Living intentionally is more than just a trend. Being intentional with your actions, words, and lifestyle can help you get off autopilot and work towards achieving your goals.
Daily life is full of tasks, and work-life balance is hard to keep up. Living intentionally can help you take time for yourself and avoid the types of stressors that set you off. Think about your actions and how they’ll affect your well-being — and the well-being of others around you.
Over 50% of employees say they have a moderate stress level, and this number rose between 2016 and 2020. Being intentional is one way to mitigate that stress. No matter what life stage you’re at, approaching tasks and decisions with intention is a great way to be more present and build a life that you feel proud of.
If you want to become more intentional as part of your self-improvement journey, here’s what you need to know.
What does it mean to be intentional?
Intentional choices are deliberate and purposeful decisions. Living intentionally means thinking ahead and making choices based on your values, beliefs, and goals. People who live with intention try not to act on impulse, but instead, think ahead and choose things that affect their lives positively.
To start living an intentional life, you need a clear understanding of your purpose and passions. Then you can set goals to guide your choices. These could include anything that affects your life positively: improving your relationships, working on your financial wellness, or getting the promotion you’ve been working toward.
Being intentional could also mean writing in a journal instead of scrolling on your phone, or choosing to move to a new city when the old one stops feeling like home. Intentionality looks different to everyone, and it’s up to you to set your goals and decide what’s important to you.
It’s impossible to be intentional and make the right decisions every time, but putting in the effort can get you on the right track. Making intentional choices helps you build good habits and find your purpose.
Why is being intentional important?
Making intentional choices can improve mental fitness and help you surround yourself with the things that matter to you.
Living intentionally can also:
- Reduce stress: Making value-based decisions can help improve well-being. When your decisions focus on goals, you’ll get closer to achieving them — and usually, that means avoiding the things that stress you out.
- Boost resilience: One study showed that when college students practiced intentional decision-making, they experienced increased levels of resilience.
- Improve focus: Being intentional means making actions that matter to you, and removing distractions from your life — like people with toxic traits — can help you focus. Clear your mind and concentrate on the people and things that are truly important to you.
- Become more present: Intentional decisions center on what’s happening in your life right now and how you want to improve it, instead of worrying about what-ifs.
- Encourage optimism: Being intentional also means focusing on the good things you already have. Practicing gratitude can help you develop a positive perspective and build hope for the future.
- Set healthy boundaries: An intentional mindset helps you to say no to people and situations that drain your energy. When you protect your energy, you choose experiences that bring you joy and comfort.
Skills for intentional living
Being intentional in your daily life requires consistent effort. Making intentional actions a habit is easier said than done, but those little decisions will add up. Here are some skills to focus on for an intentional lifestyle.
- Goal setting: Knowing how to define your goals sets you up for success. SMART goals — which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely — are a great way to stay on track.Visualize the path you want to take, write down your goals, and set a timeline. Studies have shown that people who commit their goals to paper are 42% more likely to succeed.
- Self-awareness: Examine your behavior to see whether your actions match your core values and priorities. Self-reflection techniques can help you develop the insight you need to get in touch with your emotions and decisions.
- Gratitude: When you’re grateful for the things you have, you can better recognize and later prioritize them. Setting up a regular gratitude practice is a good way to start.
- Organization: Tidying your space and scheduling your time intentionally leads to a more purposeful day-to-day routine. Staying organized boosts concentration and helps you get more done to reach your goals.
- Determination: Building an intentional life can be challenging, and everybody makes mistakes. Determination and resilience are important skills on the path to intentional living — especially when things don’t go your way.
10 ways to be more intentional
Challenge yourself to incorporate one or two intention-building habits into your schedule. Even small steps can improve your life. Here are a few simple ways to learn how to be intentional and create practices that help you reach your goals.
1. Set measurable goals
Knowing your values and setting clear goals based on those values will help you live more intentionally. If you want to become more generous, find ways to involve generosity in your daily choices, and set measurable intentions. Try doing at least one generous thing every day or for a different person in your life every week.
Think about times you’ve been generous in the past: being there for an upset friend, volunteering your time on the weekends, or donating money to charity. Reflecting on these events visualizes your progress and gives you an idea of how to improve.
2. Establish a daily routine
Create consistent, intentional morning and evening routines to bookend your day. Intentional habits that structure your day around your goals will move you closer to them. If one of your priorities is to develop healthier eating habits, you could prepare a healthy breakfast before getting ready for bed.
Making this part of your routine matches your intention to eat healthy. Plus, you don’t have to worry about making breakfast in the morning and can instead focus on another intentional action, like practicing gratitude or exercising.
3. Strengthen your relationships
Finding time to invest in your most important relationships can be tricky when you’re feeling overwhelmed with day-to-day living. But strong, healthy connections with supportive people are a great way to stay accountable and feel encouraged when it comes to intentional living.
Spend time with the family and friends who support you, and distance yourself from the people who stress you out.
4. Make a vision board
Creating a visual representation of your goals reminds you of what you’re working toward. Build a vision board that focuses on your goals, whether they’re career-related, financial, or extracurricular.
Add images and quotations that match to remind you what you’re working toward and why. Even a sticky note on your mirror can be enough to remind you.
5. Declutter your space
Think about the items that populate the spaces you use the most, like your office or bedroom. If they don’t add value, pass them along to friends or donate them to charity. You’ll free up space for things that make you happy.
The knick-knacks on your desk might look nice, but they could distract you from being intentional at work and entering a good flow state.
6. Make deliberate spending choices
It can be fun and exciting to buy new things, but spending too much can drain your finances and clutter your home. Instead, spend money on items and experiences that match your values.
If you’re focused on improving your office space, treat yourself to a better desk chair instead of new clothes you’ll never wear. This will improve your financial wellness and let you spend on what really matters.
7. Don’t waste time
It’s easy to stretch yourself thin. There are only 24 hours in the day, so use them wisely, and remember to take time for yourself. Try not to say “yes” to things that don’t serve you and your goals. If you’re tired and want to prioritize rest, it’s okay to say no to a late-night party.
Spend your limited time on the things that matter most to you: your relationships, goals, and priorities.
8. Monitor your mental health
Be aware of your emotions and state of mind. Automatic thoughts and feelings shouldn’t be ignored or repressed. They’re a sign that something is out of balance, and you need to address that.
If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try to find the root of the problem and seek help if you need to.
9. Focus on yourself
Your life is your own, and your opinion is the most important one. Try not to worry about disappointing others or what people think. It’s okay to ask friends, family, and mentors for advice. But if you’re too worried about their words, or their opinions taking you further from what matters, refocus.
Remind yourself that your needs and goals take priority.
10. Stay positive
You can’t make lasting changes if you’re always thinking in the negative. Change your mindset and start looking for the positives. Even if you made a mistake, you learned something from it, which is a good thing. You don’t have to be happy all the time — nobody is.
But even when facing challenging times, a positive mental attitude can make a difference, especially when it comes to intentional living.
Start living intentionally
Being intentional every day takes practice. Keep your end goals at the forefront of everything you do, from making breakfast in the morning to accepting a job offer. The more you make intentional decisions, the easier it becomes.
It’s never too late to focus on the actions that matter to you. Start small and build up from there, Tidy up your office, replace an old appliance, or do a digital detox — whatever it takes to focus your energy and place yourself on a path that excites you.