The Life Changing Practice Of Intentional Living

the practice of intentional livingSometimes it feels as if adulthood is run by this huge secret everyone shares. The secret is that you’re supposed to bend to the systems in place, sacrifice what you love, and simply go through the motions. People think that’s the way it’s always been, so that’s how it has to be.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I’ve thought a lot about what makes me happy and doing more of that, then figuring out what makes me less happy and doing less of that. I’ve reconstructed my life to fit around what I love first, and let all the other minutia be secondary to my core values. I think this is a large part of what it means to live with intention.
ryan mitchell simple living expert

Living intentionally has quickly become important to my daily happiness. I spent 10 years in the corporate world feeling burnt out by my day-to-day work load and the pressures around me. When I was furloughed from my corporate career, it was the break that got me rethinking the way I was living. This is what led me to living a simpler life.

What Does It Mean To Live An Intentional Life?

What Does It Mean To Live An Intentional Life

Intentional living isn’t complex. It’s simple, but it’s the execution of the details that make it a challenging endeavor.

Living an intentional life simply means analyzing what lights you up and what makes you feel alive, at home, and happy. Picture yourself as a young child — what were the things you found enjoyable? Why did those things bring you joy? Now identify how those core values can exist as tangible habits in your daily life. It’s that easy.

choosing to live an intentional life

Beginning The Journey Of Intentional Living

Beginning The Journey Of Intentional Living

When I began my huge life change back in 2009, I started by writing down what was most important to me. Things that brought me happiness included reading, traveling, and spending quality time with those I love.

Identifying these values allowed me to understand that, for me, an intentional life would need to be locationally independent. It would also need to include gaps of free time for reading or spending time with my friends and family.

beginning the journeyThese realizations led me away from the corporate world and toward The Tiny Life. As the founder of my own company, I work on my own time table. I have the freedom to take breaks when I feel like I need them, carve out time to read and be with people I care about, and take days off when they make sense in my life, not when I have enough PTO saved up.

I also work remotely and live in a tiny house on wheels, which gives me the freedom to travel while I work or stay in one place for a long time, should I choose to.

In these ways, I have created a life that reflects my personal values instead of sacrificing the things I love to adapt to the way of the world.

I don’t say all this to flaunt my lifestyle or imply that I’m the pinnacle of living with intention. I still get caught up in the stress of the day to day, details of emails, meetings, and to-do lists!

I say this to explain that living an intentional life is possible. You can make money, find success, and work hard at something you care about without giving up the things you love and value most.

do not go gentle into that good night

Is Intentional Living A New idea?

Is Intentional Living A New idea

There have always been people inspired to push back on this idea that life should be lived on autopilot and that you have to jump through the hoops society has set out for you just because everyone else is doing it that way.

to live an intentional lifeMany schools of philosophy analyze what it means to live an intentional life: Essentialism, Stoicism, Minimalism — these are not new ideas. Aristotle created his own definition of an intentional life in his work Nicomachean Ethics, written over 2,300 ago.

The desire to create a valuable life is several millennia old. Yet we’re still talking about this idea today. I had the chance to have this conversation with two women who have deeply revaluated the way they live and what they value.

Shinjini Sur worked at a consumer packaged goods marketing company after college. Before long, she began to realize that her whole job was centered on inciting people to buy more, fueling the consumeristic mindset. She began analyzing what was truly important to her while working in American hustle culture. That eventually led her to minimalism, intentional living, and, finally, starting her very own consulting company called The Great Kind.

Shinjini Sur
“I looked around at my marketing coworkers. We were on the edge of burnout and we had just entered the workforce. We got paid well, but we worked many hours. Since then, my mentality towards consumerism has changed. I intentionally chose to unsubscribe to mindless consumption.”– Shinjini Sur, The Great Kind

Ashlynne Eaton found minimalism and intentional living five years ago when she moved into her first one-bedroom apartment with her husband, Christopher. They were trying to combine everything they owned into a tiny 500-square-foot apartment, and Ashlynne started to feel overwhelmed and anxious. She began to analyze why she felt these strong feelings and determined it was directly related to her stuff.

This self-realization led her and Christopher to begin paring down everything they owned. Pretty soon, Ashlynne began to apply minimalism and intentional living to every single area of her life in order to fill her days with peace instead of stress and anxiety.

