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Stay focused on your goals and learn the power that true vision can have on your life. Learn what it really means to be intentional.
When your life is out of balance, you find yourself just going through the motions without true purpose or meaning – so how do you break free from that cycle?
If you commit to true intentional living, you can achieve your dreams, make your goals a reality, and live a life of purpose.
You may find yourself asking, “How can I be more intentional?”
Before we explore how to be more intentional, it’s important to understand what being intentional really means.
What Does “Be Intentional” Really Mean?
Being intentional means living life on purpose.
Instead of sitting back and allowing things to happen to you passively, you set your sights on a specific outcome and do things to make it happen.
This isn’t a hard or difficult process when you gain clarity about your motivations in leading a life you love.
Living intentionally naturally coincides with creating the life you want. Both actions require lots of mental energy focused on your dreams and desires.
In fact, when you manifest your dreams, you will begin to live intentionally.
How To Be Intentional
Have you ever heard of the rule of three?
There are those who say that three is a magical number – in fact, that’s why we have idioms like the third time’s the charm.
Scientifically, the brain recalls items and events better when they happen in threes, which may explain why so many ideas are expressed in threes.
Archetypal examples of this are included in everything from religion (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to the US Declaration of Independence on Human Rights (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness).
Knowing this, it makes sense that being intentional has three phases:
Phase 1: Identify your goals and what you want in life
What are your goals, your dreams, your aspirations – basically, what’s your raison d’être?
It can be hard to detach your fantasy self from your true self, but when you know your values, then your path and decisions, both big and small, will come clearer to you.
Phase 2: Align your behaviors and intentions
When you have clear values and a purpose, you can better decide how to spend your time, money, and energy.
You should not try to achieve “perfection” but rather begin to synchronize your beliefs and your actions. This is often easier said than done and may take time to work towards.
When your beliefs and actions are in harmony, you can wake up in the morning and get out of bed ready to face the day with intention and purpose.
My personal favorite way to express the intention for what I am striving for in my life is the Japanese concept of ikigai:
Phase 3: Reflect and adjust
The only thing certain in life is that things will always change and you might need to change as well.
If you commit to continuous reflection throughout your life you can adjust your small habits and behaviors as you learn and grow as a human being.
Do this without ego and you will always have a clear path to a better you.
25 Ways To Be Intentional Every Day
There are so many ways to be intentional in your everyday life, but let’s start with these simple living ideas to get you started.
1. Identify Your Intentions
What are you trying to achieve in your life?
Do you have career goals that you are working towards? Are you trying to live more sustainably and save the environment? Is it your dream to become a digital nomad?
Hey, it’s okay to think big, but equally important to be yourself!
To be intentional you need to start by getting clear about your aspirations and goals. A lot of people spend their entire lives going through the motions without really thinking about what they want out of life.
If you don’t know where to start, check out this incredible TED Talk titled How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes and that may get the ole brain gears to start turning.
2. Define “success”
Success is different for everyone.
For some people it’s landing the job they always wanted, for others, it’s becoming financially free, and others just want to find true love.
What will success look like for you? Think about it so you know how to map out your path and recognize success when you get there!
3. Set Small Daily Goals
One way to stay constantly mindful and motivated is to set small goals that you know you can accomplish and then do them.
Then, use that feeling of success to propel you throughout your day and accomplish more tasks.
In fact, this advice is so universal, a Navy SEAL instructed new grads to make their beds every day. In doing this, they will be more likely to change the world.
“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.
Other examples of small daily wins include:
- putting food away as soon as you get it out
- putting the clothes in the dryer as soon as the washing cycle is complete
- drinking enough water, etc…
4. Write to-do lists
My most productive days have one thing in common; they start with a to-do list!
Keeping daily to-do lists is an easy way to break your big goals into small, bite-sized chunks.
Think of your life as a mountain.
You have the scary-big goals at the top of the mountain that you are climbing towards, but your daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists are the goal markers along the way as you map out your route.
You can keep a bullet journal for your to-do lists or even just jot it down in your phone’s notes.
5. Question your to-do lists
Yes, to-do lists are totally life-changing.
But not everything on your to-do list should be considered a top priority.
On days when you are busy or low on energy, you might need to drop things off your to-do list. If you make everything a top priority then you are going to burn yourself out trying to accomplish too much.
It sounds counterintuitive, but when you realize that not every issue requires immediate attention you can put more effort and energy into things that will make a big impact.
6. Protect Your Energy
Speaking of energy, we only have a certain allotment of emotional energy to give to the people and activities around us.
Don’t give so much of yourself away that you don’t have any left at the end of the day.
