What does it mean to live intentionally?
Living intentionally means creating and living the life that you want. Life doesn’t just happen to us when we live this way. We know what is most important to us and we structure ours lives around it. We see favorable results based on our choices, effort, priorities and commitment, because we don’t make excuses or just accept the life we think was handed to us. We intentionally make all of our moments count and live our lives with purpose!
We have numerous choices in life. We choose to eat healthy, be lazy, drive fast or slow, be late or on time, our hairstyle and clothing, our significant others, and so on. But WHY? To live intentionally you need to think carefully about why you make the choices you make. Are they for your benefit, or someone else’s? Do they bring you joy? Do you feel stuck because of your choices? What are the consequences and results of your choices and what drives you to make them?
Time & Energy
People make excuses and say they just don’t have enough time and are too busy. Nobody has more time in any given day than anyone else. The truth is, it’s never about having time. We MAKE time for what we think is important in our lives and you define what’s important to you by what you dedicate your time to. Do you make time to serve others, or is all of your time and energy spent on your own wants? Generally, people who claim they don’t have enough time are unbalanced and/or selfish. Stephen Covey wrote “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Priorities & Values
What’s really important in your life? This will be answered differently by each person and there is no right or wrong answer, but you can clearly tell what someone’s priorities are by watching how they live their life.
Priorities are based upon values, which are also reflected in the choices we make.
If you value success in the form of money, you will put your career above everything else in life. You are choosing to put other parts of life on hold, whether that be for a few years or permanently. You can only hope your career provides everything you want and need, because when you prioritize your career above all, that’s what you will have, often at the expense of having a successful relationship and love. You simply won’t be available enough to give your time, effort and attention, which a relationship requires in order to thrive. Think about it, do you HAVE to work 60-80 hours per week? If so, you are probably not living within your means. It has been shown that people who have expensive cars, houses, boats, fancy clothes etc., who appear to “have it all” are still missing one thing that money can’t buy – happiness. It’s all a choice and the choice is yours, but don’t kid yourself – living to work is not a life. Less is more!
Make the choice to live intentionally as early in life as possible so you may avoid tough choices like these altogether. If you develop a strong career when you are young, your career should be more stable and more flexible by the time you want to settle down and have a family, which allows you to be successful in all areas of your life, not just one.
If you value love, you will put your relationships at the top of the list and not let anything come before them. You will structure your whole life around receiving and giving love. If that is your priority, that’s what you will have. This is usually chosen by people who find enrichment and value in people, not things.
If your values are hindering your relationships you will be faced with another choice. Would you rather improve and strengthen your relationships, or hold on to your current values? Which will bring you long-term happiness and fulfillment? Do you believe money or love is what gives meaning to life? Each have benefits as well as consequences. Choose which matters most to you, or simply choose balance so you can have both.
In order to live a balanced life, you must say no to things in life that are less important, so you can say yes to the things and people who are. This takes a careful examination of your values and also takes courage. Courage will give you the strength you need to intentionally structure your life around what is most important to you. Without courage, you are a coward. Cowards are afraid to make changes in their lives and are too selfish to prioritize people over things, or their career. They would have to be strong enough to speak up to their bosses and negotiate a schedule that would create harmony in their lives. They would have to be ambitious enough to seek and secure a different job that would provide them with a balanced life. Giving 90% of your time and energy to other things such as hobbies, career, friends, etc., and giving your loved ones 10% or less is completely unbalanced. This amount of imbalance displays disrespect and lack of care and concern for others.
Awareness & Attention
Take time to be aware of your life and what’s really going on around you. Pay close attention to people when they speak to you. Actively listen to their concerns and try to see things from their perspective. Slow down, Actively engage in and enjoy your life. If you’re overwhelmed and flying by the seat of your pants you will miss many important things and will have regrets later. When you live intentionally and are fully aware of what truly matters, you will have the time to go to your children’s events, visit with your aging parents or grandparents, travel, and actually live and appreciate life, not merely survive it.
Commitment & Integrity
When you make a commitment you are making a choice to do something consistently. Commitment doesn’t change when you don’t feel like doing something, or you’re too tired. By making a commitment, you are stating that you will do what you said you were going to do no matter what. I’m sure you have heard the statement “He is a man of integrity”. People who make commitments and keep them have integrity. They are honest to themselves and others and their actions match their words. When you tell someone you love them, yet make little to no time for them, you are not committed nor do you posess integrity.
Effort = Action
Living intentionally requires effort! If you are lazy and just go with the flow, you are not living intentionally. You have to make choices that are truly in line with what’s important to you, then continuously make the effort. This includes making difficult choices and realizing that you are in control of your destiny. You make the effort to make your life the way you want it. If something in your life is causing a lot of conflict, you have the choice and power to change it with the effort you make! You can have a successful career and a successful relationship if you make the conscious decision and effort to choose balance, not to only be successful in one or the other.
Sit down and take a personal inventory of yourself and your life. Make a list of things that you think would make you genuinely happy and then do more of those! Make a list of what you think has interfered with your happiness. If it’s your job, change it. If it’s the people you associate with that are bringing you down, choose different people to be around. If it’s your own attitude and perspective, change your thoughts.
Live for today. If you’re stressing over the past, let it go. The past is behind you. You can’t go back and change it so there’s no point in staying stuck there. If you’re constantly worrying about the future, you will have anxiety and will miss out on what is happening now, today. Get rid of the negatives in your life, replace them with positives, and you’ll have great success on your new journey.
A Personal Note
I have always chosen love above everything else. My relationships are most important to me. Being there for others is of great importance to me which is why I have carefully, and intentionally chosen my careers. I make sure that my career, which includes my commute, doesn’t cut too much into my personal time, and zap my energy to the point I have nothing left to give the people I love. Your loved ones don’t deserve your leftovers. They deserve your best. Your job will replace you in a heartbeat, but can you really replace all of the people you love and who love you? If you neglect them for too long, you just might find out, so again, choose balance. When you live intentionally it is your choice!