Ashlynne Eaton
“Intentional living is all about being thoughtful about the decisions we make — having purpose behind why we do what we do. People go through the motions, never really thinking about if their decisions align with their values.”– Ashlynne Eaton, Content Creator

Why Is Intentional Living Important?

Why Is Intentional Living Important

Intentional living is important because you are important. Your life, your happiness, your general peace of mind — these things are important because you have value as an individual. I think it’s easy in our day and age to feel like we are what we produce, especially in the working world. It’s easy to feel like you are defined by your output.

Intentional living is about making choices specific to what you love, regardless of what’s being asked of you. This doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want, like tell your boss you’re never coming to work again because you’re choosing mindfulness. However, there are ways an intentional and practical life can coexist.

Ashlynne Eaton
“When I started living intentionally, my stress and anxiety levels went way down. It’s given me the chance to put more into my relationships and set aside time to have meaningful experiences.”– Ashlynne Eaton, Content Creator

Steps To Intentionally Identify Your Values

Steps To Intentionally Identify Your Values

Intentional living is all about discovering your core motivations. How do you identify core ideals within yourself? Recognizing your values can help you integrate a core purpose into your daily life.

how to discover you purpose

Step One: Intentionally Ask Yourself Why Questions

Intentionally Ask Yourself Why Questions

The first thing you should do when attempting to discover what you value is analyze why you’ve made the decisions you’ve made in your life thus far. Our decisions and our choices represent the core of who we are.

The choices we make are direct, tangible reflections of what we care about and value.

Ask Yourself Questions Similar To:

  • Why are your friends your friends?
  • Why did you choose your job?
  • Why did you choose your spouse?
  • Why do you like what you like?
the choices we make

These “why” questions can be about your past or present, your likes or dislikes, your job or hobbies, or your friends and family. Take this first step towards living a more intentional life by analyzing why you do what you do, why your life looks how it looks, and why you feel how you feel.

Step Two: Write Down What This Teaches You About Your Life

Write Down What This Teaches You About Your Intentional Life

Answering these why questions can lead you to wise discoveries about who you are and what you value. Once you make these discoveries, write them down. For example, you could write it out like this:

Ask Yourself Questions Similar To:

  • I feel like myself when I am with ____?
  • I feel understood when I’m with ____?
  • I feel valued when people ____?
living intentionally

Step Three: List Values To Focus On In Your Intentional Life

List Values To Focus On In Your Intentional Life

Now, make a list of what you’ve learned. Write down the values you have discovered within yourself in list form.

Your list might look something like this:

I value…

  • Creativity
  • Quality time with loved ones
  • Learning new things
  • Being part of a team
  • Feeling understood by others
  • Exploring new places with people I love
  • Analyzing big ideas
  • Maintaining a sense of control in life
  • Intimacy with people I care about
  • Being in leadership positions

The examples for this list are endless. The values you discover are going to be unique to your personal decisions and core ideals.

Shinjini Sur
“The point is to be more present in your life so that you’re not just reacting. Creating a system of discipline, you automatically notice yourself doing things that are more meaningful to you.”– Shinjini Sur, The Great Kind

How To Turn Your Values Into Intentional Habits

How To Turn Your Values Into Intentional Habits

Once you have a sense of what’s important to you written down on paper, the next step in living in intentional life is threading those core values into your daily habits. So, how do you turn an intangible idea into a habit?

Intentionally Check In With Yourself Each Day

Intentionally Check In With Yourself Each Day

An easy, tangible habit to start living a more intentional life is to block out time in your schedule to be fully still. Check if the way you are spending your time is in alignment with your values.

Maybe you want to start journaling every morning. Maybe doing yoga before bed is helpful for you to realign. You don’t have to go from zero to 30 in one day. Whatever method makes sense for you to check in with yourself, start with simple habits to make that happen.

style advice“I think oftentimes we crave stillness, but we don’t build our schedules in a way that allows that to happen. I have about 40 minutes built into my morning routine where I’m reading, journaling, and evaluating where I’m at.” – Ashlynne Eaton, Content Creator

Start Small With Each Intentional Action

Start Small With Each Intentional Action

Sustainable change won’t happen overnight. If you want to gear your life more toward creativity, you won’t be a Picasso in a week. If you want to focus more on your health and personal development, maybe don’t start planning a marathon. Make minor changes to your life that can become habits over time.

