How To Live With Intention

Many of us have heard the phrase “living with intention” but what exactly does that mean? And how exactly do you live with intention?


Intentional living is all about taking command of your own life and recognizing your innate power and ability to create the enjoyable life you want. The 5 most important steps for how to live with intention are:

  1. Understand what you value most
  2. Use your core values to guide your decisions
  3. Be clear about what you want
  4. Pay attention to trends and you experience that could influence your decisions
  5. Continuously evaluate and adjust your approach, as needed

In this article, we’re going to diver deeper into what it means to live with intention and how you can start living more intentionally today.

Table of Contents

What Does It Mean to Live Life With Intention?

Living a life of intention means making conscious decisions and purposeful choices that support the life you want or a goal you’re working toward. 


So many of us, myself included, have had moments in our own lives where we find ourselves in a certain position and have no idea how we got where we are. This can manifest in a number of ways. Maybe it’s a:

  • A bad relationship
  • A job or career we dislike
  • A difficult financial situation
  • An unhealthy weight gain or loss

I think of this as the life equivalent of driving home and then realizing you don’t know how you got there.

When this happens in the car, it’s because we’ve gone on autopilot. Our brains have built such a strong routine of acknowledging and obeying traffic signals that it’s easy for muscle memory to take over and we can literally get from point A to point B without ever making an engaged decision.


When you’re living with intention you are actively driving the car. You know what your destination is and you make conscious choices to get where you want to go.


Connect that back to the definition I gave above and you can easily see the 3 key elements of living life with intent:

  • Conscious thought
  • Purposeful choices
  • A targeted goal, outcome, etc.

What Is The Difference Between Intention And Purpose?

So now that we’ve dipped our toe in the water, so to speak, you may be wondering what the difference is between intention and purpose. Just like “living with intention” has become a staple phrase of our society, so too has “living with purpose” but are these two concepts really different?


The answer is…absolutely!


One of my favorite definitions of purpose is that it’s the perfect intersection between:

  • That which you love
  • That which the world needs
  • That which you can get paid for
  • That which you’re good at

It’s certainly easy to see how there can be similarities between the two definitions. 


Clearly, a level of awareness is necessary for both purpose and intention to be present. To live with intent, you have to know what you really want and to live with purpose you have to have a clear connection with the things you love, the things you’re good at, etc. And very few people will be able to live with purpose without making…you guessed it…purposeful choices.


The difference comes in with the function of the two concepts. Living with intention is about what you’re doing and living with a sense of purpose is about how you’re doing it.


The concept of purpose is another one I find personally fascinating and which, rightfully so, could have its own article. But let’s continue with the reason you’re here – intention!


Why Is It Important To Live With Intention?

I’m going to follow this driving metaphor all the way home (ha!). Previously I talked about how living without intention can be compared to driving on autopilot. It can also be compared to driving aimlessly with no plan, no idea of what route to take or, for some people, no clear idea of what your destination is. At the end of the day, you may eventually get where you want to go, but what will that experience be like? 


To really round this out, think back to a time when you were driving without a GPS or a map and you didn’t know the exact route. It might even be a time where you thought you knew the right route but external events like construction or an accident derailed things. Hold onto that memory of being derailed, lost, or off track as you answer the questions below:


  • Did you feel happy and confident in those moments or were your emotions darker, like frustration, anger, embarrassment, etc?
  • With each roadblock or challenge you faced, did it motivate and inspire you or did it make you angrier or more frustrated? 
  • If you found yourself experiencing these darker emotions, how did those come out in your driving? Did you cut others off, yell at them, drive more aggressively?
  • If you did find your emotions influencing your driving after the first challenge, then how did you notice yourself feeling after the second or third roadblock?
  • If you experienced these more negative feelings, then what thoughts came with them? Did you blame the other drivers, blame the construction, the weather, etc. for what you were going through?

This example may be talking about driving but every piece of it can correlate to common experiences, thoughts, and emotions you may struggle with when you’re living without intention.


