I associate intention with minimalism. Minimalism is all about only surrounding yourself with what you value and need most. I am aiming to be more intentional in my choices and only choosing what I value and need the most. Living intentionally has helped me remove the unnecessary stress that comes with spending money on things you don’t particularly want or need and being surrounded by people or things that don’t improve your life.
My introduction to intentional living was purely situational. I am a student living in London, struggling to find part-time work in the wake of the pandemic and I literally cannot afford to buy more than I need and the occasional thing I want. My student loan barely covers central London rent and bills, so I knew if I wanted to stay afloat this year I needed to focus more on budgeting. Fortunately, I stumbled on Deborah Ho on TikTok who has a free downloadable expense tracker, which operates alongside google forms. Every time I make a purchase, I simply fill in the form and it logs it in my spreadsheet. This enables me to see what percentage of my money I am spending on what.
For example, last month, aside from rent, I spent the most on food & drink. Knowing this, I have gone into this month aiming to reduce the amount I spend on eating out. This does not mean I won’t eat out at all, because I love going to new restaurants and trying new things, so I don’t want to eliminate that from my lifestyle entirely. Instead, I actively ensure I spend less of my weekly budget in advance of when I know I’ll be eating out, so that I can still afford to do what I enjoy. Being intentional with my purchases helps me continue to afford the unnecessary things that make me happy. I know people love to laugh at Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” practice but it is actually a great way of distinguishing between if you are shopping with a purpose or out of habit or boredom. When considering when to buy something, I ask myself first “do I need this?”. Yes, I can buy it. If no, I then consider “what will having it add to my life?”. For example, I may not a silk pillowcase but it will improve my quality of sleep and has benefits to my skin and hair, so if I can find room for it in the budget I can get it. If I can’t find room for it at present, I add it to a list of things I wanted to buy but didn’t and can return this when I do have the money. Often, I look back at this list and realise I no longer want some things on it anyway.
Intentional living goes beyond finances and impacts every aspect of my life. When faced with a decision between what I want to do and what I feel I should do, I consider the outcome of doing each thing. It’s the end of the week, the weather is rather depressing, all I really want to do is binge watch the last 8 episodes of The Vampire Diaries is taken off Netflix (November 1st yikes). But there is also an essay I could be writing for an optional competition, so I don’t have to do it but winning could result in publication and prize money and it’s relevant to my career. Do I want to spend this unimpressive Sunday writing a legal essay or do I want to find out how the 8 series I invested in a TV show ends? I realise it’s kind of both, so I start the essay first. I recognise that the hardest part of doing something you don’t want to do is starting but it’s the only way to accomplish it. A few hours later, I am almost enjoying the research and am 500/1200 words down. In my mind, I have earned a break to watch one episode and when I finish I can watch as many as my heart desires. Sometimes you can balance both but when I can’t, I acknowledge that as long as I considered the options fully I am happy with my decision. Even when I opt for the self-indulgent one. Because that’s what you need some days!
I always used to consider myself an impulsive person, who acts on emotion and instinct. But I have actually found I benefit a lot more from making rational, intentional decisions. If someone said something kind of mean or negative to me before, I would take it to heart instantly. Whereas now, I try to slow down and ask myself why I care what they think, or if I even do care at all. A lot of the time I realise I don’t actually and that I should not make that person relevant to my happiness. Being intentional with who I interact with and give my time too, has undoubtedly made me value myself and my energy more. If someone’s attitude confuses me or leaves me feeling negative, I no longer feel guilty for putting necessary distance between us.
It may sound like a very cautious way to live but I haven’t found this to be a negative experience at all. Instead, I feel that I am more confident that my environment and the people I am surrounded by are all deliberate choices I have made. Everything serves its own purpose, even if it is just to make life more enjoyable or comfortable. Overall, I am more in control of my circumstances.
Do you already practice intentional living, or is it something you would consider trying? Let me know in the comments.