For a long time, I went to work every day, busted my ass for eight hours, and came home to eat dinner and crash on the couch. I told myself I was doing the right thing, climbing the ladder for the life I wanted. But the life I really wanted–the one of balance, ease, and calm–wasn’t at the top of that ladder. It wasn’t until I found intentional living, the practice of living in alignment with your values, that I broke that cycle and stepped off the ladder.
Here’s how to practice intentional living in your own life and start living in alignment with what matters most.
What Is Intentional Living?
The average person makes over 35,000 decisions a day, how many of those do you really take the time to consider? At its core, intentional living means making real, intentional decisions to live in the moment, practice mindfulness, and create the life you want. It means making decisions every single day about how you want to spend your time.
Intentional living can incorporate a lot of different practices, like mindfulness and slow living. But it can look totally different from one person to the next! That’s because the basis of intentional living is your unique set of values and desires. Every decision you make is guided by those values.
Benefits of Intentional Living
Living in alignment with your values is amazing for your body and mind. A study in 2021 proved that making value-based decisions every day can lead to less stress and a greater sense of fulfillment. Plus, who doesn’t get a sense of satisfaction and empowerment from taking back control of their own life?
How to Define Your Values & Desires
The first step to living intentionally is defining what you want and need in life. Grab your journal, settle in, and work through these questions:
“What do I want my daily routine look like?” Maybe you love getting up early and hitting the gym before the sun rises. Or maybe you’re more of an 8am wakeup type of person and don’t want to log in to work until 10. Write down your ideal daily schedule. Don’t think about whether or not it’s possible for you right now. Dream big!
“How do I want to spend my free time?” Outside of work, how would you ideally spend your time? Consider your wellness routine, self care practices, hobbies, and interests. Maybe you wish you hiked more or spent more time with friends. Maybe you need more alone time to focus on hobbies you’ve neglected. Imagine your ideal free weekend, and write it down.
“What are my long-term goals?” I know it’s daunting to picture your life in 20, 30, or 40 years, but try your best! Do you want to start a family? Retire early? Move to the country? The decisions you make today can get you closer to that future.
“How do I prioritize the different parts of my life?” Not everyone values the same things to the same degree. Write out all the different facets of your life–your career, romantic relationship, friendships, family, hobbies, wellness, and so on–and decide which are most important to you. Once you understand this, you can easily make decisions to prioritize one over the other.
This exercise isn’t easy, and your answers might change over time. Check in with yourself every once in a while to make sure you’re still living in alignment.
Practical Ways to Practice Intentional Living
Once you’re clear on your values, start living in alignment with them. Here are some practical ways to start living with intention.
In Your Personal Life…
… like your hobbies, relationships, and free time.
1. Use devices to better your life.
It’s no secret that too much time on your phone or computer is bad for you. Instead of reaching for your phone without thinking, ask yourself, “Why do I use this device/app/program?” How is it adding value to your life? How does it align with your goals? If you value reading over scrolling TikTok, delete the app and reach for a book instead. If you value communicating with family, call your mom instead of opening Twitter for the fourteenth time today. When you start making decisions instead of using your devices blindly, you take back control of your time.
2. Spend distraction-free time with the people you love.
How many Sunday brunches have you spent with your phone in your hand? I know it’s tempting to pick up your phone when the conversation dies off, so put it away! Make real, intentional time for the people you care about. Have deep conversations. Set aside time to build those relationships. If these people are important to you and you value your time with them, prioritize these relationships.
3. Make time for hobbies that don’t make you money.
There’s so much pressure these days to turn every hobby into a side-hustle. But the second you turn a hobby into a business, you pile on the pressure to get better, work faster, and make money. Give yourself hobbies that you have no intention of making money from. Knit, draw, ride horses, garden–do it for the joy of it, and embrace being mediocre! Chances are, you’ll love your hobbies more for it.
In Your Wellness Routine…
… like your diet, exercise, and self care.
1. Avoid trends and stick with what feels good.
Intentional living means doing things because you want or need to, not because you feel like you should. Avoid trendy wellness practices and focus instead on what feels good. Instead of doing three HIIT classes a week because your trainer pressured you into them, go for a run in the park or try rock climbing. If yoga makes you want to fall asleep, try something more intense. Exercise isn’t always easy, but it should make you feel good physically and emotionally (even if that good feeling doesn’t set in until afterwards!).
2. Schedule self care into your calendar.
The easiest way to ensure you skip your self care routine is not setting aside time for it. Block off time for your self care routine every single day. Maybe you read a book on the patio for an hour or attend a yoga class. Maybe you do a five-minute breathing exercise a few times a day. Whatever self care looks like to you, make the decision to include it in your daily routine.
3. Practice intentional rest.
Are you the kind of person who just sleeps where they drop, even if that’s on the couch or at your desk? This isn’t intentional rest, and it doesn’t even break the surface of the seven kinds of rest your body and mind need. Make a real effort to rest intentionally. Create a wind-down routine for the evening, block off time for restful activities during the day, and most importantly listen to your body. It will tell you what kind of rest it needs!
In Your Career…
… like your job, business, or finances.
1. Create a budget based on your values.
Finances bros will try to tell you how to spend your hard-earned money, but I say you should spend and save according to your values. If you value travel, save money for your next trip. If you value exercise, invest in a gym membership. Whatever your values, keep them top-of-mind when making your spending and saving decisions.
2. Only take on clients that align with your values.
If you own your own business, you’re in total control of the work you take on. I know it’s hard to turn away paying customers, but when you’re doing work that goes against what you believe in, it can be soul-sucking. Before you sign a new client, consider whether you believe in them, their work, and their vision. If you don’t, let them go to make room for more aligned work.
3. Prioritize balance.
It’s so easy to get caught up in climbing the ladder of success and forget what you’re actually working for. Whatever your long-term goals, keep them in mind when taking on extra work, answering emails off the clock, or working unpaid overtime. Does that kind of work-life balance (or lack thereof) align with your values? Is this how you want to spend your days? If not, make adjustments to create more time-freedom and balance in your life and work.
Live your life your way.
What if you could live every day in alignment with your goals and dreams? What if you could make space for the things that matter most? Let’s clear away the clutter and learn to live with deep intention. Sign up to my free class “3 Steps to Avoid Burnout & Create More Intentionality in Your Life and Business” to help get you there.