What Is Intentional Living?
What It Means To Live Your Life With Intention
Whenever I feel thrown off course, my therapist reminds me, “Don’t believe your feelings, believe your values.” It’s a reminder that feelings are situational, but values are consistent.
Tapping into those values on a daily basis marks the difference between living life passively and living it intentionally. Intentional living means understanding your fundamental beliefs and values and then actively living your life in line with those values. While intentional living is often associated with a specific aesthetic or written off as a trend, it takes more than a motivational quote and minimalist bedding to live true to your values. Living intentionally requires slowing down, digging deep, and being mindful of your actions.
The first step is to accept that life is made up of choices. We can choose to connect with our beliefs, or we can choose to let others guide our decisions. Even when we feel completely stuck, intentional living reminds us that we have agency over how we react to situations out of our control. Intentional living looks different for each individual, but one thing that can’t be disputed is that it is an ongoing process. Identifying, implementing, and staying in touch with your values is a lifelong practice, and well worth it.
How to Identify Values and Beliefs
Our values are our “North Star,” the guiding light in our lives. We can easily become overwhelmed by the pressures of society, the comparison trap, and other forms of shame—this is when we have to identify our values. When we’re able to unpack what really makes us tick, versus what we think should be motivating us, we discover that we don’t need to play by anyone else’s rules.
Unless an “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure is in your future, uncovering core values and beliefs proves to be less romantic than movies would like us to think. Yet, one of the benefits of an increasingly connected world is the plethora of resources available to us. We don’t have to travel halfway around the world to get in touch with ourselves. According to Scott Jeffrey, a career and life coach, identifying core values begins by reflecting on meaningful moments, times of limitation, and necessities in your everyday life. He suggests asking yourself questions and zeroing in on peak experiences in your life, as well as the moments when you felt the need to suppress feelings, and the things which fill you up each day.
Blogger Jennifer of Simply + Fiercely also suggests asking “why” questions in regards to different areas of your life (career, friends, location, activities, etc.). Why do you work in the field you do? Why are your friends the people you surround yourself with? Why do you spend your time the way you do? Investigate the motivations behind your lifestyle choices and whether the reasoning behind your decisions feels true to you or not.
For example, the latter part of this past decade has been all about the “hustle,” so much so that I began to believe it’s how I want to live my life. However, upon further inspection, I’ve realized I’m not fulfilled by the hustle. I enjoy making genuine, lasting relationships over career advances. After reflecting on the times that gave me the most joy, I had to acknowledge that almost all of them involved loved ones, vulnerable conversations, and supportive environments. Connection, along with independence, comfort, creativity, and discovery, are some of my core values.
Give this process the time it deserves, and be gentle with yourself if it takes longer than you’d like to identify your core beliefs. If you’re feeling stuck, there are many example templates online to get you started, although it’s vital to remember that this exercise is about honoring who you are, not who a list suggests you should be.
How to Implement Those Values In Life
Once you’ve identified your values, implementing them requires a bit of reflection as well. Assess your routine, friend group, purchasing habits, and overall lifestyle. Do these aspects of your life match your values? Start to observe your daily life and ask yourself if these various elements align with your beliefs or if they are hindering your commitment to those beliefs. While this process may lead to letting go of what no longer serves you, intentional living is more about moving towards what you want instead of moving away from what you don’t.
By clarifying your values and the reasons behind them, you can set goals and take action in order to strengthen your relationship with those values. Communicate your values to your family and friends, and keep them in the loop as you incorporate different practices into your life. Allow your loved ones to support you in the journey towards intentional living. In addition, become mindful of how you spend your time and build in bite-sized daily or weekly rituals to support your values. Small acts, like journaling for 15 minutes, going for a walk, or calling a loved one, can keep you grounded in your truth.
Consistently incorporating your values and beliefs in small doses will prepare you for bigger decisions, too, like which direction to take your career, who to spend your life with, or what to invest your money in.
How to Stay Connected to Values
Intentional living is more than setting thoughtful plans. It’s also about how you react when those plans are suddenly thrown out the window. This concept is about getting to know your raw self so that, every time the world begins to lead you astray, you have something to lean back on.
We often make excuses for why we can’t live honestly. We blame society or our loved ones; we make up stories about our limitations. These excuses keep us from living intentionally. If we’re not bravely living according to our values, then we’re just following the flow of traffic. This often means making hard decisions, like changing our thinking or accepting a new reality. As limiting as that may seem, it’s incredibly freeing.
Because when we’re consistently connected to our core beliefs, we discover who we are, even in uncertain or uncomfortable times.
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and is currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance writer and content creator with a focus in sustainable fashion. Audrey is deeply passionate about conscious living and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.