I always find it interesting when adults tell kids that they are living their best lives…that they are lucky because they are carefree and don’t have to worry about a mortgage. However, kids have always ached to be grown-ups because they inherently value something most of us take for granted: agency. Agency to pick their own bedtimes, design their own careers, and be intentional in taking the steps necessary to make their dreams come true.
While they sit in their car seats and go along for the ride, we have the opportunity to set our destination, chart our course, and take off with a full tank.
Yet, in our hurry to do all of life’s doing, many of us forget that we are in the driver’s seat. We slide into the passenger seat of someone else’s car, and before we know it we aren’t even sure how we got to our destination.
How did we end up with this life, this career, this family? Did you choose or did it just happen? In our flurry to check the milestone boxes (degree, promotion, marriage, kids, home), we lose sight of purpose, vision, passion, and intention.
To be intentional is to be present. When you are present in the moment, you are not thinking about what went wrong yesterday or all the ways things can go wrong tomorrow. When you are present, you are thinking about this moment and what you can do with it.
Here are 10 ways to be intentional every day and create a life you love.
1. Give up the Passive Excursion
Wake up with a commitment to being in the driver’s seat of your own life. You are not living to make your others’ dreams come true today. You are responsible for you. If you have been letting one of them drive, it’s time to take back the wheel.
Stop with all of the stories you have been telling yourself about why you have to come last. This is a false narrative and serves no one.
When you decide to be intentional in how you live, you will have more energy to go around, and everyone will benefit!
Set your sights on what you want to do immediately, what you can do soon, and what is on the horizon to chart the course toward what you want to see and do for yourself.
Whether this is about deciding to take action on the personal front, professional front, or both, you will need to have a clear vision for what you want.
2. Start With Your Body
Listen to your heartbeat, your temperature, your stomach; what does your body need to feel good? A big glass of water? A nutritious breakfast and a stretch to start your day?
Forget about the diet you have been trying to keep and the tight pants that have made you feel restricted while sitting on Zoom calls. Invite the possibility that your body already knows what is good for you.
Start to get mindful.
Mindful eating, drinking, sleeping, and resting is all about being in the driver’s seat. Pay attention to the messages your body is sending you about what it needs to live in the present moment. When we challenge it, disregard it, and push our own agenda, we are actively resisting intention.
3. Optimize Your Space
We happen to our space, it doesn’t happen to us. As a self-admitted mess maker, I sometimes wonder how the clothes are still not folded and how “I will do it tomorrow” turned into “I will do it next week.” Regardless, chaos breeds chaos.
According to Marie Condo, “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life-transforming.”
When we are being intentional, we are taking control of our immediate environment and designing a space that meets our functional needs and showcases our personality. Try surrounding yourself with your favorite inspirational quotes, an accent pillow in your favorite color, and an attractive clock to help hold you accountable throughout your day. You will thank yourself, and your Zoom background will, too!
4. Energy Map Your Day
CEOs wake up at 6 a.m. they say…so what? Stop chasing other peoples’ productivity solutions and design what works best for you. Start by noticing the times of day you feel peak energy. Do you work best when you start early and end early, or do you prefer to start late and end late?
When you are able to isolate the time of day you feel the greatest focus, create a personalized energy map to schedule the most detail-oriented and/or robust tasks accordingly.
Conversely, save the simple, automated, or flexible tasks for the hours when you are running on low steam or reviving yourself after a sprint of heavy focus.
5. Narrate Your Progress
Don’t wait for the day to be over to check in with yourself about your progress. Do a brief audit:
- Have I worked on the things that relate to my most pressing goals?
- Have I allowed myself to leverage workable solutions before perfect solutions to maintain momentum?
- Are there things that I could or should do differently to maximize my progress today?
If there are opportunities to improve strategy, intervene early, and benefit from a quick recalibration, do it.
6. Don’t Push Too Hard, Too Fast
Strategy is really about working smarter, not harder. When you are truly intentional, you are thinking about ways to maximize your impact without overdoing it.
Notice where there may be shortcuts, automations or additional support available to achieve your designated action steps quicker or more efficiently.
The goal is to avoid burnout. Even when the steps we are taking bring us joy and we are excited to make a change or improvement, sustainability is key.
Notice where it is worth your time to invest some time upfront to get time back later.
Think e-mail labels, pre-scheduled posts, Calendly, or other work-flow tactics that take a little extra time to establish but buy you back tons of hours and endless frustration on the back end.
If you are a “do it the way I have always done it” kind of person, it’s time to change—and it’s okay to ask for help. Technology offers us a ton of time-saving, strategy-supporting solutions that we don’t want to miss out on. Don’t let fear be your barrier to entry.
Reach out to a tech savvy friend, colleague or acquaintance, and seek the information you need to break through this barrier.
7. Check Those Distractions
Confront the time sucks in your life. Whether you have been doom scrolling on the gram, texting all day about the latest in reality TV, or taking too many trips to the pantry to interrupt your Zoom fatigue, it is time to distinguish between the useless and the useful.
Constant and ongoing distraction has limited benefit. Whether it is incessant Slacks running in the foreground or the TV blaring while you attempt to do your work, we know that multitasking is virtually useless. Commit to being all in when you are, and then make the decision to fully opt into well-spaced breaks.
Regular breaks are not only useful; they are pivotal. Take time to schedule them, take them, and meaningfully benefit from a stretch, nap, or short walk.
You want the time that you take away from the activities that move you in the direction of your hopes and dreams to be well spent. Don’t waste it on Facebook or Tic Tok—unless it’s your break indulgence of choice.
8. Fail Forward
Mess up intentionally. It sounds like an oxymoron, but I mean it. When we are intentional about succeeding, we also have to be willing to fail. We have to be willing to take a stab at something we could totally botch, and waste no time in getting to a second attempt.
If the fear of failure paralyzes us from trying at all, it is a direct blocker to living intentionally.
It’s not to say that we will fail every time, but we need to normalize the experience for ourselves so that if it happens often, we use it to learn, adjust, iterate, and keep moving.
9. Invite People Into Your Plans
You don’t have to keep your dreams a secret. When you wake up to live with intention, you know what you want, and you can’t be afraid to tell others about it. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the final product is ready to tell friends, family, or even strangers about it.
Invite the possibility that people may be excited to help you get there. Very few of us make our dreams happen alone. Prepare yourself to talk about what you are aiming to do, your personal “why” motivating you, and and what you need to get it done.
When you are willing to narrate your needs, there is a chance that someone is ready and willing to share the missing piece.
For those of us who hate asking for help, this is a mountain worth climbing. Give it a try, process the discomfort you feel, and remember that if it was someone else telling you about their dreams and you were in a position to help, wouldn’t you jump at the chance?
Choosing to be intentional takes commitment, and it is really about playing the long game. You will wake up and choose this day in and day out, and it may still take time to see the fruits of your labor.
Remember a purpose worth pursuing is never easy, and others will gladly celebrate beside you when it all comes together. That moment will be no accident. You will know in your heart of hearts that you chose the hard road of consistency, sacrifice, and focus. Things don’t just happen. You make it happen.
The choice is yours. Open the car door, slide into the driver’s seat, secure your seatbelt, and take the wheel. This is the ride where you call all the shots.
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Featured photo credit: Bohdan Pyryn via unsplash.com