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I think you’ll agree with me when I tell you…
Many of us go through life surviving rather than thriving.
We’re not really living our lives.
What I mean by that is we go through each day reacting to whatever comes up. Instead of doing what we really want to do, we end up doing what we have to do just to get through it.
We’re not living our lives intentionally, the way that we REALLY want to live it.
What is Intentional Living?
Intentional living has been defined as any lifestyle based on an individual or group’s conscious attempts to live according to their values and beliefs. These can include lifestyles based on religious or ethical values, as well as coaching, personal transformation, and leadership training.
By this definition, in order to live with intention, we need to live according to our values.
Which means we need to know what our core values are.
We all have personal core values, which are the things that are really important and meaningful to us. They can help dictate your behavior and guide you in day to day decision making.
However, a big reason that many people don’t live with intention is that they never got clear on their core values, and what’s really meaningful to them.
A lot has been written about how to identify your core values.
You need to figure out what’s meaningful and most important to you. Instead, many of us focus on what society and media values.
Core Values and Intentional Living
Your core values are something you discover through life experiences and learning about what’s really important to you. They aren’t something you’ll just sit down and pick out. Take some time for some self-reflection.
Think about meaningful moments and experiences in your life that have stood out. Also think about moments in your life that didn’t serve you. Eventually you will come up with your most important core values that you want to live your life by.
Knowing your core values is only the first step in the path to intentional living. Learning to live by them on a daily basis is the step a lot of people struggle with.
But if you want to live an authentic life, and actually thrive rather than survive, it’s time to living according to your values and make that a daily practice.
Let me share a recent example with you that illustrates what it means to live according to your values…
One of my values is family. My family is important to me. They’ve helped shape me to be the person I am today.
And because I know one of my values is family, that helped me make a major decision in my life, where to live.
You see, I recently decided that I wanted to move away from Colorado. One of the first things I did was to make a list of things that were important to me in my next city.
Some of the things I was looking for in a new location was access to mountains, good weather, and a smaller population size than Denver. I came up with an initial list of about 15 mid sized cities, both East and West of Denver.
As I dug deeper, my core values came into play, specifically my value of family. Family is important to me, and I knew I wanted to be closer to my parents in Virginia. That ultimately played a large role in helping me make the decision to move to Tennessee, about a 4 hour drive from my parents. Now I’ll be able to visit them more often.
OK, once you’ve identified your core values, let’s take a closer look on how to live by them.
Here are 8 strategies to live according to your values.
1. Make Them Visible
As a fitness coach, I’ll have my clients write down their goals. However, this is only half the battle. If you write them in a journal, and put the journal in a drawer, you won’t remember what your goals are.
The same can be said for your values. If they are only in your head, or you write them down, but never look at them, they will fade from your memory. You should have them on display where you can see them everyday.
This will serve as a reminder to live according to your values. It will serve as a reminder that when it comes to making a decision on something, look at your values, and make a decision based on those values.
Put them everywhere – on post it notes, your wallpaper on your phone, your screensaver on your computer, even your refrigerator. The more times you see them throughout your day, the more you will be reminded to live according to your values.
2. Discard The Bad
The next step with intentional living is getting rid of things that don’t add value to your life and get in the way of living by your values.
Suppose healthy eating is a value of yours, but you have a lot of junk food sitting in your home. Clean house and set up your environment for success. Get rid of the junk food so you can make room for the good stuff in your life.
There might be even bigger things you need to discard in your life. Maybe you became a doctor because that’s what your parents wanted. But you really wanted to be an entrepreneur.
If you are unhappy with your career path, it’s not too late to make a change. You can discard your career and make a change. Remember, these should be your values, not someone else’s.
You might even need to discard people from your life, as we’ll see in tip #3…
3. Surround Yourself With The Right People
Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” There may not be any magic in the number 5, but the point is who you hang around is one of the most important factors when it comes to your personal and professional success.
Think about it – if you value health and fitness, but hang around people who smoke, eat fast food and play video games all day, you probably won’t be very healthy. The people you hang out with influence who you are.
So find people that share your core values, and spend time with them. Hang out with people that motivate you, are fun to be around and lift you up.
4. Start Your Morning Off Right
A daily morning routine can have a huge impact on intentional living.