The reality is that when we are living without taking intentional action (or driving without a plan) it can often feel like things are happening to us instead of because of us or because of our choices. And when we see things as happening to us then everything that happens is out of our control.


But living an intentional life – well that’s a whole other experience. Living with intention is about owning your life and taking responsibility for what happens in it. It’s acknowledging that you ARE in the driver’s seat, you ARE in control of your life, and you have the ability to choose how you react to different situations and, ultimately, how you reach your destination.

The beautiful thing is that you can have this realization and make this decision at any time. YOU have that power. 


So, let’s put ourselves back in the driver’s seat. When you started on this figurative drive, you knew you wanted to get a store on the west side of town so you just headed in that direction. Now that you’ve gotten detoured and turned around, you pull over, let out a deep breath to release all the stress you’ve just gone through, and make a new decision to look up the store in your GPS.


When you get back on the road, notice:

  • How do you feel? Is it more relaxed, more confident?
  • How does your body feel sitting in your seat? How do your hands feel on the steering wheel?
  • How are your reactions to other drivers now? Are they more measured, more calm?
  • How is your overall experience reaching your destination? Is it more enjoyable or more direct?

Of course this isn’t to say that when you live with intention there will never be roadblocks. There will still be detours and times that things will happen differently than you expected. But, similar to driving with a GPS, living with intention allows you to reroute in less time so you can get back on your own path with less stress.


How Do I Start Living Intentionally?

Today, we’re focusing on living intentionally on a very broad scale – intentionally living the life you want. But any of these concepts could be focused or narrowed further to help you also live intentionally with a very specific goal in mind.


To start living intentionally, it’s important to:


  • Truly understand what you value most. The first step to really owning your life is to understand what’s most important to you. This may seem like a simple concept but it’s more challenging than you might realize. All our lives, we’re told either directly or indirectly, what should be important. These messages come from all over – our friends, families, society, what we read or watch on TV, etc. Cutting through all of that “noise” to identify, acknowledge, and accept what you really care about is a HUGE first step to living with intention.
  • Use your values to guide your decisions. Once you know what’s most important, you can use that information to guide your decisions. When it comes time to make a big decision, all that noise we just talked about gets louder and more intrusive. Accepting that new promotion at work may jive with the value you were raised with of obtaining financial security but how does it support your current value of having time to connect with your friends and family?
  • Be clear about what you want. Again, since we’re talking broad strokes right now – what kind of life do you want? Is it a life of luxury and fancy parties? A comfortable home in the suburbs? A nomadic lifestyle traveling the world? The same list of personal values can feasibly fit into all three of those examples so knowing this gives you one more “tool” to help you make a solid decision. Going back to the promotion example – if you’ve confirmed that it fits into your values then the next question is, does it get you closer to or further from what you ultimately want?
  • Pay attention to trends you experience that could influence your decisions. Doing everything I’ve outlined above may sound nice but how do you know if you’re really making the right decisions? One way to know is to pay attention to trends in how you’re thinking and feeling. What about trends in the results you’re getting? You’ve probably heard it said before that when everything just seems to line up, it’s a clear sign you’re on the right track. So which way are things trending for you and what might that mean?
  • Continuously evaluate and adjust your approach, as needed. Life constantly changes and even after you nail down all of the bullets above, it’s realistic to think that they could shift over time. At different stages of your life, your values and what you want from life can be very different. Living intentionally is not so much about making a plan once and then sticking with it, but staying constantly in touch with what you currently want.

While there may be a lot to unpack here, hopefully this gets you one step closer to living with intention and living the life you’ve always wanted.


Of course, it’s also understandable if you struggle through any part of this. A lot of obstacles can pop up on the way to truly living with intention including:


  • Not really understanding what you want
  • Getting caught up in other’s desires and expectations
  • Letting challenges drive rather than influence your decisions
  • Having the confidence to pursue what you really want

If you find yourself having these or other difficulties, let’s schedule some time to talk about what you’re going through. I’d love to help!

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