Get out of a rut, redirect your life, and start living intentionally
Too many people today are generally miserable. They live a quarter of their lives hating Monday, making it to Wednesday, and celebrating Friday. But what if there was a way that we could instead say “Thank God it’s Today!” That, my friend, is the result of living the intentional life.
The biggest issue I have with the idea of intentional living is that it can mean so many different things. From communal and sustainable living, to being an independent freelancer working in a coffee shop one day and the beach the next. Those two images are so extremely different, that often when we hear someone use some version of the phrase “living intentionally” we don’t really know what the heck it means!
image courtesy of Vaximilian at Free Digital Photos.net
So here’s what I want to do, specifically in relation to Fulfilled Purpose, but also for the world at large. I want to define, once and for all, what Intentional Living truly is, and then show you how to begin living in such a way.
Intentional living is:
doing what want to do because we know that it needs to get done, and not doing it would lead to a less enjoyable life either in the short or long term. In the end Intentional Living is doing what you truly want to be doing.
So let’s unpack that, shall we?
I think one of the big problems in the two examples I gave above is that they are both idealistic in nature. The idea of living off the land and growing your own food, creating your own electricity, and living sustainably is awesome in and of itself. But while that may be your dream, have you ever TRIED IT? Have you gone on a long camping trip, or even gone to talk with a farmer or someone who’s done it for significant period of time? It’s an extremely rewarding, and worthwhile lifestyle, but it is NOT for everyone.
Likewise, the idealistic solopreneur lifestyle of being your own boss, and doing your own thing is equally rewarding and satisfying. Believe me, for the most part I’ve done it for 7 years and survived. I’ve been extremely blessed to have a lot of freedom and flexibility, but there are some downsides that I don’t think most think of. When it’s just you doing the work, then it’s you that is in production, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, customer service, administration, and janitorial. Sure, later on down the road systems help to keep everything humming along and a lot of the work can eventually be outsourced or delegated to employees. But early on? It’s all on you baby! And again, extremely worthy and rewarding lifestyle, but it also is NOT for everyone.
So why then would anyone want to live life intentionally based on these standards? Because of the second half of the definition.
Because you must, and if you didn’t you would remain unsettled, discontent, and miserable. Because if you didn’t, things would be ok now, but you would look back in the end with the pain of regret.
Because if you didn’t, you would constantly live your life wondering “what if?”
Because if you didn’t you would be at the constant mercy of other people’s decisions, and never really settled in where you were headed in life.
Because if you didn’t, life would be less enjoyable in the short or long term.
Listen, life is short. And to spend it being constantly miserable, wanting more but never getting it is no way to live it.
But also, most of the time we don’t need to make a huge change to get what we’re really looking for. You don’t need to quit your job, divorce your spouse, and move to Costa Rica to be happy. Actually if you do that, then you probably won’t find it. (Though I think in very specific circumstances, these may be the answers. But this blog post will not provide those answers. If you’re interested in discussing more, please see my Coaching page so that we can set up a Free Discovery Session and explore one on one.)
There’s also a third option that neither seeks to bask in the glory, nor prove their hardiness. It’s that third group that I think most people are either comfortable in, or specifically desire to avoid all the hassle. This is the group that really just wants to go about their life, mind their own business, and take care of their corner of the world. They seek to live quiet, unassuming lives and for the most part just want to take care of their own. And I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with that.
Actually, it’s this third group that I think we who are crazy enough to go the other way can learn from the most. They’re the ones that show us that what you’re truly looking for is more often closer at hand than you expect. You just need to learn to see it.
The Missing Piece
So then, the next logical question is what are we missing?
When we think about the circumstances in our lives that create discontent, it’s so easy to misattribute our problems with something that is unrelated. A lousy job, a lousy spouse, or lousy health are all likely candidates for taking the brunt of our angst.
And again, while that may be very true, that your spouse just doesn’t pass muster, what is it that isn’t meeting your expectation? If it’s your job that’s the source of your frustration, then why? Or your health, same question.
See, there IS something that’s missing. And it’s usually a thing, not a what. That’s a common mistake.
We can often associate our boss with being a slave driver and a miserable coot, and while there may be some truth to that, what we’re actually missing is a healthy working relationship and mutual understanding from the person we work for. We long to have our highly valued place in the organization recognized externally, and to experience it internally by knowing why we are there and how we contribute to the world around us. We long for a sense of connection, belonging, and contribution. THOSE are human needs. We all have those. And granted, it may be because your boss is a jerk. Those exist too. But don’t let the person be the source of the problem, get to the deeper issue of why you (or maybe everyone) think they’re a jerk.
