Creating An Intentional Lifestyle - What Does It Mean, And Where Do I Start?
What does it mean to have an intentional lifestyle?
The word intend is defined as, “to have in mind a purpose or goal”, or “to design for a specified use or future”.
Essentially, when translated in terms of lifestyle, this practice means actively stepping back and designing your ideal future down to the specifics, then taking resolute action to work towards that goal by changing your everyday thoughts, decisions and habits.
Utilizing this method of working backwards from your desired endpoint will bring you to your ideal life much more quickly than simply reacting to what happens as you go.
The metaphor I love here is that of a map; taking the time to get directions for your ideal life means you won’t have to make decisions blindly at each fork in the road, crossing your fingers that where you end up is nice, wasting energy looking around hoping you’re going the right way, and asking random passersby for directions out of desperation.
When we have a clear, tangible goal we’re working towards, even if our next turn feels uncomfortable or is a temporary sacrifice, we can still move confidently in the direction of our dreams because we’re on the right route and excited about what’s to come. Having our intended outcome in mind also helps to refocus each of the thousands of little decisions that make up our habits, which are the foundations of lasting change.
So where do we start? To begin designing your best life, I recommend creating space to dream. Do whatever gets you excited – whether you know a long walk gets your creative juices flowing or Pinterest makes you giddy – then in a time and place you won’t be distracted, write out what your ideal life looks like. If you need a starting point, work through how you envision each of the following categories;
My personal belief is that to accurately construct a sustainable dream lifestyle, you have to be just crazy enough, but not completely nuts. By that I mean that for this to work, you cannot be harboring limiting beliefs during this exercise, (“I don’t deserve…”, “That will never happen for me…”, “I’m not qualified…”, “But I just can’t…”), but you also shouldn’t be pinning everything on winning the lotto or relying on someone else to do the work to create this life for you. For more on getting your mindset healthy, I highly recommend the You Are A Badass books by Jen Sincero.
So you’re inspired and sit down to design this ideal life and let your mind go wherever it wants, and as you close your eyes you start thinking about what a day in your dream life looks like. As you think about the specifics and you’re moving through your ideal day, you realize you’re picturing running a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. You’re smiling from ear to ear thinking of all of the people you’ll help, the natural beauty that would surround you every day and you can just taste the fresh mango, but then your inner critic pipes up and says that’s ridiculous because you have two kids and a mortgage. If (when?) this happens I beg you not to completely shut down your dream.
Whatever your no-holds barred dream life looks like, do yourself a favor and quiet your inner critic long enough to look back at the categories that make up your life in this scenario – in this life are most of them operating at their highest function? Would you be happy mentally because you feel you’re honoring your true self? Would you morally satisfied because you’re helping others, physically fit from all the yoga, professionally and socially fulfilled, and spiritually connected? If all of these other categories are optimized, but you know that you’d be financially challenged and you’d have no romantic life because your husband is absolutely not on board, then that’s something to think through.
We all have a hierarchy of personal priorities we have to honor because if we don’t, we won’t feel balanced no matter what else is awesome in our life. If you’re crazy in love with your tropics-hating hubby, value the stability you’ve built for your children and the prospect of running the financials around a business makes you sick to your stomach, maybe the Costa Rican yoga retreat isn’t for you.
Should your initial vision for your dream life prove to be something that throws critical elements you value off-balance, that doesn’t mean the exercise was in vein. Whatever your ideal life looked like, list out why you’d be happy in that scenario for each category (how are you being fulfilled) and then try to create a similar lifestyle that works with all of your non-negotiables. For instance, if you like the yoga idea because it works for you in multiple categories, maybe you can open a studio closer to home, or teach at someone else’s studio. Work towards whatever life will make you the happiest in all of the areas of your life, even if it would require you to push out of your comfort zone - life really is too short not to just go for it.
Once you have a clear picture of what your most amazing life looks like, and you’re absolutely tickled about the prospect of it being yours, it’s time to look at how to get there. This is very specific to your current situation and vision, but a tip here is to go through an ideal day/ week in your life, see what that means for each category and work backwards.
For instance, if you know you want a nanny to get your kids from school, oversee homework and make dinner so you can work a little longer and just relax and connect when you get home, how much do you need to make financially for that to work? Decide on the lifestyle you want, add up the costs, and work backwards to see how much money you need to make to make that happen.
After you work through setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive) goals for each category, break those goals down into habits. If your financial goal is to be able to afford the nanny, and you know you need to make 20% more to afford that, how do you develop yourself into a resource that’s worth that amount? If for example, you decide the answer is an additional certification, create a habit of studying for it twenty minutes a day.
The best way I’ve found to change your habits is by starting small. Anyone who has tried a diet or made a crazy New Year’s resolution knows that if you go 100% out of the gate, new habits don’t typically stick. The trick here is to do the thing that takes the least amount of effort and will give you the biggest reward. In Rachel Hollis’s book Girl, Wash Your Face she explains that if you are trying to create a new habit, you’ll most likely revert to whatever you did the last time you were faced with the same challenge. For instance, if your goal is to study twenty minutes a day, but last yesterday you got a flat tire and blew it off, you’ll likely blow it off again. Start small with something you can definitely do to train yourself you can make new habits you’ll stick to. Whether it’s drinking a full glass of water every morning, making your bed, or reading just five minutes every day – it’s the small wins that give us the momentum and determination to work towards those harder habits.
That being said, there are ways to set yourself up for success and encourage the habits you’re trying to create. Once you know what habits you’re working towards, carve out space in your life for them. For instance, if you’ve decided to read five minutes a day – set an alarm or reminder on your phone. Set up a cozy corner in your home that makes you just want to curl up with a book, and pair the experience with something you find pleasure in (like your morning cup of coffee). The more intention you have around creating and practicing these new habits, the more likely they are to stick, and the faster you will get to that amazing dream life you’re creating for yourself.
Through pushing for these changes in your life, don’t forget to enjoy the process. Life is happening right now, so don’t forget to be present and grateful whenever possible for all the good around you! There’s no faster way to find bliss in this moment then taking time to be thankful.
If you’d like more ideas on ways to inspire yourself to stick with those healthy habits, subscribe to our email list! Every month we do one email with a freebie, and when you sign up this month we’ll send you five ways to promote healthy habits through curating your home.
Thank you for reading – here’s to making home (and life) happy.