There are activities and people that will drain your energy and those that will recharge your energies too. Look to a balance between recharging and giving.
7. Create daily routines
Humans thrive on routine!
Creating a calm and productive routine will set the tone for your entire day. Children can also benefit from daily routines.
Knowing that each step in your routine has a purpose and plays a part in your daily flow gives you more time to spend doing things you enjoy.
This is also a way to make sure that you accomplish things that are important. Place the really important priorities in your routine so that you know you will do them.
8. Clear visual clutter
If your space is cluttered your mind and body may become restless. It’s difficult to focus when there are SO MANY THINGS crying for your attention in your visual field.
Everyone has a different threshold for how much clutter they can tolerate without it becoming a mental burden.
It may even take a physical toll!
A growing body of scientific evidence has shown that clutter can cause increased cortisol levels – basically, your body releases a stress hormone in response to clutter!
When you clear visual clutter you will feel more relaxed and at peace.
WE DID THAT! In 2019 my family extreme decluttered our entire home down to eight suitcases and moved to Europe — which was a pretty big deal since I used to be a hoarder!
9. Clear mental clutter
Visual clutter is easy to spot, but mental clutter is trickier.
Types of mental clutter include negative feelings, things we have been procrastinating about that won’t leave us alone, to-do lists that haven’t been completely checked off, and worrying about what other people think about you.
If you want to be more intentional, your mind can also benefit from a good decluttering.
10. Self-talk with love
All of us have a little voice inside our heads that can either cheer us on or cut us down – what does yours do?
If you would never dream of saying the things you say to yourself to others because they are so mean-spirited and nasty, then you need to work on your self-talk.
Even criticism can be offered in a positive way:
- Negative: Ugh, my presentation sucked and everyone probably thinks I am an idiot.
- Positive: Public speaking is tough but I got up there and gave it my best shot, so I’m proud of myself!
Instead of being so harsh and critical of yourself, imagine how you would speak to your best friend and continue to give yourself the same care and courtesy. Take the time to remind yourself that you are amazing, too.
11. Nourish your body
Have you ever mindlessly scarfed down an entire meal without paying attention to it or actually tasting it?
Intentional eating means:
- choosing meals that are healthy and nutritious
- sitting down to eat (no eating while standing or driving)
- taking time to chew each bite and taste the flavor
As the saying goes, you are what you eat! Therefore, to be intentional one must eat intentionally. 🙂
Of course, you aren’t striving for 100% perfection here but you will probably notice that you feel better when you eat healthy and nutritious meals versus heavy Chinese takeout.
So don’t be afraid to bring your mindfulness habits to the dinner table and eat with intention.
12. Practice mindful spending
Did you know that being intentional can also save you money? This is part of minimalism as well; instead of buying things you don’t need and don’t have room for, only buy those items that will add value to your life.
Everything you buy should have a purpose. You should have a specific reason for buying it.
Treating money this way will also help you stay within your budget. You will think harder about each purchase and look for ways to save more money.
Here are more tips and ideas on how to be more intentional in your shopping habits.
13. Limit your exposure to negative media
Every single day you must be intentional about what you read, watch, and how much time you spend consuming things that affect you negatively.
Even something as innocent as browsing Instagram or watching the news can have negative consequences as you begin to feel dissatisfied with your life.
Limit your exposure to negative news channels or anything that distracts your mind from meeting your goals.
14. Hit the unsubscribe button
Do you follow anyone on social media that makes you feel less than?
That their lives just look SO PERFECT that it makes you feel resentful, negative, and judgmental, either towards them or towards yourself?
It’s easy to get trapped in a vicious her-life-is-so-much-better-than-mine comparison trap but it’s also easy to get away — all you have to do is hit that unsubscribe button!
Humans are curious creatures and it’s easy for us to get sucked into drama channels or be envious of influencers’ apparently perfect lifestyles, but what good does it really do us?
Declutter your social media accounts and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself and focus on creating a positive social media presence for yourself.
15. Make sleep a priority
Did you know we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping? That means that you will spend around 26 years of your life catching your z’s!
Our bodies need proper rest and enough time to move through all the sleep cycles, such as REM sleep.
If you don’t get enough sleep start trying to create better sleep habits, such as going to bed earlier, turning off an electronic device one hour before bed, and sleeping with your phone away from the bed.
Getting enough sleep means you will feel less tired in the morning and you will have the energy you need for a productive day!
16. Actively Listen To Others
Make it a point to intentionally listen to the people who are talking to you. If you don’t have the ability to give them your full attention, tell them you need to talk to them another time or change your schedule so you can.
Active listening is important for you and for the other person. It will strengthen your relationship with them and make you a more trustworthy person.