Let’s be honest – many people don’t have a morning routine. They hit snooze a few times, run around frantically getting ready for work and getting the kids off to school, and the rest of the day is spent reacting to things that pop up throughout their day.
Now that you know your core values, examine your mornings. Are you living according to your values?
What if you could develop a morning ritual around your core values that energizes you and makes you feel good? Don’t you think that would have a positive influence on the rest of your day?
I first learned about the power of having a morning routine by reading The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod. In the book, Hal describes the 6 Life S.A.V.E.R.S that make up his suggested morning routine:
- Silence (for example meditation)
- Scribe (such as writing in a gratitude journal)
If none of these match your core values, that’s OK. Find a morning ritual that works for you and live by it by practicing it first thing in the morning.
5. Talk About Them
I’m a firm believer that the more you talk about your values, the more you’ll live by them.
I’ve had many fitness clients who are trying to lose weight, but yet they are always talked into going to happy hour for some drinks and nachos by their friends. That’s not following an intentional living practice.
If this sounds like you, start telling your friends what your values are, and how you want to live. And check out tip #6 on how to use your values to help you make daily decisions.
I have 2 main business mentors that I follow, named Pat and Ryan. A big reason I’ve continued to seek their advice over the last 10 years is because they share one of my values – family. They are constantly talking about their family and they make a lot of their decisions in life based around their family.
If you have people in your life that try to peer-pressure you into doing something that doesn’t align with your values, don’t give into the temptations. This would also be a good time to revisit tip #3 and look at the people you’re surrounding yourself with.
6. Use Them To Make Decisions
There is a concept called decision fatigue, which describes how people struggle with their choices after making too many decisions in a given day.
Decision fatigue is the idea that your ability to make sound decisions deteriorates throughout the day, after an extended period of making decisions during the day. So as the day wears on, it’s easier to make bad choices.
This is where your core values can help you. If you’re really committed to living with intention and according to your core values, then your values can help guide you when it comes to making decisions throughout your day.
For example, if one of your values is health, and you’re trying to decide whether you should exercise after work, or go to happy hour, it’s an easy decision if you’re living according to your values. Perhaps you value friendships and connections, and are trying to decide whether to do a group hike Saturday morning or stay in bed late.
In this example, hiking with friends will be what fills you up. If you value knowledge, reading a book will be an easy decision over scrolling Facebook.
Your values are the filter all of your decisions go through. If something doesn’t fit who you are or what you’re “about” then it doesn’t get your time or attention
7. Win Today
My business coach talks about this concept of winning today. Each day is an opportunity to win. To practice intentional living and live according to your values. Too many of us won’t let go of the past or are worried about the future, and we’re not focused on the present. We’re not focused on today.
Each day is an opportunity to spend time with people you love, to move toward your goals, to take care of yourself and to leave your little universe a bit better than it was the day before.
We’re not going to be perfect, so don’t strive to be. We’re not going to win everyday. But aim to win as many days as possible. My coach likes to say, win enough days and you’ll reach those personal and professional goals…and enjoy the journey in the process.
8. Reflect at The End
The only way to improve is to see where you may have strayed and not lived according to your values. Before you go to bed, take some time to reflect on your day to see if your behavior throughout the day was consistent with your core values.
This is also a great time to celebrate your wins. Think about times during the day where you did live according to your values. Take time to acknowledge yourself and anything positive to take away from your day.
Finally, this is the time where you can set your intention for the next day. Think about if anything still needs to be discarded from your life that isn’t serving you. Visualize your morning routine for the next day and how good you’ll feel.
Also think about who will you be spending time with the next day. Do they motivate you and lift you up? If not, find at least one person to spend some time with the next day that understands your core values.
Final Thoughts on Intentional Living
The key to intentional living is to live according to your values. To do this, you first need to identify your core values. Then develop habits and behaviors that keeps them front of mind.
Once you do this, you’ll start to identify opportunities that come your way each day that will lead you to living with intention.
And if you're looking for more resources to help you live more intentionally, check out these articles:
- 41 Positive Daily Intentions to Start Your Day
- 8 Strategies to Live According to Your Values
- 13 Best Daily Positive Affirmations Apps
Finally, one proven way to improve your happiness and life satisfaction is to focus on goals that truly matter. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.