Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, “How did I get here?” You are not alone. Lots of people find themselves in jobs, relationships, or in situations that they feel they didn’t choose and would never choose. How does that happen? One mindless decision at a time. When you live intentionally, this can never happen.
What’s a Mindless Decision?
A mindless decision is one that is made without awareness. Perhaps it is an emotional decision that was made out of fear of being left out, being laughed at, not having enough money, being alone, or fear of failure. It could be that you don’t make a decision at all and are therefore stuck with what you get. It could also be that you rationalize your way into what looks like the “right” thing, but it doesn’t fill your heart. Here are some examples of mindless decision making:
- I don’t know what I want to major in so I don’t apply to any colleges.
- I am not happy with my relationship. I don’t want to change myself. I don’t have any better options, so I stay in it and things stay the same.
- My family has a certain status. I am expected to maintain that status. When a guy who fits the picture of that comes along, I marry him because he fits the right profile. I don’t look at other factors.
- I want to get married (or I want security). Someone asks me to marry him. He can provide security. I marry him without really considering if it’s a good long-term match.
- I am in an abusive relationship. When it’s good, it’s great. He makes me feel like a queen. When it’s bad, it’s horrible. I stay because I don’t believe anyone else could love me.
- I am a mover and shaker. I am great at climbing the corporate ladder. I keep applying for jobs that will get me more status and money, but I don’t consider how that is wrecking my family life and personal satisfaction.
- I am house hunting. I find the perfect house. The market is hot. Homes are selling in days. I get involved in a bidding war and overpay for the house.
- I am at a party with people I don’t know well. I am anxious. I decide to drink to loosen up. I end up plastered and embarrass myself and the host.
How to Live Intentionally
Living intentionally is about becoming aware of your whole self and how that fits into the world around you. This awareness will give you information about what works for you in a way that works for your emotion self, your body, your spirit, the people closest to you, and the world. When all of those things are clicking, you are more likely to make decisions that take you to a place that you enjoy. Notice that I didn’t say that they will take you where you think you want to be. Sometimes life has surprises. Let it surprise you. Wherever you end up, it will be someplace that is in alignment with your true self.
Pay Attention to Your Body
You live in your body. It is the way you express your humanity. Pay attention to it. It’s always telling you when to eat, when to rest, when to take a time out, when to get away from someone, what to avoid (like food, people or substances) and whether you are safe. We often override these signals because of deadlines, expectations, desires, emotions, expectations, and convenience. When you take care of and listen to your body, it will continue to serve you.
Have you ever thought about how we greet people in America? Hello, hi, yo, wha’s up, and hey are all common, very disconnected ways of getting someone’s attention. “Hello” was originally a way of shouting or attracting attention. That’s not a very welcoming way to come into someone’s presence, but it’s a reflection of our society, isn’t it?
Namaste is a Sanskrit word used in greeting and departures that means, “The God in me recognizes the God in you.” As-salaam ‘alaykum is an Arabic greeting that means, “Peace be unto you.” Aloha means “the joyful sharing of life energy in the present.” The Irish greeting, Dia duit, means “God be with you.” Tungjatjeta is the Albania greeting meaning “Have a long life.”
How do you want to greet someone and come into their presence? Choosing words that reflect delight to see them, a welcoming stance, or a blessing starts things off in a more connected and loving way, don’t they? Think about what you are saying. Think about the energy that you are conveying. Do you want to attract someone’s attention so that they can serve you or do you want to share a moment with them? Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Don’t speak mindlessly or out of habit. Give your words meaning.
Many cultures show their gratitude for life regularly. It is part of their being. It helps to keep them plugged in to nature. When you say a prayer before a meal, it acknowledges the plants, animals, and Creator for providing sustenance for your body. When you say a prayer at night thanking the Creator for the many blessings you received that day, you open the way for more abundance to flow to you. You also get into a mindful space to see whatever happens in your life as a blessing. This helps you to grow. Gratitude is an element of happiness. No happiness can flow where there is no gratitude. Focusing on what you are grateful for gives your life meaning. That meaning can help you to stay connected to what is important. That focus can help you to live more intentionally.
Start Afresh Every Day
Observe the past. Learn from the past, but never keep score. Start every day fresh. If the trash didn’t get taken out, the dry cleaning didn’t get dropped off, and you didn’t get dressed or showered yesterday, let it go. Maybe that gets put on the list of things to do today, and maybe it doesn’t. Either way, let today be a fresh start. Regret and judgment can derail you. Living intentionally is about this moment. It’s about staying in the game right now. If you stay in the game this moment, tomorrow will take care of itself, and yesterday will be another brick in the road there. So start fresh every day.
Get Clear On Your Intention
Know why you are doing what you are doing. Just for a second before you being doing something, silently state to yourself the intention for doing it. If it doesn’t align with your purpose or with who you are, either don’t do it or reconfigure it so that it does align. For example, if I am washing my car, I could say silently to myself, “I am washing this car because I can’t stand an untidy car.” Hm. That is a negative desire that doesn’t really make me particularly happy, so let’s see if I can realign that. How about, “I am washing my car so that I can enjoy the ride wherever it takes me.” Ah! That’s a happy delightful thought that makes my task a lot more enjoyable, doesn’t it? If I am getting ready for lunch and say, “I intend to nourish my body,” I am probably going to make healthier choices than if I rush through it mindlessly.
If I hated my job I might say, “I am going to work today so that I can serve my clients and bring a little light into the world” or “I am going to work today to provide for my family.” When I start my day with intention, I am more likely to enjoy every moment of my life. I probably won’t end up thinking, “How did I end up in this miserable, dead end job” because I will have thought about why I am taking the job before I take it. So doing the job will be a choice rather than something that happens to me.
You know those awful Facebook statuses or rants that probably shouldn’t have been shared? Getting clear on your intention can stop those kinds of things from happening too. Let’s say that I am feeling angry, jealous, hurt, or vengeful and write something that expresses that. I get clear on my intention and say to myself, “I am writing this so that I can feel justified/get sympathy/show the world how horrible someone else is.” Whoa. That’s probably enough to slow things down and get you centered. When you are centered, you are less likely to allow your feelings to come out as hurtful behaviors.
Be Okay With Changing Your Course
Have you ever been halfway to your goal and then realize that that isn’t what want after all? It happens. Sometimes you don’t have enough information at the outset to make a fully informed decision. Sometimes you grow and change along the way. Sometimes circumstances change. If you are on track to be a lawyer and then decide it’s not right, moving forward with the old plan no longer makes sense. Staying on track will take you away from where you want to be. Living intentionally requires an understanding that things change. Nothing stays the same forever. When it’s time for adjustments, make adjustments. In fact, if you’ve been living mindlessly for a while, you probably have a lot of adjustments to make.
Accept What You Can’t Control
Living intentionally isn’t about becoming a control freak. It’s about taking responsibility for what shows up and how you receive it. A tornado can still come into your life and wreak havoc. People will still leave you. You may still have times when you are in need. And when those things happen, living intentionally will help you to be grounded, grateful, present, and alive. It can help you to realize that life isn’t about obtaining things or status. It’s not about money or experiences. It’s about Being here.
When you live intentionally, you feel like a participant in your life. You step into the role of co-creator. It’s a much more satisfying experience than living in the passenger’s seat. It gives you confidence that if you don’t like what you see, you have the power to change it. It makes life much more meaningful and connected. Give it a try. Let me know how it works out for you.