15 Simple (But Essential) Ways to Live an Intentional Life
Living an intentional life means living a life with purpose and meaning. Here’s where to start.
Most of my life had been lived unintentionally.
That doesn’t mean I regret how I’ve lived my life — far from it — but it means that I’ve regularly found myself at intervals where I just don’t know what I was doing or where I was going. I had no goals or ambition.
I lived for the weekend. I lived paycheck to paycheck. I had no goals or direction, and I wasted the majority of my time on pastimes that didn’t mean anything to me or grinding in my dead-end job.
While it’s nice to go with the flow, it’s essential to have direction, at least to some degree. That’s where intentional living comes in.
Intentionally living is to make deliberate decisions that benefit you both now and in the long-term.
It doesn’t matter what your goals or aspirations are, to have intention means to be mindful of what you’re doing, how you’re spending your precious and limited energy and being mindful of the direction you’re heading.
Over the last four years, I’ve walked many steps on my journey to living an intentional life, and I’ve discovered — after a ton of trial and error — that being mindful of the basic yet fundamental decisions you make every single day can make such a huge difference in your daily life.
I’m not perfect. Nobody is.
Some days will be more proactive than others, but that’s the reason is why I’ve compiled this list. Some points you’ll already know or may just need reminding, while others may give you some food for thought.
If you’re ever feeling lost and no sure what to do, this is also a really great list I’ve found to help me get back on track, even if you’re only working on a single point at a time!
Every journey starts with a single step.
#1. Get your diet in check
The food you consume is one of the core sources of energy you have to do the things you want to do. It’s the only fuel you have to take you to where you want to go.
Eat poorly and you’ll feel poorly. Give yourself rocket fuel and you’ll start rocketing in whichever direction you want to go. It takes a conscious choice to eat healthy, but it’s essentialism to how your days pan out is unavoidable.
#2. Stay hydrated (drink water)
If you’re planning to do big things your body needs to be running optimally to carry out all the tasks you want to achieve.
Water is essential in this process, so whether you’re drinking pure water, herbal teas, or coffee, make sure you’re drinking enough. Just like food, if you’re dehydrated, you can’t strive to do the things you want to do.
Get a water bottle. Keep it filled up. Benefit.
#3. Get enough sleep
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
There’s no hard and fast rule as to how long you should be sleeping because it differs for everyone. However, as a rule of thumb, go to bed at 10/11, sleep for 6, 7, or 8 hours, and get up at 6 or 7 am. Your body needs to rest; otherwise, you run the risk of burning out.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m awful at this. I’m a sucker for a Netflix binge until 2 am when I get going, but the aftershock of doing this will affect me, my mood, and my sense of fulfillment for days.
Make the right choice.
#4. Exercise regularly
I cannot deny how good exercising makes me feel, even though I don’t particularly enjoy working out. The paradox of fitness.
I try to start my day with 15 minutes of yoga, walk around the block at least once a day, and run about 10km three times a week. Before the pandemic, I would go to the gym three times a week.
Do whatever is best for you and figure out your own way of working.
The best thing to remember is that your body is made to move. It’s literally how it’s designed. Going for a walk, even for five minutes, after sitting at your desk all day can bring you so much energy and will make you feel so good.
Don’t just take it from me. Be your own proof.
#5. Limit technology time
It sometimes makes me sick to see my Screen Time figures. Hours of my life spent on an app. Days of life wasted on social media throughout the week. If you use Screen Time, or a screen time tracking app, and you’ve seen how you use your device — most of the time it’s mind-blowing.
Last week alone, I picked up and unlocked my phone an average of 90 times per day.
You, like me, probably have the habit of waking up and going on your phone, as well as making it the last thing you do before you go to bed. This time adds up and most of it is unnecessary.
Save yourself the time and put said time towards something more productive.
#6. Seek financial freedom
I’ve been in debt for most of my adult life. From traveling at the age of 20 and racking up over £14,000 of debt, I’ve only just started to get my financial life sorted.
If you’re in debt, add it all up, divide it into how many months you want to pay it off in, and see how much you need to earn/pay per month. Set goals. Look at your income. Set goals and payment amounts in a way that works for you.
Whatever your money situation is, go through your bank statement and see what’s going on. Make time for this. Are you spending money on little things here and there you don’t really need, perhaps impulse buying?
Do you have a subscription you don’t really need or are paying for and don’t use? Look after your money, spend time on managing it, and it will be stress you never have to deal with.
#7. Release toxicity from your life
You know those ‘friends’ holding you back — the ones you’re afraid to share your dreams with because you think they’ll laugh at you? The people in your life making you feel like nothing, almost as though you’re being pulled down?
It’s time to dig them out and free yourself of them.
