Inside: 5 small changes you can make to get off autopilot and live like you mean it (aka live a more intentional life)
How often do you get to the end of the week and have little to show for it? How many times have you thought in October, “OMG, how is there Christmas stuff in all the stores already? It was January just yesterday.”
That’s what happens when you go through life as if on autopilot. You have a routine that keeps you busy, so you keep putting one foot in front of the other without ever stopping to think if you’re headed where you actually want to go.
You can change that by being intentional about the things you do. There are many ways to do that and we’ll eventually talk about them all. For now, here are five tips for living an intentional life every day:
- Know that you have choices
- Say no often
- Start a gratitude journal
- Be mindful of your media consumption
- Be kind to others and yourself
Let’s go through them one by one and see how you can make changes to live your life on purpose.
Know that you have choices
I wrote about this in the newsletter recently. Even when it feels like you have no choice, there’s usually a way to reframe the situation that will help you see the other options.
You may not immediately like any of them, but as you take time to think about each possibility, you’ll know which one is right for you.
Let’s take a break-up as an example. Whether it’s a romantic relationship that’s ended or a friendship, it’s hard to swallow if the other person initiated the break-up.
It’s normal to cry and feel sorry for yourself. For a little bit! Then you regroup and move on. And more often than not, your next relationship is even better, especially if you took the time to reflect on where things went wrong and how you want that new relationship to go.
You can even write a list of traits you want in the other person. I sure did. I’m married to him now, and he’s totally amazing.
In other situations, write out how you want your life to look from here on out. You can journal about it until you are clear on what you want. That will make it easier to recognize opportunities when they present themselves and act on them.
Seriously, whenever a door closes, immediately start looking for windows. There’s no point working yourself up about the closed door, no point in fighting it. It’s the universe telling you there wasn’t anything for you behind that door anyway.
Say no often
There are eleventy million things pulling us in different directions every day. If you want to maintain your sanity and get where you want to go in life, you need to say no. And do it often.
If you’re a people-pleaser and say yes to everything because you don’t want to disappoint anyone, you can stop that right now. It is not your job to please other people, especially if it comes at the expense of your own needs.
Saying yes because you want to do something is one thing. But saying yes because you don’t know how to say no won’t help you live your life intentionally. Time to do something different.
Think about how you want your life to look. Where do you want to be in a year, five years, ten years? What will get you there? Say yes to those things. What will just get in your way? Say no to those things. Which brings me to social media.
Be mindful of your media consumption
Social media can be a total time sink. How often do you get on Facebook for a few minutes, only to realize an hour has gone by and you haven’t started dinner?
But my issue with social media (and media in general) is not so much about the time they take up, but the way they deepen beliefs you already have. Always beware if you’re only hearing points of view you already agree with. It means you’re missing something.
Think about it. It’s much like driving a car or walking down the street. You focus on what’s in front of you as well as on your left and right (and when you’re driving, even what’s behind you). That helps you make the best decision for you at any given time.
The media want your time and attention, and their algorithms are designed to give you more of what you like, based on what you’ve read or clicked already. Not because it’s good for you, but because it’s good for them (they can show you ads and gather your data).
Over time, these media algorithms can lead you in a direction you never meant to go by only showing you content similar to what you’ve seen before. As you engage with it, they show you more and more of the same, like an echo chamber.
Without realizing it, you have now stopped paying any attention to what was in front of you, what was on the other side, and where you meant to go in the first place. In order to live your life intentionally, you have to pay attention all around you.
Always beware and read different points of view. If you keep nodding and agreeing with everything you read or hear, you’ve gone off your intended path, possibly a long time ago. Go back to looking at everything that’s around you so you can make your own balanced decisions.
Start a gratitude journal
Gratitude journaling is about intentionally looking for the positive things in life. Here’s how it works: before you go to sleep, you think of three things that happened during the day that you can count as wins.
No matter if your wins are small or big, they all count. If you’re having a really crummy day and your biggest wins are getting out of bed and making it through the day, that’s fine. Just make sure you also count the fact that it finally stopped raining as your third win, hehe.
When you write down your three little victories every night, you’re focusing on what went well. And then you go to sleep on that note, rather than stewing about whatever else might have happened.
Over time, focusing on your wins gets easier and more natural, and you start anticipating them throughout the day. You know how they say, you’ll see what you expect to see? It’s true. When you expect to see positive, you’ll notice a lot more of it.
This is good because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You expect good things to happen, you notice them when they do, which reinforces your belief that good things will happen and notice more of them… See how that works? It’s all part of living your life on purpose.
Be kind to others and yourself
Another excellent way to be more intentional in your life is to practice kindness. You know that quote attributed to Dalai Lama, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
In my experience, kindness has to do with imagination.
Think about it, you’re driving home in the evening, after a long and exhausting day, and the car in front of you is moving super slowly. Slow off the mark at the light, slow to accelerate… totally in your way, and you’re mouthing all sorts of four-letter words.
Now imagine this: that driver is an older lady who has spent the whole day with her mom. It was their last. Her mom just passed away, and the lady is driving home from the hospice house. She’s doing her best to hold back tears and get home safely.
You’re much more ready to cut her some slack, aren’t you?
Everyone has a story. You don’t know theirs, so use your imagination to spin a good yarn about why they are acting the way they are. And keep in mind, their actions say nothing about you. It’s always about them. So take a deep breath, bless, and release.
And remember to be kind to yourself. You have a story too.
There’s a lot going on every day that keeps us busy and on autopilot. The only solution to that is to slow down and start living your life more intentionally.
When you remember you always have choices, you can say no often and be mindful of your media consumption. Start a gratitude journal to remind yourself of your blessings every day and to bring more of them into your life. And remember to be kind to yourself and to everyone around you.
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