What does it mean to be intentional?
The Oxford Dictionaries gives the definition of intentional as “done on purpose; deliberate.”
It’s about making conscious, purposeful decisions and actions.
Being intentional may be simple in definition, but it’s harder to carry out.
Can you think of any ways you are intentional in your everyday life? To be perfectly honest, if you’re anything like me it might be easier to think of all the ways you aren’t intentional.
On any given day, it’s almost guaranteed that we go through a countless number of mindless routines, not taking a second look at what we are doing.
We grab for the nearest box of sugary cereal, dump it in the bowl and chow it down while drinking our caffeinated life-blood and scrolling through the latest social media updates; we mindlessly brush our teeth, letting the back and forth motion become its own random rhythm; we drive to work in a brow-furrowed daze, flying past our surroundings, radio blaring; we trudge through the workday as fast as the stubborn minutes and hours will let us go so we can rush home to eat dinner and then sit back while we consume a mind-numbing amount of media and/or television.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a tad bit here, I don’t know. But I think I’ve covered at least some aspects of a typical person’s typical day.
Tell me in the comments if I’m completely wrong and you live a very relaxed, thoughtful, meaningful existence, because some people actually have achieved that. (I’m not being facetious here; if you are one of those rare people, you have my total awe and respect.)
If so, this post isn’t really meant for you since you’ve got it all together already. For anyone else, moving on here.
Sidenote: Not every mindless action is a negative thing: breathing, for example; and steering the car inside the lane while simultaneously breathing and blinking. But those are sort of necessary for human survival. I’m talking about the other things in life that we could enrich and ponder over and truly broaden our scope of imagination (to paraphrase from Anne Shirley.)
During that whirlwind of a day, do we at any moment pause and become self-aware in those routines and rearrange our mindsets so that those actions become purposeful and intentional? Do we ever stop and actually live in the moment?
I’m guilty of failing at that just as much as the next person. It’s not really in my nature to carefully think about what I’m doing and why. My mind and body naturally slips into a routine, a lulling rhythm that overtakes my motions and makes me go through my day on autopilot.
However, certain recent personal/health-related issues have occurred in my life to force myself to take a step back and become more self-aware, or at least try. I’ve tried to become more deliberate and mindful of how I live my life.
And it’s eye-opening when I realize the difference between the two lifestyles.
Humans are the only creatures on the planet that actually have the ability to be self-aware in a highly complex manner. (Some animals have a lower level of self-awareness, but not to the great extent of humans.)
Have you ever realized that you can think about the fact that you are thinking? In fact, you can think about the fact that you are thinking about thinking. Let that swirl around in your brain for a bit.
You can be aware of the fact that you are reading this blog post even as you are reading it. It’s kind of wild when you really think about it.
Our brains are amazing that way.
But unfortunately, we so often don’t take advantage of that amazingness and we go through life as mindless drones.
Don’t you want your life to be more purposeful and deliberate? Don’t you want to take advantage of your ability to expand your view of yourself and the world around you?
And don’t worry, this talk about mindfulness and self-awareness has nothing really to do with anything new-agey.
It’s just a part of reality, science, how your brain works; it’s a matter of taking the information that your inner and outer senses gather from your consciousness and your surroundings and creating a life as full and meaningful as possible.
It’s a matter of taking a moment of time and energy here and there to pause and look at yourself and each of your actions honestly with a comprehensive, broad-minded perspective.
The benefits of being intentional
A life of intentionality has immense personal benefits–mentally, physically, and spiritually. In addition, this lifestyle change can not only affect your own life, but also others’ lives in general.
Being intentional means that you’ll have the ability to live a more focused, others-centered life of compassion and love. You’ll be able to absorb the greatest amount of meaning from every moment of your life. At the end of the day, or week, or year, you’ll be more content and satisfied, knowing that you have been living out your life to its fullest potential.
I wish I could say that about myself at the end of every day. I can’t…yet.
But it’s my goal. And I hope that it will become yours as well.
Next time I’m going to put down some of my thoughts and suggestions about practical ways to live intentionally and make those thoughtful lifestyle changes.
Thanks for reading!
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