Living With Intention: Create The Life Of Your Dreams
Living with intention means learning every day how to begin to live your life for you on your own terms and to turn all those dreams into reality. It means choosing to live your life in a way that is aligned with your truth, your authenticity, your desires, your sense of purpose and sense of self, finding your own beautiful way amidst the noise of the stories we’re all taught about what it means to live a good and worthy life.
And letting all those morality tales fade into the background so you can begin to live your life like you mean it.
We’re going to talk about what it means to live with intention, to make decisions for yourself and your life on purpose and ahead of time.
I often hear phrases like, “I don’t know where my day went,” or, “I can’t believe I’ve been in this job for like, five years now. How did that happen?”
And this is such a common experience for folks with codependent and people-pleasing thought habits because so often, we’ve spent a lifetime trying to please others, to attempt to keep them happy, going along to get along.
And we’ve been so outwardly focused, so externally motivated that we’ve turned our attention away from ourselves and what we truly want. We live our lives on autopilot, passively moving on instead of pausing to ask if we’re living our lives for us, with intention. If we’re living our lives on our own terms on purpose.
And I want to acknowledge that this topic is a huge one.
In a recent study of 3000 people in the UK, 96% reported living on autopilot with the average person making 15 mindless decisions each and every day. Over the course of a lifetime, this adds up to a quarter of a million autopilot decisions made minimum.
So many of us are living from our lizard brains, from that oldest part of us that upholds the motivational triad of mammalian life. To seek pleasure, avoid pain, and maintain biological efficiency, which you’ll remember, my nerd, means not to change a darn thing in life that hasn’t killed you yet if you can help it.
Your lizard brain is a loving, caring part of you and just wants you to survive, but there’s the rub.
It just wants you to survive, and frankly, not do much else. Eat, sleep, hydrate, procreate, repeat. Those are its imperatives, its goals.
In modern times, that can also look like upholding the societal and cultural and familial standards and expectations you were taught. And especially for humans socialized as women, we’re taught that we should be good girls, quiet girls, pretty and thin and not have dirt on our faces or be rough- housing with the boys, that we should get married and have kids, and that’s the plan. Oh, probably have a career too.
And babies, my sweet babies, nothing wrong with that plan. Not any part of it if you consciously, intentionally choose it. But if there’s a part of your brain that’s beating you up for being 30 and not married, or 34 without children, have you paused to ask yourself if you actually want this whole big old plan or why?
Your amygdala, the fear sensor in your brain, isn’t a huge fan of you deviating from the plan we’ve all been taught in our own special way because it leaves you exposed to criticism, to being ostracized, and told you’re effing up. You’re doing life wrong. You’re not measuring you, you’re a failure of a mammal. The old compare and despair.
And remember, way back in the day, not fitting in was really actually dangerous because if your fellow cave humans didn’t like your choices, you could be literally left out of the village to die on your own. From a polyvagal nervous system framing, not being in ventral vagal, the safe and social connected part of our nervous system with your family and community is also dangerous and downright dumb.
Sticking out, not fitting in, all of this can leave your nervous system feeling all frayed at the edges. So we work to fit in, to feel safe and social and protected, and it makes sense.
And frankly, and to put it elegantly, it sucks at the same time because not all of us want what’s prescribed for us by the forces outside of ourselves, and few of us stop to ask if we really believe the hype, if we want what we’ve been taught to want, or if we want something widely different. A life lived with intention on our own terms.
And when your lizard brain is the boss, then buffering, or doing anything and everything you can to not feel your feelings or to attempt to push them away is the obvious plan. To wake up, often exhausted, work at the office all day, I mean, kitchen table for most of us and pre-work from home, to do the things that it took to get along, to not feel like the odd one out at the office.
Day in and day out, and then you go home, eat whatever’s available, quick and easy and collapse in front of your TV with your buffer of choice. And that, my beautiful love, is unintentional living. Exhausting yourself to get the grades, to get the college acceptance, to get the job, to get the raise, to get the promotion, to what? Die having gone through the motions?
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those choices. Never ever. I mean, I did it too. And baby, you do you. But that’s the point. You get to do you. Not you get to do what you were told that you should want to do. And your intuition is the most important barometer here. Your guide to whether you’re living from default or by design.
This topic is particularly pertinent to folks with codependent and perfectionist thought habits because those habits leave you, us really, so detached from your own wants, needs, desires, preferences, capacity tomake bold decisions or decisions in general like what’s for dinner or what should I wear.
So detached from your capacity to take courageous action that we defer decision making. Put it off, procrastinate, get 473 opinions from other people before charting a course for ourselves, before hitting send, before saying yes or no, before investing, before moving forward.
And my goal is to support you in learning how to do it differently. How to live your life with intention.
For me, living with intention means living your life on purpose and making decisions big and small from an aligned, thoughtful, self-loving place.
My beauty, what do you want to be able to say you chose with intention for yourself when you’re on your deathbed? But seriously, take a moment to consider it.
Do you want to say you did the PhD because you believed in yourself? Or do you want to say that you did it to please others and because your parents expected it? Same with your daily nutrition choices, your fashion, your partnerships, your marriage, having kids or not, all of it.
And my darling, I want to invite you to get wildly radically honest with yourself about what you want, what you’re passionate about, and to allow yourself to go for it. Not to hold back because it sounds too out there, because someone else might not like it.
Now, I’m not telling you to quit your day job and to burn it all down, though, I mean, go for it if you’re so called. But rather to start living life on your own terms in the little ways. The way you keep your eye on your own version of the prize, to bring your attention to your own heart, your mind, wishes, desires, your intentions for your life.
