Most people spend more time planning a one-week vacation than they spend planning their life.
– Michael Hyatt
Sometimes, life is seriously harder than it should be.
That’s where “intentional living” comes in.
Intentional living is about learning how to make better decisions, so you’re happier and have fewer regrets. Basically, it’s all about focusing on what matters most to you and forgetting the rest.
You still won’t be able to control the outcomes, but over time, the result is that you’ll design a life you love more likely than wandering somewhere you don’t want to be.
What Is Intentional Living?
Intentional living means choosing to live in a way that is in alignment with your purpose in life. Sounds intense, I know.
But it’s soooo good! Intentional living takes you from where you are now to where you want to go. It’s the roadmap that helps you navigate life.
Intentional living means valuing life so much that you decide how you want to live ahead of time. This will allow you to make the best decisions you know how to and minimize your regrets.
Intentional living does not mean having a rigid, inflexible plan that you have to stick to. Because most of us know that things can change in the blink of an eye. But for the times that life isn’t changing and throwing us curve balls – for the times that we can choose and have control – intentional living is the best way of life that can help us do that.
How To Live Intentionally
Living intentionally can help you be happier and have fewer regrets.
To live intentionally, you need to follow the process I’ve listed below.
For each step, apply the action to one of the life categories (or all of them). Focus on the areas of your life that you want to work on the most, but don’t leave any neglected for too long.
The main life categories are:
- Health (e.g.: eating, exercising)
- Relationships (e.g.: spouse, kids, coworkers, friends)
- Finance (e.g.: money)
- Career (e.g.: job, business)
- Personal / Spiritual Development (e.g.: religion, reading, meditation)
- Recreation (e.g.: fun, play, hobbies, sports)
- Environment (e.g.: home, organization)
- Service (e.g.: volunteering)
You can also add a final category that is your “Overall Life” category, that encompasses all of these specific categories.
Here’s a look at the basic steps to take…
1. Create Visions for Each Area of Your Life
Create a vision for each of the categories of your life. A vision is a desired future with a deeply rooted reason for that desired future.
Example: To have financial freedom [desired future] to provide a better life for my kids than I had [deeply rooted reason].
2. Take Inventory of Each Area of Your Life
Take inventory of each of the categories of your life. Write down what you’ve done in the past in each area and where you think you stand today. Be brutally honest and completely authentic here. You’re only hurting yourself by fudging your reality. Also, document whether where you are to this point is where you want to be for that category. This will help you decide what to focus on.
Example: Net worth is $20,000, no emergency fund, no estate plan or life insurance in place, retirement accounts fully funded, and struggle with budgeting. This is not in line with where I want to be.
The more detailed you are, the better. The examples I’m providing are very brief, so when you do this exercise, make your answers longer, as appropriate.
3. Create an Overarching Plan or Goal for Each Area of Your Life
Create an overarching plan for each area of your life. This means you are going to decide how to get from where you are now (your inventory) to where you want to be (your visions).
Your overarching plan should be very broad, not like a specific goal, but list how it is you’re going to achieve your vision.
Example: Get out of debt, have adequate savings, and become financially free.
I use journals and planners for this a lot. Here’s a look at my favorite journals and planners to use for life planning.
4. Set Long-Term and Short-Term Goals
Set long-term and short-term goals for each category of your life. Goals are specific strategies that you will use to accomplish your overarching plans and live your visions.
Long-term goals are goals that are greater than one year and short-term goals are goals that are shorter than one year.
For your long-term goals, consider setting several long-term goals at specific intervals (such as a 5-year goal, 10-year goal, and 20-year goal) for each category.
For your short-term goals, set goals at shorter intervals, such as 1-3 months, 6 months, and 1 year.
All of your goals should be SMART, in my opinion. This is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
For more of an in-depth look at goal-setting, read my post, How To Set Goals For Beginners.
- 5-year: Pay off student loans
- 10-year: Be debt free, have an 8-month emergency fund, and max out retirement and investment accounts
- 20-year: Be financially independent (only work because I want to)
- 1-3 months: Save a 2-month emergency fund, get on a student-loan repayment plan (create an amortization schedule for 5-year pay off), make $500 / month extra payments to student loan debt, and start a new side hustle
- 6 months: Save a 5-month emergency fund, make an extra $250 / month from side hustle, and start paying extra $750 / month toward student loan debt
- 1 year: Save a 6-month emergency fund, pay an extra $1,000 / month toward student loan debt, start reading investing books
Note that for this post, these goals are very brief. The more specific you make your goals the better. Use these examples merely for the content and not for the specificity.
5. Create Monthly and Weekly Action Plans
Create a monthly and weekly action plan with specific tasks that will help you achieve some of your goals.
Your action plans are the framework and plan that will help you accomplish your short-term goals.
It’s more important that you do something than it is that you have the exact right tool. It’s about doing something more than anything. So, do what works for you, but make sure you are planning every single day and every single week.
6. Implement Supportive Success Habits
Implement supportive success habits that will help you achieve your goals and live the life you’ve always wanted.
For this step, decide how you can implement habits as part of your routine that will help you live intentionally. Weekly actions are small tasks that you set to accomplish weekly. Habits are daily disciplines that are part of your routine.
Example: Automate saving $250 / per pay period.
7. Reward, Reflect, Revise, and Repeat
Reward yourself as you accomplish your goals, reflect on the process, revise as needed, and repeat as life changes.
Reward yourself as you complete your actions each week. As humans, we work really well if we’re rewarded for what we do.
Reflect on the process. As you implement your intentional living plan, reflect and evaluate whether it’s actually working for your.
Revise your plan as needed. Life will happen and your circumstances will change – for better and for worse. Adjust your plan accordingly. This means that you will have to monitor your plan and make changes periodically. If it’s helpful, decide to do this every few months.
Repeat the plan as you make big life changes. If you get married, have kids, switch careers, or something else, you are going to need to repeat the entire process.
Intentional living means that you are living on purpose. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best that you can do for the one live you have. It will leave you happier and with fewer regrets.
A Final Note
Once you start living intentionally, the habit of thinking about your choices becomes second nature. This is how you learn to make better decisions and have fewer regrets.
Intentional living is how you design a life you love. It’s amazing.