There is a difference between living and living an intentional life.
No, seriously, everybody lives. Unless you’ve been in a serious accident and are fighting for every breath you take, living is not something you actually have to think about. It simply happens, usually when you aren’t paying attention. In fact, one day you look up and realize that half your life has gone by and wonder where the devil it’s gone. It was just here for pity’s sakes.
Suddenly you realize that you’ve slipped so far into routine that you’re drowning in it. For whatever reason your life has become mundane – each day just like the one before, and it doesn’t matter how good your life actually is. It doesn’t matter how nice your house is, or your car. It doesn’t matter how much (or how little) money you have in the bank – your life is being lived – you’re not living an intentional life. So, what is the difference? What does it mean to live intentionally?
What is Intentional Living?
Intentional living is not about turning your life upside down. It is not even about manifesting change in your life. Intentional living is about being here – now; it is about doing everything you do with complete and total awareness of what it is that you are doing and why it is that you are doing it.
From eating your breakfast to sitting through that aptly named board meeting; from playing Frisbee with your kids to walking the dog; you need to pay attention to what it is that you are doing. You need to use your mastery of everyday mindfulness to pay attention to what is happening in your life and to be totally in the moment as you do it; paying attention to all the details and being open to all the nuances. And yes, I’ll tell you right now, it’s harder than it seems.
You see, we have this sense of urgency that surrounds everything that we do. I’m sure you’ve noticed it. When you are doing something mundane or boring your mind tends to either shut off or to race ahead to what needs to be done next or sometimes berate us over past mistakes and things that we could have done better. Very rarely are we actually fully in the moment. Well, it’s time to change all of that.
Living the Intentional Life
Using your mastery of mindfulness to pay attention to what is happening here and now, you’re going to make some interesting discoveries. You are going to find that there are things that are a part of your life that no longer serve you. You may have gone years – or even decades without realizing what you were doing; the time you were wasting on something that you really have absolutely no interest in whatsoever; things in your life that are just taking up space.
So, why are you still doing them? Why have you kept them all these years? What is keeping you from letting go of those things that no longer serve you so that you can make room in your life for something that actually makes a difference? Yes, I’m sure that if you think hard enough you can find a reason to keep them in your life. But is it worth it? Is the time, effort and energy that you spend on them worth what is given back to you in the satisfaction of possession or in the completion of the action itself? If you were fully present every time you did this – used this – would you still want it in your life?
And it won’t just be physical objects or routines that you find cluttering up your life. You’re going to run into friendships, acquaintances, even romantic relationships that are called into question, especially if – once you start actually paying attention to them – you find that neither of you is getting anything out of it; or if the relationship is unbalanced. Just like physical objects and everyday routines, sometimes there are relationships that have run their course; that we hold onto out of habit, but that would serve everyone better if we simply let them go.
But it isn’t just about getting rid of the excess; of the mundane; of those things that no longer serve you or that have run their course. Living intentionally is also about coming to a realization of those things that you are missing; those things that you really want to be a part of your life but didn’t realize were missing until you started paying attention to what you actually had. Only once you realize what it is that you really want can you go about taking the necessary steps to bring it into your life.
So go ahead – start today! Start paying attention to the life that you are living. Start living your life intentionally. Stop living on autopilot; never fully engaged in what it is that you are doing, and start putting a part of yourself; a part of your energy; into everything that you do. Start being fully present in every relationship you are a part of and not just because you have to; not just because you feel obligated; but because you want to; because at that particular moment in time there is nothing you would rather be doing, for in the end that is the only way to really be alive.