And yes, there’s so much privilege in these kinds of conversations. Many, many, many people the world over have to work at jobs that they not only don’t like but are dangerous on so many levels. That’s super real. I’m never ever out here toeing that Horatio Alger’s pull yourself up by the bootstraps kind of BS. Never ever.
That literally serves no one. Being conscious of reality and naming it, that does. That is important. And simultaneously, I don’t want you to hear me saying that and be like, well, then I don’t get to suffer, I don’t get to choose my path because I do have a “good job” or decent relationship. It’s never the suffering Olympics for me.
It’s more like, if you have the privilege to be in a place to shift your life with ease, to not need to work two to three jobs, or work in a salt mine for a living or whatever, then that’s something phenomenal and worth celebrating, worth living into with intention and dedication, honoring your privilege.
So you can fill your own cup and then be of service to the world.
Alright my beauty, let’s talk antidotes.
Intention is attention.
Awareness, always our first step in this family. Where your mind goes, energy flows. I talk a lot about being your watcher, getting deeply mindful. That is bringing your attention to your daily choices and engaging in a wholehearted way in whatever you’re doing.
Getting present, not rolling along on autopilot. You can make tea with intention. You can date with intention. You can calendar, watch TV, have sex, move your body, clean your dog’s poop, all with intention. Awareness. On and on, that intention and awareness are always available to you.
Or you can choose to live your life on autopilot and it’s important to check in with yourself about the things you do without considering them, like how many of you open your social media or email within milliseconds of waking up? What about having coffee first thing in the morning on an empty belly, or alcohol most evenings without questioning whether these choices make your body feel good or do funky things you’d prefer to skip to your mood?
These habits are likely unintentional and generally don’t serve us, my beautiful love.
And when I’m talking about living with intention, I mean stopping to ask yourself, do I really want to be doing this thing? Is it really aligned for me?
And being an adult totally doesn’t mean doing 110% enjoyable things all the time. The garbage needs to go out, once again, that dog poop, it needs scooped. The taxes need to be paid.
It’s not about that. It’s about asking what results your actions are creating in your life, and if you want that result, asking yourself if you like the reason why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing.
Do I like my reason why?
The more present you are, the more awake and alive in your day to day life, the more capable you are of making decisions that serve you and taking courageous action for your life.
And it supports you in having the kinds of relationships I know you want to have where there is mutuality and reciprocity, interdependence. Not codependence.
I see you, you sweet perfectionist little sweet potato. There is no prescribed perfect here. No right way to do this. The goal is to tune into yourself, to learn what you really want under all the conditioning and socialization, to prioritize that one breath at a time.
The next step is planning.
Using that amazing prefrontal cortex of yours, my nerd, to consciously decide what your life is going to be like, to plan your days, weeks, months, to not give your time and attention and power away, but to say I own my time, my thoughts, my feelings. I’m not going to just let the day happen. I’m going to take ownership here.
And maybe your brain is screaming, “But I have a job, or kids who are now home 24/7,” whatever the story is. And true enough, we do all have things outside of us that request our time and attention, and within those frameworks, you do still have choice.
You don’t have to, you get to. Again, privilege at work, totally. And no matter what the day and the kids and the job and the relationship request of you during the day, you get to choose not to spend your evening watching two to three hours of TV and zoning out the second the kids are asleep.
You don’t have to continue to numb out, though please, of course, I get it. When trauma, stress, and overwhelm are up and active, it’s so tempting to buffer, to numb out. And while yes, it’s incredibly healthy to pause and decide to take a break, I want to invite you to do that consciously, intentionally as well.
As always, I love it when things are super actionable for you, so here are some guiding questions.
- What do I want my life to be like?
- What are my wildest dreams for my own life?
- That is, if there were no barriers in the whole wide world, what would I like this life to look like?
- What are my intentions for my life? My day, my week, my month, my year.
Take the time to look at every aspect of your life, to make this work truly holistic. Your job, career, work life, romance, other relationships, family, movement, nutrition, health, all of it. What are your intentions for each aspect of your life?
- Where am I saying no to myself to try to make someone else happy?
- Where am I saying yes to someone else when it’s not what I truly want for myself?
- How do I want to make my mark on the world?
- What dreams and visions do I want to turn into reality?
- What can I do each and every day to begin to build trust in and with myself?
Remember, small things are the perfect ones to start with, a la minimum baseline. How do I want to spend my time?
What are the mental and emotional barriers holding me back? Now, I’ll invite you to get really detailed and run it all through the thought work protocol. If you need to make a prudent choice at this stage of your life, like to stay at a job you don’t love for now because money, health insurance, et cetera, then that’s what you’re doing.
Meanwhile, while that part of your life isn’t changing for now, you get to accept that and to focus your attention on how else you can bring awareness and intention into your life.
What about drinking your coffee slowly while noticing your breath? What about walking one extra stop after getting off the subway or the bus with your phone away? Looking at the world around you and really taking it in.
What can you easily shift that is completely within your control in this moment, while you’re still working that job you don’t want to work, or otherwise doing what’s necessary in life in this moment?
And then you get to make a plan.
I’ll encourage it to be a realistic one, and you get to lovingly encourage yourself to hold to it each and every day without guilt or shame or being mean to you. Just nice and soft and loving and encouraging, as your own best parent.
A life lived with intention and self-direction is so gratifying.
And it can be yours, my darling one. Start with awareness, acceptance of what is, what isn’t working, what’s holding you back, and then start moving into action. You got this, my sweet one.