We live in an age where it’s possible to meet practically anyone on the planet, and you can be sure there’s a community of people out there who are always ready to support you and nurture you towards your dreams.
Seek out and connect with like-minded individuals. Spend time with those who lift you up and support you, rather than drag you down and keep you there.
#8. Work on long-terms goals over short-term gains
Setting goals is the first step to turning the invisible into the visible — Tony Robbins
What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you want to go? What kind of life do you want to live? Not sure?
Without direction, you’re living aimlessly.
It doesn’t matter what your long-term goal is because as you start progressing towards it, life will change, and this goal will transform into something else.
What’s important is you have an idea in your head so you can start walking your journey. Otherwise, you end up stagnating, falling into the rut, and feeling lost in the world. This is what it means to get trapped in the comfort zone.
Even setting yourself a simple goal, like exercising regularly or managing a healthy sleep schedule can be such a big step. When you feel good, you want to do good. Completing these goals ultimately opens the door to more goals.
It’s so much more fulfilling to run a 10km in a personal best, write that blog post, get that promotion, or spend time with your family or friends on holiday than it is to eat that pizza and watch something on Netflix at 4 am.
Your choices are powerful.
#9. Set manageable goals
Very important for me to mention in-line with the point above.
Say your dream is to become a famous author, athlete, business owner, or whatever, that’s great, but don’t set that as your only goal. That’s too big for you to aim for. It’s too obscure — like a moving target in the fog.
Break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks you can achieve effortlessly.
Even if the goals seem ridiculously simple — so much so you can do them with your eyes closed — that’s perfect because how easy does it then become to reach your end destination?
Even if your broken-down goal is to send out three emails to potential clients or set up an account on a platform, consistent and progressive baby steps are far more effective than taking a giant leap and rolling back down the hill.
#10. You have time. Use It
Think about how much your life has changed over the last ten years.
Think about it and visualize where you were, what you were doing, and what kind of person you were.
Now, look broadly at how much has changed over this last decade.
Now imagine what you can achieve in the coming ten years.
Think about how much will change over the next decade with you in control of the steering wheel. Don’t overestimate what you can do in a day, and don’t underestimate what you can do in a year. Be mindful of time.
#11. Never stop learning
The wisest person is the person that knows they know nothing.
There’s no excuse not to be learning something new every single day, no matter how big or small it is.
From learning how to load your dishwasher more efficiently to spending ten minutes a day learning a new language, knowledge is power.
You never know what’s going to come in handy, or what this knowledge will allow you to achieve in your future.
#12. Travel the world (or at least some of it)
You don’t have to book a one-way ticket, sell everything you own, and venture out into the world leaving your past behind you. Instead, think about taking weekends away, city breaks, and using your time off to go away with your family, your friends, and just by yourself.
It’s a big, beautiful world out there, and there’s inspiration found through new friends, captivating strangers, and indulgent cultures.
There’s an entire planet out there waiting for you to explore it; you’ve just got to get out there and start exploring it.
#13. Try something new (no matter how small that thing is)
One of the reasons we fall back into our old habits — the bad kind that holds you back from living the life you want to live — is because you’re doing the same thing over and over again, so nothing in your mind has changed, hence why you’re falling back into your old ways.
Of course, habits and routines are so important, but it’s easy to stay believing that this is all there is to life.
Instead, keep things mixed up and your brain on its toes. Sit in a different place at the dinner table. Try reading a genre of books you’d never usually read. Start a new club. Try start side hustle you’ve been thinking about for months, but haven’t put into action.
Get outside your comfort zone; even if it’s a millimeter a day.
#14. Believe in yourself (please)
No matter what happens in life, whether you’re at your soaring highs or your seemingly never-ending lows, everything you go through, you go through with yourself. This is as consistent from the day you’re born to the day you die.
Trust yourself. Trust your instinct. Believe in your abilities.
If you’re feeling sad, don’t try and force positivity into your day. Acknowledge how you’re feeling and address the situation you’re in. Learn from yourself. Become tuned in to how you work and what you stand for.
You know what’s best for you really. You’ve got this.
#15. Always act out of love, never fear
If you’re scared of doing something, it means you’re on the verge of making a life-changing decision that could make or break the dream you’re trying to achieve.
First time talking to your crush and you’re having second thoughts? First time speaking to a crowd, writing the first chapter of your book, or writing that blog post?
The decision you make in these moments define who you are. The reason you’re scared is that you’re unsure of what the future holds, but guess what, there’s only one way to find out.
Take the plunge.
This is your life. Be mindful of the decisions you’re making daily and the impact they’ll have for your future. You have the potential to have a positive and fulfilling life ahead of you, the one which is entirely within your grasp.
Now reach out and take it.