There is a lot of conversation today about being intentional, setting your intention, putting your intention out to the universe, or living intentionally. What does this really mean, and how would you do this?
The definition of intentional, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is "done deliberately". We've known about this as long as we can remember. When we were kids we would tell on our siblings, to our parents, and say something like, "He (or she) hit me on purpose!" Or, we would tell our friends about our date the night before and say something like, "I gave her (or him) the address days ago. How could they be confused on where we were meeting? They just did not want to show up; they did that on purpose." We talk about how others did something to us on purpose, but are we intentional about our own lives? Doing something on purpose, deliberately, and with conscious planning and thought is not how most of us are taught to live our lives. We may have been taught to set a goal, but the day to day living just kind of happens without too much thought, or without conscious internal planning. We live fairly predictably with sometimes impulsive moments.
How do we live intentionally then? We need to make decisions internally. When I say, internally, I mean on your own. For example, you intentionally set your alarm clock to get up in time for work, but this is driven by the fact that someone told you to be at work at a certain time. It's an external parameter or motivator for setting your alarm clock. Intentional living is you, on purpose, doing things, because you want to live a certain way regardless of what your friends or partner think, your boss expects, or your parents want. Example: You set your alarm to get up and do meditation before you start your day, even if no one you know does that. That's you doing something intentionally.
If you are ready to start living intentionally, not just doing things because that is how the world works, how your family did things, or what your friends are doing, I invite you to read the follow three simple ways to get started.
1. Write it down: Write down what you want right now (or out of life). Write down what comes to you. Do not write all the things that you don't want or the things you hate about your life. Get clear about what you want and start with one over arching thing you want. Example: If you want time to exercise or want a healthier lifestyle, write that. If you want more freedom in your schedule, write that. Write something you want.
2. Trust: You need to stop caring what others think. You need to start making decisions from your gut. Stop checking with your friends about what your gut or heart tell you. Trust that you have a sense about what is best for you and your life. Example: If you have a sense that you need a job with more flexibility, so you have time to exercise (or whatever), intentionally set out to find that job, and do not doubt it when you find it. If the job excites you, gives you more time to exercise or to be with your family (or whatever you are looking for), but it isn't necessarily going to be an "upward" move, do what excites you (not what your dad or someone else expects).
3. Act: Do things that make you feel good. Do things that make you feel better about yourself and your life, and help you reach the feeling or thing you wrote down in step one. Making decisions based on what others think you should do has no guarantee of making you happy or making your life better. However, acting on what you sense will make you happy has a much higher probability of either making you happy or showing you what you do want in the future.
So to recap - to start living intentionally: Write down what you want. Start with one thing. Trust you know what is best for you, and follow your gut. Then act.