Intentional living is a buzzword that’s been thrown around a lot in recent years, but what exactly being intentional look like?
I’m guessing you’re here because you want to stop feeling like you’re just “going through the motions” of life and create one that’s full of purpose and meaning.
If that’s the case, then you’re in the right place. The following article will discuss what it means to live intentionally, and provide actionable advice that will help you create a more intentional life.
Let’s dive in!
What Does It Mean To Be Intentional?
The simplest definition of what it means to be intentional with your life is choosing the types of habits that align with what matters most to you, and avoiding the ones that perpetuate guilt and shame.
It’s about investing your time and energy into challenging pursuits that give your life meaning instead of settling for what’s familiar and easy.
As long as you’re prioritizing what matters most to you and backing up those intentions with action, you’re living an intentional life.
Many people are under the impression that living an intentional life means living a perfect life — one where you never procrastinate, break all of your bad habits, and always choose your long-term goals over instant gratification..
This couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter how disciplined or motivated you are, you’re going to inevitably make mistakes and betray your long term vision
- You’re going to miss workouts when you’re trying to get in shape
- You’re going to have days where you procrastinate the important items on your to-do list
- You’re going to have days where you hit snooze even though you vowed to get up early
- You’re going to spend a little too much time on social media consuming content that doesn’t add value to your life
Minor setbacks like these are nothing to worry about. They don’t sabotage your ability to be intentional, they’re simply tiny slip-ups that can be corrected.
However, if these slip-ups become more frequent, and begin to define your life, that’s when you start veering into the territory of an unintentional life.
As long as you contain your mistakes, and make the right choices more often than not, you’re still on track to creating an intentional life that centers around your deepest aims.
7 Ways You Can Be Intentional With Your Day
Now that you have a good understanding of what it means to be intentional, let’s talk about seven different things you can do to live a more intentional life.
The provided tips are predicated around one goal — putting yourself in the best possible position to succeed.
As mentioned earlier, you’re not always going to do what you know you should do in order to achieve your goals and dreams.
However, the more you be intentional by making choices that tilt the odds of fate in your favor, the better chance you’ll have of creating a purpose-filled life.
#1: Design Your Environment To Be Intentional
One of the golden rules of living an intentional life is taking control of your external environment instead of letting it control you.
Many of the behaviors we engage in are encouraged by our environment.
Why do we decide to sit on the couch and watch TV after getting home from work?
Well, most couches face the television. And typically, the remote is only a few feet away from the couch, so the effort required to carry out the behavior is minimal.
Why do people hit the snooze button instead of getting up when their alarm goes off?
Well, most people who hit the snooze button position their phone only a few feet away from them, meaning they can hit snooze without getting out of bed.
There’s an infinite number of behaviors that can be mentioned here, but the point I’m trying to make is this:
If you want to be intentional about your life, you need to be intentional in the way you design your environment. Many people who appear to display superhuman self-discipline are simply operating in an environment that’s better suited to help them reach success.
I wouldn’t really consider myself a naturally productive person. I’m very ambitious and probably above average in terms of self-discipline. However, my brain is incredibly frantic and I struggle to direct my full attention towards one task for an extended period of time.
Yet, I’ve been able to minimize this weakness through environment design:
- I always power off my phone and put it in another room before working
- I wear noise canceling headphones so that I’m allowed to work in total silence
- I use a website blocker that doesn’t allow me to go on certain websites during work blocks.
Despite having a mind that tries to sabotage me at every corner, I’m routinely able to perform 3-4 hours of focused, uninterrupted work every single day.
That’s the power of environment design — it can make you good, or at least better, at things that you’re supposed to be bad at.
As James Clear says, “By changing your surroundings, you can place a hurdle in the way of bad behaviors and remove the barriers to good ones.”
Here are few examples of this principle in action:
- If you want to get up earlier, place your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
- If you want to cut down on junk food, place the sweets you buy in your garage/basement.
- If you want to reduce the time you spend playing video games, unplug it and stuff it in your closet after each use.
- If you want to kickstart a habit of going to the gym, pack your gym bag the night before and lay out your gym clothes right next to your bed.
The specifics of how you apply this principle will change based on your goals, but here’s the basic philosophy — put fewer steps between you and behaviors you’d like to adopt, and more steps between you and behaviors you’d like to cut out.
This principle alone should give you a bunch of ideas for how to be more intentional in the way that you design your environment.
#2: Wake Up Each Day With A Plan
When you roll out of bed in the morning, do you have a defined plan for how you’re going to spend your time?
What about when you get to work? Do you simply show up and hope that you’ll invest energy into the right tasks, or have you worked out beforehand exactly what your high-priority items are.
A lack of routine and structure can exacerbate feelings of stress and make you more likely to focus on your problems, as opposed to your objectives for the day.
Be intentional by showing up each day ready to win. There’s a famous productivity quote from legendary basketball coach that sums up this idea perfectly:
“Most people have the will to win, few people have the will to prepare to win.”
Making a to-do list and scheduling your work isn’t sexy or exciting. However, the results that spring from this practice are.
