Intentional and Simple
Two words that have been heard a lot in the world of personal development over the past decade or so are intentional and simple. I admit that I like both those words. I like them because when I hear or say those words I am reminded that living life with focus and without unnecessary complications makes for a life that has more room for joy, growth, and generosity. Our world has become so full of distractions and excess that finding those qualities in day-to-day life is far more challenging than it was for previous generations. Our grandparents lived with far fewer options, only a few channels on TV instead of a few hundred, one shelf of cereal options in a small grocery store instead of the dozens and dozens on the shelves of a megastore. Our grandparents consumed news at the beginning and end of their day, not throughout with constant texts and Google alerts.
I think it’s easy for us to forget that we humans have evolved over millennia while technology changes in days, weeks, and months. We can learn a new technology quickly but our physiology doesn’t change that fast. We can’t change how our brain processes the onslaught of input.
I appreciate the technology that we have. I also appreciate what life is like when we control what is coming into our lives, be that information or material things. When we slow down enough to ask questions about what matters to us, when we take the time to be intentional, to think through the likely impact of the decisions that we make the quality of our life shifts dramatically. Instead of being crazily complicated life becomes much simpler, and Webster defines simple this way: adj. having few parts; not complex or fancy.
Webster’s defines intentional as, “done in a way that was planned or intended” - and that is the joy of intentional living. We plan, we make conscious choices, we decide to say yes to this action and no to that. Living intentionally means that we are driving the vehicle of our own life. Living with intention and keeping it simple looks like this: living a life focused the essential aspects, the pieces that leave you feeling satisfied at the end of your day, your year, your life. Perhaps you are thinking that this is something that happens automatically but really, does it?
How many times have you come to the end of a week and looked back to notice that nothing you wanted to accomplish has been done? How many times has your exercise routine, coffee with a close friend, or an important personal project fallen off your radar because of the crush of urgencies? When we don’t prioritize our most important intentions it is hard for them to push back against the noise of incoming attention-grabbers.
Choosing to live intentionally means looking at our life and determining what our highest priorities are. Our priorities - not our bosses’ priorities, or the priorities of our friends. And determining our priorities can take time. Some may be easy to identify; time with family and friends, advancing our career, but other areas where we long to find clarity may be harder to determine without taking time to step back and contemplate.
When we live without an overarching idea of what is most important to us at this time in our life we are buffeted by the winds of change and the priorities of others. When we aren’t living intentionally we don’t know what to say yes or no to. Intentional living is our road map and we are truly lost without it. Sure, we might eventually find our way to where we want to go but it will be by accident, not design.
When we live intentionally we automatically are living more simply. Living intentionally means that decisions are easier to come to because we know what our priorities are. Knowing that family is our highest priority makes it easy to say no to the things that will pull us away from time with them.
If what is most important right now is advancing our career then it will be simple to decide whether to say yes to a movie or work on the project we’ve been trying to get off the ground. And maybe saying yes to the movie is our best move because a break will do us good. The point isn’t to work ourselves into the ground or deny ourselves pleasure, the point is to make thoughtful choices rather than to stumble through life without a sense of what matters most.
Living intentionally and simply keeps us on track to do the things we care about most because we are aware of what we are choosing to do. Living intentionally and simply reduces the stress of making decisions because we have already identified what matters most and we can leave the rest behind. Living intentionally and simply means that our energy goes to the things that are most important to us rather than being spent trying to keep up with the endless flood of input that inundates us all.
So spend some time considering what matters most to you. Consider how can you live a life of clear intentions and simplicity. Consider how you can you create a life where most of the things on your plate are there because you chose them.