A retreat I went on Sunday talked about Cultivating Joy – intentionally noticing and creating joy. Our sermon last Sunday talked about living intentionally. My daughter was telling me she appreciated the childhood we had for her with lots of family time. I got to tell her we did that intentionally.
It’s easy to get caught up in putting out fires, running from crisis to crisis never thinking ahead or thinking, "Is this the way I want to live?" Life becomes overwhelming, everything seems a priority. Mindlessly going from one activity to another as fast as we can. Multi-tasking along the way.
Intentional living is an important facet to simple living. When you intentionally think about what you want and how you want to live, the fluff and distractions are noticeably less important. You craft your life with thought. You don’t follow only what everyone else is doing. Or live vicariously through other people’s Facebook posts. Instead you live life on purpose.
You can start intentional living by taking time alone to answer these questions:
What’s most important to you?
What do you really want to accomplish (you – not your family, friends or society)?
Who do you want to be?
How do you want to feel?
What are your strengths and how can you use them?
Journal, talk about these questions, pray on these questions, contemplate these questions, dance them. Use whatever way feels right to you to uncover your true priorities.
Narrow these priorities down for the moment to five. The clearer you are, the easier it is to say no to other things.
Now that you know what’s most important, create routines that remind you of your priorities. Do you want to spend time with God, exercise, get yourself started thinking positively? Those are great things to put in a morning routine. Do you want to journal, play with the kids or set yourself up for a great tomorrow? Put those actions into an evening routine. Then write these routines down and post them where you will see them or have your phone send you reminders.
As you go throughout your day, pause before reacting. Be intentional with what you say and how you act. Are you responding in a way that connects with your values? Are you doing the right thing? Pause between activities to see what is really needed next instead of rushing to the next thing on the list. Add pauses in your day to think about things, to reflect on the day, to notice. (Red lights, waiting time instead of playing with your phone, in the shower.) Decide things based on your priorities instead of allowing life to make the decisions for you. You can put a reminder in your phone or computer to pause throughout the day until it gets habitual.
Set up your environment to help you with your intentions. Clean out the fridge and set out your exercise clothes if health is one of your main priorities. Get in a mastermind if one of your priorities is to start your own business. If connection is important to you, put in your calendar to set up dates with your friends and family. What are your priorities? How can you create an environment that will make them easier?
Plan. Plan weekly to see if there is anything you can do to make things go smoother, so you are putting out less fires. Look at your calendar and see if you are currently living your priorities. Plan monthly so you can include things that are important to you like 1:1 time with the kids, exercise classes, remembering birthdays, or saving up for vacation. Plan seasonally – what seasonal activities don’t you want to miss this year? And is it time to update your 5 priorities? Put your planning time into your calendar.
Watch doing a bunch of things at once. Your mind will be in a million directions and it’s difficult to be intentional without that focus. Close down the iPad while watching TV. Put the phone down when you are with others. Close your tabs on your computer so you can concentrate. Turn off the email ping. Don’t have 10 projects going at the same time. Start with 20 minutes focusing on one activity then see if you can focus longer.
Of course events will get you off track and things may not always go as planned. And you will still be closer to living the life you want when you live intentionally instead of floating.
If you aren’t intentional with your life, your life will flow by other’s demands, the day to day details, and stuff instead of what is important to you. You have to plan and decide because no one can do that for you. But, it’s more fulfilling to live in a life you designed.