10 Tips For Living an Intentional Life
We live in a world that’s constantly trying to convince us to pursue more. We’re being tricked into thinking we’re not enough, we don’t have enough, we don’t make enough, our bodies aren’t enough, and our bank accounts aren’t enough. It is so easy to get caught up in trying to be who society and the media says we should be. But there’s a different way to live. The art of living an intentional life is one where you choose less of this stuff so you can choose more of what matters - your relationships, your time, your dreams, and your spirituality.
We have to learn to turn down the noise so we can tune into the things that matter to us. The days are long but the years are short. Our time is precious and limited. We spend our time working to earn dollars as an exchange for our time. So what if we thought more about how we spend those dollars, and therefore more about how we are using that time? When you realize how you spend your money plays a major role in how you spend your time, you can begin to adjust decisions and start living a life of intention.
We now live in a day and age where technology has become like an extension of ourselves. We keep our smart phones, or at least our smart watches, on us at all times because we’re afraid of missing something. We’re addicted to checking Facebook, Instagram, and email. While I love technology and use it everyday for my job, it’s important to take a break. Do not allow checking your phone notifications be the first thing you do in the morning. How you spend your minutes becomes how you spend your day. How you spend your days become how you spend your years. Take a break from technology and just be present where you are. You can take a walk in the fresh air, go hiking, read a book, but don’t be afraid to start small too and just commit to not having your phone on the table at dinner. If social media is too tempting, delete the app. You can always download it again later.
2. Exercise, eat well, and rest.
Let me say that again. Exercise, eat well, and rest. Sometimes we take those things for granted or we think “I’ll do that tomorrow” and yet tomorrow never actually gets here so we never actually follow through. Life gets busy and we tend to speed through the things that are actually meant to take care of our bodies. We tend to take short cuts in taking care of our body because of all the other chaos in life. But what if we flipped that. If you start taking care of your body and mind first, you will be more capable of taking on everything life throws at you. The same discipline it takes to workout everyday is the same discipline it takes to budget.
3. Say no more often.
Your time is a precious, limited resource. There’s only so much of it you can give. Be careful to not say yes to everything so you can leave room for the best things without being overwhelmed. Say no to things that are not your assignment. Leave margin in your life so that when the right thing comes along you have the time and energy to say yes. We live in a world of endless demands and it’s easy to take on too much before even realizing how exhausted and overwhelmed you are. One of the best books I have read on this topic is The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst where she walks you through how to make wise decisions and figure out your best yes(es).
Declutter your home. Declutter your workspace. Declutter your car. Declutter your closet. Declutter your inbox. You don’t have to do it all at once, but just start working on one area at a time. Just declutter one drawer in the kitchen and tomorrow choose something else. The weight of all the “stuff” in our lives affects us more than we realize. You’re not expected to have a magazine-like house, but be careful about the stuff you bring into your home and life. Make purchases with purpose and get rid of the things you no longer use or like. If it’s not either useful or beautiful, it’s out.
Or better yet, don’t hand over your email address in the first place. We get bombarded with sales emails every single day. You don’t need that kind of stress hanging out in your inbox and you don’t need the temptation to buy more stuff all the time. Unsubscribe from retail emails if you find yourself wanting to buy things more often than you should. And next time the store clerk asks for your email address, just say no thanks. Only hand over your email address to receive things that are going to help you in your everyday life, not to receive news about sales.
6. Pay with cash.
Research shows you will spend 12-18% more when paying with plastic (no wonder so many stores offer their own credit cards!). When you pay for cash with things, your mind processes it much differently than when paying with plastic. When you pay with cash, you hand over the cash and the cashier hands over the goods, and you don’t receive the cash back. With a plastic purchase, using a credit/debit card, you hand over the card and the cashier gives back both the card and the goods. You don’t feel the process of giving up your money to make the purchase when you swipe a card. Impulse buys will keep you from living an intentional life and having a nice savings account.
If you don’t tell your money where to go, you will end up wondering where it went. If you want to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and having too much month at the end of your money, you need a budget. If you want to pay off debt or save for retirement, you need a budget. You can’t take action if you don’t have a plan. Budgeting will cause you to set goals and prioritize those goals. Budgets keep you on track with your spending habits and help you to make intentional decisions for spending money. Starting with a Zero-Based Budget is easy, just read this post How to Create a Budget in 7 Easy Steps.
8. Practice gratitude & contentment.
Studies show that your health, sleep, decision-making skills, and relationships can get better with gratitude. Learn how to be grateful for the things already in your life and find contentment. Don’t confuse contentment with complacency. Contentment is realizing that blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours burn any brighter. A good resource for practicing gratitude, humility, and contentment is The Contentment Journal by Rachel Cruz (Dave Ramsey’s daughter).
9. Set goals.
Don’t live the same year 75 times in a row and call that a life. I can’t remember where I heard that quote but it’s stuck with me through the years. Don’t grow complacent or let the day-to-day grow too mundane. Take some risks, make a bucket list, set some goals. You will be so much more fulfilled when you are setting goals and seeking to achieve them rather than wandering through life aimlessly. And it doesn’t have to be goals like climbing Mt. Everest, it could be as simple as scheduling a date night every other week so you can keep your marriage a priority. Being intentional with setting goals will lead you to being intentional with life.
10. Talk with God.
If you want to live a life on intention, you have to be talking daily with the One who created you with a purpose. Make it a priority in your schedule to have quiet time with God. Talk with Him, study His Word, spend time in prayer, and journal or do whatever works best for connecting with him. When you’re eyes are focused on Jesus, everything else will fall into place. He is your refuge and your quiet place. Seek out what he has for your life. Ask him to place good things in your path. Follow where he leads.
As you read through these tips for living an intentional life, you probably noticed a common theme and that is to just turn down the noise. We tend to live in chaos and bounce around from one thing to the next trying to fill our lives up with more, more, and more. We have to pursue less. When we begin to live a life with intention the noise will begin to grow quieter and we will be able to thrive.