It’s a simple and purposeful action that if repeated over time, will help you live an intentional life where you feel like you’re in control of your daily outcomes.
There’s a million different ways that you can set intentionsfor the day, here’s a simple suggestion for structuring your day for maximum efficiency.
- Write down three high-priority items that you need to accomplish today
- Rank them in order of importance from 1-3
- Block out 2-4 hours of your day to specifically address these tasks
- Complete them in order of importance starting with #1
- Don’t proceed to task #2 until you’ve fully completed task #1
#3: Figure Out Your Deepest Values
You’ll find it difficult to be intentional if you don’t know who you are and what you value.
Your values are the things you believe are important in the way you live and work. Unlike goals, which refer to specific targets you want to hit, your values are more like principles that you need to live by in order to create your own happiness.
They are your personal north star — informing the goals that you set, the actions that you take, and the habits that you adopt.
Living an intentional life means knowing what your values are, and then ensuring that your goals actually align with these values.
This is easier said than done too, because oftentimes the allure of big goals can trick us into sacrificing our values.
For example, let’s say you’re an entrepreneur with a goal to build a million dollar business.
Now in order to achieve this goal, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Due to the sheer workload you’re going to taking on, one of the first areas of your life that will take a hit is your personal relationships:
- You might have to pass up on trips/vacations
- You might have to stay in on the weekends more than you’d like to
- You likely won’t be calling/texting your friends as much because you’re busy doing a million other things
Here’s the problem — what if you’re someone who deeply values social connection?
Well, you’ll probably be pretty unhappy because you’re no longer prioritizing one of the essential values that helps you live a meaningful life.
I know this because I’ve lived it. I know exactly what it feels like to experience intense loneliness due to the desire to start a business and turn it into something special.
Do you need to make sacrifices to reach your goals? Yes, but ideally you don’t want those sacrifices to conflict with your deepest values.
It’s non-negotiable that you make time for pursuits that align with your values, even if they detract from time you could spend working towards your goals.
Here’s an article that goes into the idea of values in a little more detail and explains how you can build a life around your most important ones:
- Related Article: The Easy Way To Find Your Deepest Values & Live By Them
#4: Be Intentional On Social Media
Another simple way that you can be more intentional is by taking control of the type of content that you’re consuming on a daily basis.
When it comes to social media, you have the power to decide where your energy goes:
- You get to decide who you follow and don’t follow on Instagram
- You get to decide the type of tweets you see and the ones you don’t
- You get to decide who you listen to on Youtube and who you don’t
It’s important to be intentional about the way you use social media by aligning the content you consume with the goals that you have.
If you work in sales, this could mean subscribing to the top people in your industry on Youtube and watching their content each morning.
If you have a passion for personal development, this could mean following some of the best minds on Twitter and using their wisdom as inspiration for your own work.
Whatever your goals are, the information that you feed your brain on a daily basis will go a long way towards determining whether or not you achieve them.
So instead of being a passive observer, be an intentional consumer. When most of the content you consume inspires you to try out new ideas and work on new projects, you’ll be far more likely to live life with intention.
#5: Be Intentional By Constantly Auditing Yourself
Self-reflection is one of the most powerful tools that you have at your disposal as you work towards the life you want.
Yet, it’s often something that we neglect after setting intentions. Deciding what you want is only the first part of the equation — consistently auditing your actions after the fact is what drastically increases your chances of meeting those aims.
You should always be asking yourself powerful self-reflection questions like:
- What’s today’s number one action that will move me towards my 12-month goal?
- What are my values and do my current goals align with them?
- What’s my biggest demon and what’s one small step I can take today to address it?
- How do I really feel about my personal relationships?
- If I died today, what would eat at me the most?
Asking yourself these questions regularly will help you know when to rearrange your goals, switch up who you spend time with, and ensure that you’re spending time on high-priority actions.
#6: Learn To Be A Little Selfish
In order to live an intentional life, you need to be a little selfish.
The word selfish has a negative connotation to it. Many people see selfishness as sabotaging the needs of others at every corner and putting our own needs first.
Obviously, this isn’t a trait that anyone wants to be known for. Which means that oftentimes, we’ll compromise our own desires in order to maintain a positive self-image.
Now in certain situations it’s 100% necessary to compromise. It’s not worth making a scene over the fact that your friends want to get sushi when you’re in the mood for Mexican food.
However, it’s also 100% necessary to not let fear stop you from acting in your own best interest when it comes to the more important things in your life.
- It’s okay to say no to your friends when they ask you to do something that puts you in a compromised position.
- It’s okay to ask your boss for a raise and say that you’ll consider a move elsewhere if they don’t show you that they value your contributions
- It’s okay to tell your spouse clearly and directly that you don’t feel like they’re spending enough time with you.
Being able to clearly communicate your wants and needs in any given situation is a powerful skill. It instills a sense of self-confidence that allows you to be who you really are without feeling guilt or shame.
