5 Small-But-Significant Ways Living With Intention Improved My Life
For the month of January, we’re exploring how to live with intention — how the small choices we make every day impact our lives and happiness in the long run. Click here to read more on this topic!
“Intention” is my official buzzword, and a concept I’m desperately trying to incorporate into every aspect of my life.
Act with intention. Speak with intention. Purchase…. with intention. Making the conscious choice to be present and fully appreciate the weight of even the simplest decisions has several benefits and I can’t recommend “intention” enough.
We live in an age of excess in personal branding. Social media has revolutionized the concept of making the ordinary into the extraordinary, as we all desperately try to compete in a world of perfectly-staged Instagram posts. But, oftentimes, the ordinary doesn’t feel extraordinary. It feels draining and boring and, I don’t know about you, but I would find myself looking at my peers and thinking, Am I doing this wrong? This whole “life” thing?
As young adults, we’re finding that adulthood is a baptism by fire and every happy hour with friends also comes with long hours at work or a grueling degree program and the brave new world of terrifying responsibilities (like bills…*shudders*). Adult life is not glamorous. Sex and the City really let us down. But I would challenge you to try to live every moment of the ordinary with intention, and just see what change happens in your life.
For me, living with intention started with a reading list. A few years ago, I had the shocking realization that I, an avid reader, had not touched any books in 2016 that weren’t either thesis research materials or law books. I had really been feeling the weight of depression, had experienced a lot of “grown up” changes, and I knew that just promising myself one pleasure book a month would make a huge difference in my life. Shortly after that, I joined a little online community for those of us obsessed with planners, journals, and lists, and came across the concept of “seasonal living.” I so admired how many of the girls in the group made small little rituals out of every changing month/season, and it just gave their life a little bit of extra spice. It was so easy, but also did so much. Here’s how I have used living with intention to really make the most out of a perfectly ordinary life.
1. I’ve realized that having goals (even tiny ones) is good.
Every month, I draft a list of about thirty items as my monthly intentions. The list consists of a few mainstays that appear in every monthly list, but mostly it changes, and I give every new month a new set of goals. The aim is never to completely finish the list (but if I do, I consider it an even greater accomplishment). These monthly intentions include everything from quirky holidays to health goals to necessary household chores to things that are strictly for the good of the soul. Making lists and working through them is already a very soothing exercise for a cluttered mind, but setting many small, achievable goals is an excellent foundation for a greater overall lifestyle. It feels good to achieve.
2. It makes my health a focal point.
The gym is my enemy. Not just because I’m a lazy lump with the build of a beluga whale, but because the gym is a “suck.” A time suck. A money suck. Living in Los Angeles, where the traffic is bad and the gym memberships basically confiscate your wallet at the door, my health and fitness was the first thing to fall to the wayside as I readjusted to my new adult life. I’ve since found new and more effective ways to get in that oh-so-necessary workout, but we all experience ruts.
Every month, I set aside small goals for my physical and mental health. I promise myself a meditation on the beach to get a break from that quiet corner of my bedroom. I challenge myself to make a seasonal vegetable spiral tart, because the only thing stronger than my dislike of veggies is my obsession with aesthetics. I set a new time goal for cardio, or make the time to take a dance class.
3. I keep in touch with my hobbies and remember to treat myself.
As I touched on earlier, work/life balance really is a balance, and sometimes “grown-ass person” life has a way of pushing aside the little things that we love to make room for all that ambition and responsibility. It’s amazing to take a step back and look at the things you have lost to be being busy and tired. Do you read as much as you’d like? Do you still make art? Do you still write poetry in your journal? Do you still catch a movie from time to time? If the answer to any of these questions is “*sigh* No”, then you are not caring for yourself the way you deserve to be. When I first started my monthly intention lists, the first thing I added back in was a monthly makeup challenge. I used to love crafting bold makeup looks, and I just didn’t do it anymore, as there is no call for it in my current everyday life. But it didn’t cost me anything and packed the double whammy of bringing a little bit of fun and creativity back into my life, while also making me feel fierce and stunning.
Additionally, when you’re too busy being efficient and productive and thrifty, you sometimes forget the little joy of giving yourself a present. Once I could not fill my list up to thirty items, and just phoned it in by writing down “take a nap.” Let me tell you, it felt so good to look at my list and know that I had a guaranteed “nap appointment” in the books, should I choose to take it. Other months I have allowed myself a splurge on that little item I’ve been swooning over. A big part of intention is seeing to it that you use some of that intention to treat yourself. You deserve it.
4. It helps me live in the moment.
Did you know that September is Fall Hat Month? Or that September 5th is Be Late For Something Day? You’d be amazed at all the quirky monthly holidays that exist, and that’s after you appreciate that refreshed feeling that comes with the change of a season or the excitement of a favorite major holiday coming up. There are tons of opportunities to take any regular old day and add just a sparkle of childlike excitement that makes life a little more fun. You know that iconic Ferris Bueller line? Yeah, it works like that.
5. I account for the necessary things.
To be honest, all fun and fitness aside, the most useful aspect of my living with intention challenge is the fact that it forces me to take stock of what needs to be done. Managing a household is important, and can also easily get away from you. Every month, I’m forced to ask whether it’s time I clean out the closet, or if need to restock on office supplies. These things would normally go on a typical to-do list, but making the big important chores a part of your personal promise for a better you seems to give them a little more significance and, in turn, gives you a little more personal satisfaction and power upon completion.
I’ve never considered myself “the girl who has it all together” and, even at a point where I know I’ve made improvements, I still get insecure and down on myself and convinced that I don’t have much going for me. But when I cross something off my intentions list, I get a full picture of a person who regularly organizes her closet and does yoga every morning, who has a life full of odd celebrations and hobbies. It’s empowering to find the magic in the simple things, and no intention is too small. Your life, your ritual, and your accomplishments are worth it, and deserving of your full focus and intention!
(This post was originally published August 2017 and has since been updated)
Caitlin is a coffee shop haunt who splits her time between Los Angeles, CA and Austin, TX. When she’s not writing, Caitlin enjoys movies, yoga, and indulging her INTJ/Capricorn bend with research on her many academic passions.
Image via Unsplash