negative now. This seems to be a win-lose situation.
On the other hand, if I ditch the pursuit of purpose to focus on fun times and friends. The research suggests that relationships and friendships are what will bring enduring happiness in later years. So – this one feels like a win-win.
I could go on… (but luckily for you I won’t).
So, intentional living can save lives. But, maybe it could ruin your future?
How do we know whether what makes us happy (or unhappy) now is actually good for our future? I have a suggestion.
If you understand what you want your life to look like… you can intentionally work towards that.
The key here is to understand what your personal definition of success looks like, so you can align your activities and goals.
If you don’t know what a successful life looks like to you – I believe it is a balance between:
- What makes you happy
- Living in line with your core values &
- Pursuing what brings you meaning and purpose.
(I have a free course to help you find your personal definition of success if you are interested)
Therefore, in this case:
Intentional living can be defined as intentionally moving towards your definition of success.
As a result, maybe you need to only focus on only the positive right now. Or maybe, you do need to let go of 100 pairs of shoes. Or maybe, you do need to suffer through your body weight in dirty nappies.
Remember that you are unique – so is your definition of success – and so is your version of living intentionally.
So – my number tip on how to live and intentional life
Just do you. And do it intentionally.