It’s not selfish to do what’s best for you. As long as you’re not actively sabotaging the needs/wants of others, don’t let fear stop you from telling people exactly how you feel and exactly what you want.
Because if you suppress your true desires for too long, you’ll start to lose a little self-respect with each time you let fear win.
#7: Be Intentional By Waking Up Earlier
The early mornings are a powerful tool for anyone looking to live a more intentional life.
There’s a sense of victory that comes over you when you beat your alarm clock and get up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m while everyone else is still sleeping.
That’s because getting up early is extremely difficult. Anyone can set alarms for 5 a.m. or look at a few wake up early quotes, but very few can consistently discipline themselves to be up at sunrise.
It’s the difficulty of this practice that makes it so rewarding. Because once you’re up and moving, you’ve gained 2-3 hours on everyone else trying to reach their goals.
Here are some of the other ways that waking up early helps you be intentional:
- You’re Less Distracted: In the early hours of the morning, things are quiet and calm. You’re not getting spammed with emails or phone calls, bouncing from meeting to meeting, etc. This leaves more time for you to prioritize your life around your most important tasks.
- You’re More Motivated To Tackle Challenging Work: The first few hours of the day are precious because it’s when our willpower and motivation levels are at their highest. Waking up early gives you the opportunity to utilize these precious hours to tackle your most challenging work in peak form.
- You Have More Time For The Things You Want To Do: After a long day of work, it can be hard to maintain hobbies and pursue other interests. The morning can be a great time to be intentional with these habits before additional obligations start snatching valuable time from you.
If you’re struggling to wake up early, there’s an app called Alarmy that can make this practice much easier.
Essentially, you pick a time that you want to get up and Alarmy will sound the alarm at that time just like any normal alarm clock.
When you set your alarm, make sure to select the “no snooze” option. This ensures that your alarm won’t stop going off until you’ve completed some sort of mission.
The mission you pick within the app is up to you. Alarmy offers a variety of options such as taking a photo of something, completing math problems, doing squats, playing a memory game, etc.
The point is that Alarmy forces you to actually do something in order to silence your alarm. And by the time you’ve completed the mission, you’ll find it easier to transition into your morning routine.
** Alarmy Pro Tip **
Choose the “photo” option as your mission and force yourself to take a photo of something that’s near where your first morning action takes place. For example, my first action in the morning is making a glass of cold water.
In order to silence my alarm, I have to take a photo of a lamp that is located in the kitchen. Once the alarm is silenced, I simply walk a few steps and make a glass of cold water.
This virtually ensures that I don’t go back to bed because I’m already in the flow of my morning routine.
Be Intentional Quotes
I hope you gained some value from the tips that were outlined in the previous section. To cap off this article, here are some of the best quotes about the power of living intentionally.
- “An unintentional life accepts everything and does nothing. An intentional life embraces only the things that will add to the mission of significance.” ~ John C. Maxwell
- “Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.” ~ Richie Norton
- “The key is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” ~ Steven Covey
- “You can go slow. Allow your dreams and goals to change, but live an intentional life.” ~ Kumail Nanjiani
- “To live intentionally means it’s not always going to be convenient, but it is what will take you to significance if you do not give up.” ~ Sunday Adejala
- “We either live with intention or exist by default.” ~ Kristin Armstrong
- “Intention is one of the most powerful forces there is. What you mean when you do a thing will always determine the outcome. The law creates the world.” ~ Breanna Yovanoff
- At the center of your being, you have the answer; you know who you are, and you know what you want.” ~ Catherine Pulsifer
- “The great things you intend to do some time must have a beginning if they are ever to be done, so begin something worthwhile today.” ~ Grenville Kleiser
- “You create your thoughts, your thoughts create your intentions, and your intentions create your reality.” ~ Wayne Dwyer
- “The purpose of life is to find the largest burden that you can bear and bearing it.” ~ Jordan Peterson
- “Set intentions before you take action. Blind actions is sometimes worse than no action at all.” ~ Akiroq Brost
- “The desires you aspire to need strong chains of intent.” ~ Steven Redhead
- “Intention is the mother of all change.” ~ Abhijit Naskar
- “Although our actions speak louder than words, it is our intentions that reveal our soul.” ~ Hal Elrod
- “Every journey begins with the first step of articulating the intention, and then becoming the intention.” ~ Bryant McGill
- “It is not good enough for things to be planned — they still have to be done; for the intention to become a reality, energy has to be launched into operation.” ~ Walt Kelly
- “In a conflict between the heart and the brain, follow your heart.” ~ Swami Vivekananda
At the end of the day, you’re human.
You’re going to slip-up. You’re going to experience moments of self-sabotage. You’re going to have some days where you look back and feel like you wasted too much time.
None of these events compromise your ability to be intentional. Doing things like designing your environment, having a plan for the day, and controlling the content you consume are all within your control.
It’s easier to be disciplined and reduce slip-ups when you’re operating in an environment where your desired behaviors are encouraged.
These intentional actions put yourself in a position where it’s harder to fail and easier to succeed. And if you can create this type of environment for yourself, it’ll be much easier to live life on your terms.