My purpose for embracing minimalism was to live with intention, and I thought that once I got rid of all the excess I simply would live with intention.
If I close my eyes and think about what I imagined “living with intention” to be, I pictured a mom baking bread with her perfectly behaved children as they had in-depth conversations that led to the children being well-rounded, caring adults.
I’ve since come to realize that though those are good things to do- that’s not what living with intention looks like on a daily basis.
So what is “Living with Intention”?
In trying to define it for me, I have come to view living intentionally this way:
It means taking responsibility for what is going on in my life and taking the steps to go in their direction I want to go.
We have the “response – ability.”
We don’t have to be the victim and allow life to happen TO us.
We have the ability to respond in a way that we choose.
Everyone has difficult things in life. It’s part of this world – I believe the world is broken and because of that, things happen that make life extremely challenging.
In thinking of my personal life, I had abuse, low-income, single parenting, health issues, excessive amounts of stuff, messy habits, and many other things. I could either allow those difficult things to direct my life, or I could take intentional steps to thrive regardless of them.
It meant setting boundaries, sticking to a budget, being consistent with my parenting, learning to eat healthily, getting rid of excess, changing habits.
Those were not easy things.
But the steps to change them were intentional.
I wanted to be present
It is an intentional choice to put the phone down, look into the eyes of the person who is talking to you, and truly listen.
If I truly wanted to “be present” I had to pay attention to what my children were saying, what things they were dealing with at school, and what my husband is interested in.
And you know what I found? I didn’t really want to be present.
I wanted to benefit from it– I wanted my kids to talk about how their mom listened to them when they were growing up. I wanted my husband to feel loved and cherished.
But I didn’t want to listen to them go on and on about the newest video game, fantasy book, or about the dream they had last night that was taking them 11 minutes to describe to me.
Living intentionally is doing the things I don’t actually want to do.
In another post I wrote about what living with purpose actually looks like, I said it was dying to self and I still stand by that.
I am a selfish person. Everything I do comes back to how it benefits me:
I feed my children, not out of love, but because I don’t want to hear them whine about being hungry. I feed them consistently at 7 am, 11 am, 3 pm and 6:30 pm because if they know when to expect food, I don’t have to hear “I’m hungry, what can I eat?”
And you know what? It’s that way with everything in my life.
If I were to live the way that feels good to me? I would play video games, drink a lot of coffee and wine, eat dessert instead of dinner, and let my kids watch TV and play video games all day.
It takes serious intention to do otherwise.
It takes me not letting myself do the things that I feel like doing, but do the things that I would regret not doing.
Ok, now that I’ve ranted about what it means to live with intention, here are 4 exercises to help:
- Learn to sit. It might seem silly, but we’re a busy culture. And we’re usually uncomfortable with our own thoughts. We fill our time with entertainment – streaming shows, watching movies, YouTube, TikTok. We scroll through Reddit, Twitter, Insta, Pinterest, FB – and get caught up in convos. We have our music playlists, keep up to date with all our favorite musicians, and have Alexa play our “discover weekly” and our favorite podcasts. Which means we don’t actually allow our minds to be still. To let our thoughts wander. We don’t take time to listen to the birds, or watch the leaves flutter in the breeze. If we do, we tend to think about things- issues that we need to deal with, emotions that we’ve been stuffing down, feelings that we haven’t let ourselves feel, or actions that we haven’t taken responsibility for and we don’t want to face all that that entails.
- Journal about your goals and what you need to do to get there. When I’ve been stuck with decluttering, journaling helped me work through why I was keeping things- and most of the time I discovered it was out of fear- fear of being without, fear of upsetting someone else, fear of going against the cultural “norm.” It was through writing that I learned what was holding me back and then I was able to write out what I actually would need to do to let things go. Seeing it on paper gave me clarity and helped me resolve to take control- the ability to respond.
- Schedule media-free times/days. Most of us want to make it a priority to read, go for walks, enjoy nature, have conversations with people we love and care about. But the habit of turning on Netflix after dinner is so ingrained, it’s hard to change! So plan it out. Make it a point to have times during the day or the week, when you completely unplug.
- Change your priorities. I remember hearing someone say when we say “we don’t have time,” we’re really saying it’s not a priority. For example, “I don’t have time to read.” What we’re really saying, is it’s not my priority to read. It hits harder when we think about relationships- “I’m so busy I just haven’t had time to call my mom this week.” The truth is, my mom isn’t a high priority in my life right now. But I want to value my relationship with my mother, so I’m going to set a reminder and call her on Saturday mornings. I want to be a person of prayer, so instead of always saying I don’t have time to pray or I should pray more, I’m going to block off some time to do it.