Ashlynne Eaton
“When I got started with minimalism, my life was tangibly very busy. I think sometimes it’s the busiest people who need intentional living the most. My encouragement is to start just small. You can make small changes over time. That’s how you create habits.”– Ashlynne Eaton, Content Creator

Pay Attention To What You Consume

Pay Attention To What You Consume

A huge aspect of living with intention is making sure what enters our brain space aligns with the values we’ve identified.

Evaluate Things:

pay attention to what you watch on tv

Intentional living is about managing what you allow into your life. You can track this by journaling, using the screen time feature on your phone, or engaging in conversations with loved ones.

Shinjini Sur
“I started minimizing every aspect of my life; The content I consumed, the books I read, the social media accounts I followed, the people I hung out with — it made me feel lighter. It enhanced my quality of life.”– Shinjini Sur, The Great Kind

Be Intentional With Your Times Of Rest

Be Intentional With Your Times Of Rest

Intentional living doesn’t only apply to your habits and your intake, it can also apply to your periods of rest. Yes, you can even rest and relax in a way that is mindful.

The best way to identify what mindful rest looks like for you is to first identify what mindless rest looks like. Mindless rest is unintentional with nothing specifically gained from it. Mindless rest is an additional form of input and consumption.

Resting Mindlessly Looks Like:

  • Binge-watching Netflix
  • Scrolling through Tik Tok
  • Playing video games
  • Playing iPhone games
  • Scrolling social media
binge watching television

When you binge a show or scroll on social media, you are filling your brain capacity with more input while attempting to recharge.

I’m not saying this form of rest is bad for you or that you should never watch TV or get on Tik Tok. However, it’s helpful to pay attention to how much time we spend engaging in this type of rest if we want to live a more intentional life.

Mindful rest is resting with intention.

Mindful Rest Looks Like:

  • Yoga or meditation
  • Painting, drawing, or other
  • Hiking or going on a walk
  • Listening to music
  • Journaling or writing creatively
  • Spending time with a friend
yoga stretch

Engaging in mindful rest means creating versions of recharging that don’t add more clutter to your mind, but allow you to process and let go of the things that fill your mind. It is a form of relaxing that is creative, kinesthetic, emotional, or social.

style advice“Rest doesn’t mean you have to shut your mind down. Mindful rest might look like reading a book, baking, or getting creative in some way. This gives you the chance to process what you’ve been taking in.” – Ashlynne Eaton, Content Creator

Is Living An Intentional Life An Idealistic Goal?

Is Living An Intentional Life An Idealistic Goal

It’s attainable to create a life centered on your happiness while staying practical and grounded with things like money, planning for your future, and taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Intentional living and realism don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

My best advice for staying intentional and practical in your daily life simultaneously is to be conscious of how your intentional living habits affect or change other areas of your life. Thread time for self-reflection into your day while still carving out time for your work.

a simple guide to what makes you happy

Will Others Judge My Purposeful, Intentional Life?

Will Others Judge My Purposeful Intentional Life

Choosing to live a more intentional life is going to inevitably bring some judgement. Friends and family members are going to listen to the details of your lifestyle and clapback with things like, “That’s just not realistic,” “This is just the way the world works,” or “That’s just how life in the adult world looks.”

decide to live intentionallyThe thing to remember when receiving judgement from others about your decision to live intentionally is that they can only speak from their personal lens of understanding. Intentional living, minimalism, essentialism — these might not be new schools of thought, but they definitely go against the grain.

Not everyone is going to feel a natural proclivity toward these kinds of ideas, and that’s okay. That does not make their lifestyle less than.

If someone is critiquing you, there’s no need to act like you’re awake and they’re still asleep. Simply understand that their judgement of your newfound lifestyle isn’t from a place of hatred, but a lack of understanding. Maybe use this opportunity to talk to them about why you live how you live, without forcing them into anything. See what happens.

Your Turn!

  • What are the core values you want to see represented in your day to day?
  • What simple habits will you create to make your life more intentional?
  1. This is an awesome article. A lot of common sense things to think about. Thank you.

  2. Quite insightful

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