March Words to Live By: Intentional Living
By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
Intentional living requires us to know who we really are, what we believe, what we want, and what matters in our lives. Too often, we “go with the flow” to the point of losing ourselves. We are swept up in the expectations of others, the duties of a job, the day to day tasks of making a living and forget to really live with intent and purpose.
That is why March’s Word to Live by is Intentional. The definition of intentional is “done on purpose, deliberate.” Synonyms include conscious, calculated, and intended.
As the doldrums of winter wear off and the promise of a new season springs forth, March is a perfect month to focus on intentional living.
Determine what is important to you
When you decide to live intentionally, the first step is to determine what is important to you. That will not be the same for everyone, so don’t compare yourself to others. Forget social media; forget the teacher next door; this is time to decide what works for you.
This will also likely change during your life as you grow and life circumstances change. So don’t be surprised that what you find important today, is not the same next year. For example, when my boys were babies I quit many of the activities I did before they were born because I wanted to spend time with them and knew how quickly that time would go. As they grew older and found their own interests, I picked up some of those activities again but others no longer interested me.
Figure out what fulfills you
The second part of living intentionally is figuring out what fulfills you. What makes you feel happy and satisfied? Fulfillment can take many forms. As complex beings, we need fulfillment in many areas: relationships, careers, spirituality, and emotionally, to name a few.
When we find fulfillment in all those areas, we experience life more deeply and happily. It’s that feeling that all’s right with the world. We have found our place, and we like it!
Without that fulfillment, we feel that something is missing and also feel discontent. When we feel discontent it is often because we are out of balance with what gives our life fulfillment. By focusing on intentional living, we close that barrier and open up the time to do those things in which we find fulfillment.
Again, this can change. A big part of fulfillment for me comes from serving others. Surprisingly, last spring, a job that had fulfilled me with meaning and joy for 32 years, no longer produced that same feeling. Deciding to retire from teaching was a tough decision, but I knew I needed to find fulfillment through another avenue. For now, this website has been one avenue of fulfillment as I serve other teachers.
Determine what is meaningful
Next, it is important to determine what is meaningful to you. What fits in with your beliefs and values? What makes you feel valued and loved? What brings you joy? These personal answers will guide you toward intentional living.
For example, if spending time with friends or family makes you feel valued and loved, you will know you need to make time in your life for that on a regular basis. This may mean turning down requests to serve on committees or attend events that take you away from those opportunities. That does not make you selfish; it just makes you intentional in how you live your life.
How living intentionally changes your life
Once you have figured out what is important, fulfilling, and meaningful, you can commit to choosing a life that matters. It enables you to get rid of the junk, the time sucks, and the meaningless minutiae.
Intentional living means that you make a calculated, conscious effort to align your choices with your beliefs, needs, and wants.
That is the last big step. As you make decisions and go about your day determine how your activities fit with your intentional life. Make decisions on what takes your time and effort until you can decide if it will work for you in your life. When it doesn’t, it’s okay to say no.
Does this mean you never have to do things that you don’t want to do? Of course not. There will be times that work or other circumstances make it a necessity. That’s life. However, intentional living means that you make a calculated, conscious effort to align your choices with your beliefs, needs, and wants. This will free you to make thoughtful choices and to be actively involved in your own life.
It also means that by being actively involved and not a spectator to your own life, you show value and love for yourself. The end result is by feeling more fulfilled and happy, you have more of yourself to give to others.
Spend some time alone to figure out what intentional living looks like to you and then go live it.
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