Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By Quinn Nystrom

I used to view the phrase “intentional living” as one of those trendy sayings that was almost as overused as “authenticity” or “going next level.”

Now, as the months keep zipping by and yet another New Year is on the horizon, I recognize that I have reached a new point of wisdom in my life. And I “get” what being intentional really means.

To me, “Being Intentional to the Fullest” is about stepping out of habits that no longer serve me to refocusing on ones that will bring me happiness and fulfillment. It’s also about discovering that simplicity is way more fulfilling than the “more, more, MORE” mentality that rules society.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that those who are seeking a more intentional way of living have to give up their secure job with health benefits, forgo all technology, and opt to live in a tree house or yurt (but you can if you really want to. No judgement).

What making this shift is about is making small changes in both perception and action to bring more meaning to your life. Living purposefully is about clearing the clutter (mental and otherwise) to hone in on what you value, what’s working right now, what has meaning in your life and what doesn’t.

Intentional Living Defined:

Another way to frame the idea of intentional living is to look at it as a means of taking control, act with intent, and take a more active role in your life. When humans sink into functioning on autopilot and choose to live day to day without intention and purpose, life inevitably passes us by. Honestly, it’s like being in a rudderless boat that just drifts along to “wherever.” Even worse, we let the things and people around us control us because we aren’t aware of what we are missing because we aren’t paying attention.

When people start to become more intentional in what they do, they take back that control. They become the masters of their destiny again, and it’s a very empowering feeling. It’s also one of the big reasons why living with intention increases self-confidence and happiness.

How to Get There:

#1- Get Clear on your Long-Term Goals: For example, if you have a goal of moving to a bigger apartment or even buying a home, saving your money is critical. But what if you saw a to-die-for pair of shoes that are out of your budget, but you just have to have them! Being intentional and clear about your long-term goals is what will help you delay instant gratification and make the right choice for yourself in the long run. Sure, that pair of shoes would be nice to own, but being able to buy the house of your dreams is a whole lot nicer.

#2- Think Before You Act: This one aligns perfectly with the shoe shopping example above. I’ve heard intentional living also called the “look before you leap” way of thinking, and that habit will help avoid the routines and patterns that keep derailing us from our dreams and goals. Before you do something that you want to be more intentional about (like spending money that is earmarked for a big goal), stop and think it through.

#3- Have Honest Conversations with Yourself: If your life isn’t going as planned, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself ASAP:

  • Life is really the pits right now. Why is that? How can I change that?
  • If I do this/buy this/make this choice/allow this person to treat me like this, will it get me closer to my goal? Or farther away?
  • Does this option align with my master plan for my life?
  • If I say “yes” to this, is it the best use of my time and energy?

The more you think about some of your impulse-y habits, the better you’ll be able to formulate and implement your intentions. Taking back the control of informed and deliberate decisions is an awesome way to live with intention and purpose.

#4-Start Small and Avoid Overwhelming Feelings: You don’t have to change everything at once. Not every little thing you do has to be intentional or serve some more important purpose. And please don’t get overwhelmed to the point where you don’t even start.

Yes, it’s good to have big goals. Yes, it’s great that you’re feeling ambitious and want to change the world. Just realize that it doesn’t have to be today. Today, focus on one small change, one improvement you can make

While there is no magic pill, there are plenty of simple tweaks and changes you can make that will improve your quality of life and that of those around you. Make no mistake, shifting your thinking and lifestyle to one that is more present, thoughtful and intentional is hard work. But oh-so worth it!

In closing, I’d like to encourage everyone to use the suggestions above to look at life with fresh eyes. Use this mindset to live your life to the fullest and make every minute count. There is nothing better or more important than a life lived well, and though it sounds like a lofty goal, it’s something that is well within reach for all of us.

“All that counts in life is intention.” – Andrea Bocelli