Active listening also forces you to guard your time and energy. Instead of pretending to listen when your mind is in a million places, intentionally focus on the people you are talking to and tell them honestly if you can’t focus and why.
17. Communicate Clearly
Every day strive to be intentional with your words.
This means thinking before you speak and saying exactly what you mean.
Honesty is very tough sometimes, especially in certain social situations. It is so much better to live an authentic life and tell people “no” than to misrepresent yourself and agree to something only to regret it later.
You can avoid lots of miscommunications when you think about your words and say exactly what you mean. If life is busy and you are feeling rushed, make changes to your schedule. Slow down and give yourself time to think about what people are saying and how you are going to respond to it.
RELATED POST: 25 Tips to Slow Down and Enjoy Life to the Fullest
18. Know when to say “no”
Are you the type of person who has trouble saying “no” to other people?
Don’t treat no like it’s a dirty word – remember, every no to one thing is also a yes to something else.
Being intentional also means being honest with yourself and others and that can mean saying no, even sometimes to people you love. It doesn’t help anyone, least of all you if you bite off more than you can chew and take on too many projects or demands to handle and exhaust yourself.
Be comfortable saying no to something that stresses you out or you don’t have time to do.
19. Move your body
You’ve probably heard already that exercise is good, not only for physical health but also for mental health.
Regular exercise not only gets the heart pumping and works your muscles, but also helps to release chemicals called endorphins, which can elicit a positive and “mood-lifting” response in your body.
You don’t have to go crazy with the fitness programs, either. The Okinawan people are some of the longest-lived and happiest people on the planet and their favorite form of exercise is simply walking!
20. Schedule Time For Relaxation
Be intentional about scheduling time to completely relax and catch your breath. If you keep going and going and don’t take time for yourself, you are going to burn out.
If you don’t want to schedule every hour of your day, at least be intentional and check in with yourself throughout the day.
If you feel your stress levels increasing, find some time (as soon as you can) to sit down and just breathe.
Relaxation doesn’t have to be as involved as a full nap (even if those are necessary at times). It can be as small as just engaging in some deep breathing exercises in the middle of your busy day.
21. Listen to uplifting music
Music is powerful. It can lift you up when you are low or it can bring you down when you are feeling high.
What kind of music speaks to your soul and makes you feel happy and energized or calm and peaceful? Curate your music playlists and fill them with songs like that!
22. Limit distractions
Do you find it difficult to stay focused when you are trying to concentrate on work or studies?
If so, you are not alone!
Research suggests that technological advancements have shrunk our attention span, making them shorter and shorter.
One of the biggest culprits, when it comes to focusing, is your smartphone. If you don’t believe me, just watch the Netflix show The Social Dilemma to see what I mean.
These companies have literally used operant conditioning to train us to look at our phones constantly – it’s like we are hooked on waiting for the next text or email to ping us at any moment.
Be intentional about limiting distractions like this by keeping your phone on silent when you are working, place it far away if necessary, and avoid taking it to the bathroom and to bed with you.
You might also set specific times that you can use your smartphone during the day and then that’s it after you are done (set a timer so you don’t forget).
23. Invest In Your Important Relationships
Do things throughout the day that invest in your most important relationships. If you are married, prioritize your spouse and your relationship with them. If you are single, invest in your children or your best friend(s).
It’s way too easy to take these people for granted and assume they will always be there. This is the very attitude that creates emotional space in close relationships.
Instead, think about things you can do to communicate how much you care about them. If they need you, be completely there for them. Surprise them with a kind word, a hug, or a thoughtful gift.
Being intentional is all about choosing your actions before you do them.
Do things on purpose that protect what you value the most – this includes your most important people.
24. Reward yourself
If you have made good progress on your journey to living intentionally, congratulations!
While being intentional is certainly rewarding in itself, giving yourself positive reinforcement for good behavior is psychology 101 – it’s going to make you want to continue what you are doing in the future.
You deserve that pat on the back, so give it to yourself.
25. Make Time For Self-Reflection
At the start and end of every day pause for a moment of self-reflection.
As you self-reflect, be honest about anything that is distressing you. Do you need more emotional support today? Is there something in your life that is eating away at your calm resolve?
Admit to yourself when you need help and make it a point to tell people what your daily limits are.
This is also a chance for you to visualize the joy and positivity you want this day to bring. Anticipate the goodness in your day and attract it to you.
Be Intentional: Final Thoughts
It’s so important to keep the values you treasure the most at the top of your priority list. Think about what you say, what you buy, and what you spend time doing.
Are your actions/thoughts helping you meet your goals? Are they keeping you true to yourself?
Invest in yourself and the people you love and the rest will naturally fall into place.
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