In the case of a spouse, someone once told me that the very thing you find attractive in your spouse is the exact quality that will drive you absolutely insane 10 years into your marriage. So is that it? Is that what you’re resigned to? The fact that ole hubby farts and leaves his socks around? I mean, that’s pretty inconsiderate, but again what’s missing? Granted, I’m guessing he wasn’t like that when you got married, but what’s changed? Probably the connection, the intimacy, the recognition, the appreciation, feeling special. Again, all human emotions. Perfectly normal, and perfectly relatable.
Sadly, things change. They get old. They get stale. But it doesn’t mean it’s over. It just means you need to facilitate an intentional change.
So Then, How?
The beauty of our life is that it isn’t over, until it’s over. So first things first, don’t quit.
That said, we don’t have to resign ourselves to mediocrity. There is just so much out there to be enjoyed,so set a plan to go experience it.
Again, that’s not to suggest that you should quit your job and run off to Tahiti. Rather, what I mean to say is don’t spend your life dreaming, focus your life on doing.
Follow this plan to start living a more intentional life. It’s pretty simple, and I want you to focus on a 30 day period of time. So we’re not making huge massive changes, but rather taking intentional action to start creating the world you want to live in.
- Identify What’s Missing– First, consider what’s really making you unhappy. Something’s missing, and while it’s easy to personify it, focus on the what, not the who. Get really specific. It’s not the socks on the floor, or the extra work dropped on you fifteen minutes before you leave the office. It’s the inconsideration. Or whatever it is that’s getting to you. Just call it for what it is and don’t dramatize it
- Set a Goal to Change It– Now, what could YOU do to improve the situation. Don’t even think about trying to change someone else. Ain’t gonna happen. But don’t ignore a situation that makes you miserable either. Think about the specific actions you can take to improve the environment. Think of the Golden Rule here (Treat other people the way you want to be treated). Sounds crazy, but eventually they notice.
- Know Why You Want It– Unless you know why you want your circumstances to change, you won’t do anything about them. Sorry to be so blunt, but you won’t. You have to connect the current pain to the future gain. Lock it into your brain about the outcome that you want. And focus on that when things get tough (cuz they probably will!)
- Know What’s at Stake– This is sort of the opposite of the last point. What happens if nothing changes? Does your stress level stay high, causing your health to deteriorate, leaving you sick and even more miserable? Is THAT what you want? Of course not! The funny thing is, we never notice that we’re well, but we always notice when we’re sick. So in this case, imagine what it will feel like if you do nothing. And make it hurt, cuz nothing motivates like the possibility of pain.
- Take Action– Now, DO SOMETHING! Seriously, just do something to improve your situation. Have a rotten coworker? Go out of your way to do something nice. Engage them in conversation. Buy them their favorite coffee. Take note of their hobbies. Do something to improve the relationship. Take action, and quit focusing on the problems. Be the solution.
- Enjoy the Moment– Take a deep breath. Right now. Seriously do it. Feel that? It’s oxygen. You’re alive. In the time it took you to inhale that breath, two people on our planet died (true story, check it out at the WHO website) But ya know what? You weren’t one of them. So enjoy this moment right now. The next one may be worse, but hopefully it’ll be better. And I can tell you that if you choose to be happy in this one, it’s gonna be harder to bring you down in the next. So string those moments of peace together, and enjoy what you have right now.
- Celebrate Your Achievements– You made it! You hit your stride, each day was better than the last, and you moved the needle just a little bit. Nice job Rockstar! Now celebrate! Bask in the glory. Lock in the feeling of achievement, even if it’s just a little victory. That’s the stuff that moves us to take action again.
- Start Over With a New Goal– And that’s just what you’re gonna do. Set another goal, lather, rinse, repeat.
Rounding It Out
So, by now we are in agreement as to what we mean when we say living intentionally.
We also know the main motivations of living our life.
Lastly we outlined a strategy to change the circumstances that have frustrated and held us back from living intentionally.
So now, the only question that remains is, will you?
Will you do what needs to be done to stop wasting away?
Will you embrace the responsibility for your outcomes?
Will you live intentionally?
Only you can. The choice is yours.
How will you apply these principles to begin living intentionally?