There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
What Is Intentionalism?
In a world where you are primed to be passive so that you never question the status quo – so that huge corporations continue to line their pockets with your nine-to-five wage – it’s time to start taking back control of your thoughts, beliefs, actions, and how you choose to spend your time. You are what you choose to consume.
You aren’t just what you eat, but also the TV shows you passively watch, the social media you unconsciously scroll through, the adverts you’re bombarded with that you didn’t even ask for, and the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
You’re the sum of all the stories you’ve ever told yourself about yourself, whether they have any basis in truth or not. