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Intentional Living for Beginners: 7 Steps to Live on Purpose and Achieve Your Dream Life

Intentional Living for Beginners

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If you’re interested in personal growth, chances are you would have come across the term ‘intentional living’ at some point. For some, intentional living sounds very new age and philosophical. For others, they simply don’t understand what intentional living means and hence do not bother learning more about it.

However, if you want to max out your life and achieve your dreams, living intentionally is just what you need.

In this post, we introduce the meaning of intentional living and help you kickstart your journey with 7 easy steps.

What does intentional living mean?

It means to live a life that has been consciously and mindfully designed by you, whether it is your health and fitness, career, finances, relationships, or dreams. It means to wake up every day feeling energized and knowing that you are actively shaping your life with your choices and are not living passively (or what I call ‘on autopilot’). 

Living intentionally entails knowing your personal values clearly and having a plan each day to make the right choices that are in line with your values. Instead of letting life happen to us, people who live with intention are actively shaping their future by organizing each action to help them achieve their dream life. They don’t allow themselves to adopt a victim mindset or let the days go by without an aim. 

Living Intentionally

So why does intentional living even matter? What’s in it for me?

Life is so hectic for most people that the thought of adding one more ‘life project’ to the list is enough to get many people scooting off.

But these things matter.  

Imagine waking up each day feeling ‘on fire’ and energized because you have complete clarity about your life’s vision and you have a clear plan to get there. You’re no longer feeling stuck – that vision of your dream life propels you to organize your life and make the right choices each day. 

You feel purposeful, centered, and fulfilled, knowing that you are actually ‘living’ and making every day count, rather than floating passively and allowing things to happen to you.

Since I started defining my vision and strategies for each area of my life, I got out of that feeling of being stuck and not knowing how the next 50 years of my life would look like. More importantly, it was easier to make decisions that would have been difficult in the past to do so.

For instance, I used to work really hard because I wanted to earn more and ‘get financially free’. It was all about the money. But since designing my ‘intentional life plan’, I came to realize that I was more motivated by experiences, impact, leaving a legacy, and relationships than I was by money. My core values were not aligned with my daily actions.

Now, I choose work that aligns with my values and give my 120% in all that I do because I love it. It’s no longer about the “grind” where I was extrinsically motivated, but I’ve chosen a path that allows me to find energy from within and walk into my vision. 

Sure, sometimes life throws a curveball – like we always say, “sh*t happens”. But I felt much more equipped to deal with short-term obstacles because my eyes are always on the end goal. 

If you are someone thirsty for change and want to influence your future, then this is the article for you. Read on about how you can get started living life actively, with intention.

Want to kickstart your Intentional Living journey? Try out the FREE 30-Day challenge below

7 Steps to Get Started Living Intentionally

1. Understand that you are the author of your life story, and that your present choices define your future.

The first step is one focused on mindset change. Until you realize that life is made up of choices and that you do have a say over how your future looks, it will be difficult to embark on an intentional life.

You would have heard from many successful people that they had failed terribly before they became who they are. However, they have come to find success because they took responsibility for their future and made the right decisions/actions to keep pushing forward despite their less-than-ideal circumstances in life

  • The most famous example is Thomas Edison who had made mistakes, multiple times, before he succeeded in his inventions. As he famously said:”“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison
  • JK Rowling, one of my favourite authors of all time (where are the Harry Potter fans here?), was a divorced mother who was living on welfare prior to Harry Potter. She attributed her success to “hitting rock bottom”, which gave her the determination to succeed in that one area she always wanted to – to be a writer. And so she devoted all her energy to finishing the only work that matter to her. Rowling became America’s first billionaire author in 2004.
  • Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player ever, was once cut from his high school team. However, instead of giving up, he kept on training and pictured himself on the team. He was famously quoted as saying “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

And so, know that you are in complete control of who you can be in the future. 

While this is the first step towards intentional living, it may also be the hardest thing to do. You may already find yourself making excuses for why you CANNOT do or be something.

“I am not an entrepreneur because working for someone is much more stable and earns me more money”

“I’m too old, I do not have a degree unlike the many young people around”

“I don’t have the time to do anything else. I’m just trying to survive.”

Don’t get me wrong. I was where you were. Making excuses helped me justify why I wanted to opt-out of a choice that would lead me to achieve my goals but would require hard work, time, effort, and risk of failure. It was the safest and most painless way forward. “At least I won’t get hurt”, I told myself. 

It was easier to be comfortable where I was than to try something new for a reward that may or may not be realized. And I really wanted to stay put. 

I finally realized that I was never going to be happy or achieve my dream life until I decided to step out of my comfort zone and own my story.

So, I decided to tell myself a different story. Instead of the excuses, I replaced them with a statement that allowed me to be responsible for the way I lived:

“I am not an entrepreneur yet but I can take small steps daily to learn, improve myself, and create the right platforms. I can make baby steps daily with a small business and scale from there”

“I may not know how to film, create or edit videos for YouTube but I will just start and learn from there. The first few videos may be rubbish but I am improving every time I put these skills to practice.”

“I consciously make time for the things that matter. This matters, and I will carve out the necessary time for it.”

Realize that you have the power to own your future. While you may not be where you want to be yet, you can make the necessary changes and decide to work towards your goals.

Mini discovery exercise: 

  • Make a list of 3 excuses you have made for justifying why you are not achieving your dream life yet.
  • Rewrite these statements into one which allows you to take back ownership of your life.

2. Identify your core values and beliefs

Think

Before you make any plans, identify your core values and beliefs. To do that, let’s first decide on the focus areas of your life. 

Depending on your preference and life situation, you typically have 10-12 areas to focus on:

  1. Health and fitness
  2. Career or business
  3. Intellectual life
  4. Financial health
  5. Emotional life
  6. Spiritual life
  7. Love and relationships
  8. Family life
  9. Physical environment
  10. Hobbies and interests
  11. Personal character 
  12. Overall life vision

These 12 areas may or may not be the same for everyone, so feel free to change it up, merge them or eliminate those that do not apply to you.

Once you have identified the focus areas for your life, let’s now ask a few questions which can help you understand your beliefs better.

Some examples can be:

  1. Health and fitness
    • Do I believe that I am in control of my health?
    • What do I consider to be the ideal state of health for myself?
  2. Career or business
    • What is my aspiration for my career or business?
    • What is my dream job?
    • Are there any mental blockages e.g. do I feel unqualified to achieve any of my career or business aspirations? If these beliefs are not aligned to my aspirations, how do I change them?
  3. Intellectual life
    • Do I believe that personal development can help me achieve my dream life?
    • Am I continuously learning and developing myself? 
    • Do I learn with a growth mindset or do I learn to get specific knowledge for a specific goal?
  4. Financial health
    • What are my money beliefs? Do I have a poverty mindset or an abundant mindset?
    • Do I prefer spending on material things or on life experiences?
    • Do I budget / save / invest / manage my money well?
  5. Emotional life
    • What does happiness look like to me?
  6. Spiritual life
    • Do I believe in a God? Should my beliefs affect my behavior in any way?
    • Beyond faith, do I believe in nurturing my inner being to help me achieve happiness in life?
  7. Love and relationships
    • What is love to me?
    • Is having other people around me important?
  8. Family life
    • Is family important to me?
    • What do I believe makes a good parent?
  9. Physical environment
    • Do I believe that my physical environment affects my mental and emotional health?
    • What do I consider to be an ideal physical environment to live, work and play in?
  10. Hobbies and interests
    • Are hobbies or having fun important to me?
    • What are my hobbies and interests?
  11. Personal character 
    • Who do I want to be?
    • What kind of qualities do I want to be known for?
  12. Overall life vision
    • What do I believe make a good life? What is my idea of a dream life?
    • How do I define success?

These are just examples of questions you can ask yourself – try to spend as much time as you need for this self-discovery process. 

Knowing your core values helps you understand what are the most important priorities for you. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have your life figured out – you will get to work on it during the planning stage later.

Once you’ve done identifying your core values, write them down and stick them somewhere you can see daily.

3. Do an audit of your life

Now that you know what your core values are and who you are as a person, let’s level set on where you are right now. 

Examine the different areas of your life and ask yourself what your priorities are and whether this area of your life requires a change of intentions.

