10 Tips for Designing an Intentional Life
Purpose in 2021
In early 2021, I joined the Examined Life working group, a group of women working toward self-awareness and positive life change. This group encouraged me to take the first steps toward unraveling the person I wanted to become from the person others told me I should be. It’s tricky work. Before that working group, I’d never needed (or wanted, if I’m being honest) to confront the deeply ingrained external messages I’d allowed to take up residence in my mind and heart.
“Writing is a hobby, not something you do to make money.”
“Why did you cut your hair? Men like long hair.”
“Say yes to the opportunities offered to you. Yes, all of them.”
“Don’t burn yourself out, but also, you’re not working hard enough if you’re not working 15 hours a day.”
Carl Rogers would call these messages “conditions of worth.” Subconsciously, we allow the judgments and approvals of others to be part of our self-perception. And depending on how early in life these messages were introduced, it can sometimes feel as if they are our own messages and not the messages of others.
Throughout that working group, I could feel the raw emotion every time I stripped away the façade of another message that wasn’t truly my own. It felt like peeling off a band-aid slowly, allowing the glue to rip out every hair follicle in the most painful fashion.
The only thing that kept me going was the word I felt most anchored to throughout the process: purpose. It was my North Star – a reminder to keep moving in that direction no matter how painful. While I kept that word in my mind for months, every time I examined my life, I found it was filled with more chaos than purpose. And I could feel the weight of that stress dragging me under the metaphorical waves of my life.
My wedding approached, and my world was flooded with flower arrangements and dress fittings. While I wouldn’t give up any of those moments, I found myself eager to get back to the hard work of finding myself through the thickets and briars of problematic external messaging.
Intentionality in 2022
Toward the end of 2021, I found myself discussing the term “intentionality” with a close friend. We began weaving the word into our weekly goals, and it began to loosen something inside me. Two somethings, actually. The first is, “What if I fail?” and the second is, “Follow the money.”
As 2022 approached, I decided to start taking a closer look at my life. Not just my career and my business, but every aspect of my life. I realized that not only did I need to identify what I wanted to say “yes” to in my life, but that meant I would also need to identify things I would need to say “no” to.
It’s hard. Like really frickin’ hard.
Because sometimes I find that saying “no” might mean sacrificing something I once cataloged as important, like making more money. Saying “no” might mean that I’m missing out on an opportunity, and if you remember, I’m not so good at saying “no” to opportunities, especially in my writing life.
We are just under two weeks into the New Year, and I’m proud to say that I’ve said “no” to things an uncomfortable number of times. No, I’m not going to do this for half of what it’s worth. No, I’m not going to work on a project that doesn’t have meaning. Yet, in saying “no,” I felt my confidence begin to fill. I could hear the tiny voice of my self-worth thank me for recognizing her and honoring her.
I’ve also said “yes” a lot. Yes, I will prioritize my writing – even if it means I might fail. I’ve written almost 5,000 words toward personal writing projects in the past two weeks. Yes, I’m going to take on work that fills my soul. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve helped clients identify sources of inspiration, write pitches for funding, and write website copy to launch their new businesses. Yes, I’m going to clear my schedule tonight to spend more intentional time with my husband.
It’s the “yes’s” and “no’s” that make a difference and alter the course of our journeys, even if only by a degree. They are necessary, even if they are hard.
What is Intentionality
I recently watched an Elyse Myers Tik Tok video. (Side note: If you are not following her, you are 100% missing out.) In this video, she talks very honestly about the life she’s actively trying to build and how much she’s in love with her life right now. She reminds all her viewers that we only get ONE life, and she concludes by saying, “And I want to be present for all of it.”
This is intentionality. It’s placing your attention, thoughts, and actions purposefully toward things that matter. It’s not always easy, especially when temptations to falter from our intentionality lie around every corner. But it is necessary to help you build a life worth living.
Ways to be More Intentional
Intentionality begins and ends with your ability to be intentional with your thoughts and allow them to drive your actions. Here are a few tips for building a more intentional life:
1. Make decisions using your “North Star.”
Identify that one thing you want to work toward, whether that be a more purposeful or joyful life. When presented with a decision, ask yourself which choice will move you closer to this goal.
2. Know when it’s time to say “no.”
Nos are powerful. They often help us build confidence and trust in our ability to take control of our lives.
3. Distinguish between “have to’s” and “want to’s.”
Have to’s and want to’s can also be time-bound. You may have to check your emails eventually, but do you have to right now? Distinguishing between what you want to do and what you have to do can help you gain clarity on the things that truly matter to you.
4. Carve out “you time” for self-reflection.
Self-reflective time must be free from distractions. Some people rely on meditation or journaling practices, while others like to color or draw. Pick something that frees your mind and allows you to think clearly.
5. Ask yourself, “why?”
Why are you buying this item? Why are you procrastinating? Get curious about yourself and your decisions to build intentionality around your choices.
6. Eliminate distractions & be present.
Be thoughtful about the time you spend on social media and the impact it’s having on your life. Additionally, practice active and empathetic listening when engaging with others to help you build lasting and trusting relationships.
7. Honor your body and your mind.
If you’re tired, rest. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break or go for a walk. Listening to the needs of your mind and body and prioritizing your physical and mental health is crucial to building intentionality in your life.
8. Plan and schedule.
It’s one thing to say we will do something, and another to write it down. Writing down our intentions increases the likelihood that we will follow through.
9. Practice visualization techniques.
If there is something you want to achieve, visualize what it will take to get there and the impact it will have on your life when you do. The more detail you build around your visualization, such as what you do on the day the goal is complete, the more likely you will develop strategies for achieving that goal.
10. Be kind.
Kindness is an intentional choice, and it’s meant for you to exercise with yourself just as much as it is with others. Exercising kindness is a way to tap into the type of person you’re hoping to become.
What’s Your Word?
Intentionality is my word for 2022. It’s the word I’m going to think about every time I’m faced with a decision that has the power to change the trajectory of my year. But it’s also the word I’m going to anchor to in more minor decisions – like whether I eat chocolate or fruit. I won’t be perfect in this effort, nor do I expect perfection. But I do expect to see my life change—one decision at a time.
If you’re looking for more intentionality and want to see your life change, let’s talk!