Intentional Living

Are you living your life on autopilot?

I think we all do, from time to time.

One day rolls into another. We get up, do our daily routines and even though things are ok for the most part, it can begin to feel like perpetual loop mode. Same day, different clothes. Over. And over.

Intentional living is a type of mindfulness that helps us to move away from autopilot by living consciously (with intention) and making decisions that lead us toward a fulfilling life guided by our values. So that sounds easy, right? (Insert eye roll here).

A good place to start is considering three domains in your life; mind, body and spirit.

When you consider each of these domains, ask yourself the following questions

  • What needs do I have in this area? (For example, do I need to devote more time for learning new things? exercising? being creative? seeing friends?)
  • What value does this need connect to? (Does my need to increase exercise connect to my value of being healthy and feeling good? Does my need for learning something new connect to my value of intelligence and my sense of wonder?)
  • What specifically can I do to improve my life in this domain? (Take a class on an interesting topic? increase cardio fitness time? ask a friend over for dinner?)
  • If I am consistent with this change, what will I notice in myself over time?

Intentional living can also take place internally, in your thought patterns where it all starts.

What are some thoughts or self-limiting beliefs that you carry? A good way to find out some of your own self-limiting thoughts and beliefs is to think about what you usually try to avoid thinking about. What are those areas in your own mind that you tend to avoid, knowing that this is a drain-pipe type of thought process that will only bring you down? THAT is most likely a good place to start looking. What is that underlying thought, at the very bottom of the drain pipe? Is it a thought related to negative self worth? Negative evaluation of others? Is there pain lurking at the end of that drain-pipe-thought that you might need to plunge? Have I officially gone too far with my plumbing analogy?

Intentional living on a micro-level includes allowing yourself to recognize unhelpful thought patterns and replacing them with more realistic ones. Nothing is as mono-chromatic as our drain-pipe thoughts. When we unearth these thoughts and challenge them, offering ourselves compassion in the process, we honor the best in ourselves. This is intentional living just as much as a decision to eat healthier or work out more often. Challenging negative self talk can be a useful way to direct your thoughts to a more purposeful and intentional focus in your life.

Intentional living is about being in the present and choosing your destination rather than letting it choose you. Allowing yourself to stay in the moment while simultaneously guiding your intentions toward your values is a fine balance point that requires both a telescope and a magnifying glass. If we are able to find meaning and purpose in our days, to feel a sense of guidance from our belief systems and be at peace within our minds, we have found an avenue to intentional living.

Attending to your mental, physical and spiritual needs and challenging negative self talk are useful tools in moving toward intentional living. Whether you meditate, change your dietary habits or simply pay attention to your thoughts, what you focus on becomes the product of your intent. What can you do to live your life with intent and purpose?

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