Some examples are:

  • Health: Where are you in your health and fitness journey. Are you being intentional in how you treat your mind, body and soul?
  • Finances: Do you have a budget? If your priorities are to earn enough to retire early, do you have a plan? Do you spend impulsively? Is there anything or anyone holding you accountable for your spending?
  • Career: Where are you in your career? Do you have a plan for development or progression? Have you spoken to your coach or boss about your plans and how you may get there? 
  • Relationships: Are your relationships edifying you or are they creating a toxic environment? Are you building meaningful relationships or are your friends merely acquaintances?
  • Habits: How are you spending your time? Are you being intentional about your day or do you allow yourself to go on autopilot? What are the good habits you can include in your life, and the bad habits that you should drop?

Where possible, score yourself on a rating scale of 1-10 on how happy you are in that area of your life. 

Be very real when evaluating yourself. It is easier to build a plan to change things in your life when you know which areas need more attention than others.

4. Define your vision and intention across the selected priority areas of your life

Vision

Once you know where you are, let’s look ahead and ask yourself where do you want to be eventually. Visualize what your life will look like when you achieve your goals.

Get as detailed as you can and write down exactly what each area looks like, and more importantly, how you feel when you achieve your goals.

If you feel motivated and energized just visualizing your future, you’re on the right track.

Try to spend as much time, if not more time on this exercise as with the previous. Defining your starting and ending point is key to understanding what the gaps are, and what you need to do to bridge these gaps – which is what we will explore in the next step.

5. Create a plan to implement small changes daily

A vision or goal will not manifest by itself. You have to take action in order to make it happen.

I’ve tried many different strategies, from yearly goal setting, to the 12-week year method, to getting things done. But the one that really stuck was just this simple rule: Be consistent.

You need to create habits that stick. And this is not just from me alone. James Clear states in his book Atomic Habits that 

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

Your vision and intention will be empowered by your daily habits and systems.

Instead of trying to achieve every vision you have stated, why not try one at a time. Start with the most important area of your life:

  1. Think about the tangible steps you can take daily that are aligned to your intentions, which will help you to achieve the vision for this area
  2. For each habit, track them against your core values. Are these actions aligned with your values and beliefs? – the only way this will work in the long run is when your actions are aligned with your core values.

And finally, it doesn’t matter how small each habit is, what matters is that you stay consistent. 

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

– Laozi

6. Hold yourself accountable

Community

Intentional living isn’t a one-off exercise. It’s about consciously doing the right actions and creating the right habits which help you to walk closer to your life vision. 

This stuff takes a lot of time and effort – mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s no wonder many people give up halfway and fall back into passive living.

Here are a few tips to keep  you going:

  1. Join a community that revolves around intentional living. They may not use the same words but you can find many online or in-person, where people are all about achieving goals, creating good habits and making each day count.
  2. Keep an intentional journal. Note your journey, whether good or bad, in your journal.
  3. Find someone who can be both a pillar of support and an accountability partner. This could be a friend or a family member whom you speak to periodically to walk through your journey and keep you on track with your intentions and choices.

7. Keep growing

“The more I learn, the less I realize I know”

– Socrates

One thing you’ll realize very quickly in your intentional living journey is that you are always growing and learning. 

You may find yourself swimming in a different direction from your peers. Your opinions may change over time, so will your values. 

Go with the flow – evaluate these changes, be critical about them, and adapt your plans accordingly.

Case in point: I used to believe that I can make the most impact and live to my fullest potential by climbing up the corporate ladder into a senior leadership position. However, as I traveled the world and spent time in my yoga journey, I have come to believe that impact is created in the daily grind – I am a leader in the position which allows me to change individual lives (as much as it is on a large scale). And here I am in my small attempt to influence others, exiting into an independent role while simultaneously working on this new blog.

As you journey through life, keep an open mind. Allow yourself to see the world and its possibilities with fresh eyes.

And one last tip: Get yourself comfortable with growth by reading or listening to people who have been there. Success leaves clues – accelerate your journey by learning from others.

5 of my favourite books on intentional living:

Want to kickstart your Intentional Living journey? Try out the FREE 30-Day challenge below

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My name is Candy Chan. This is a blog where you can find resources for personal growth and tips to become the best version of yourself.

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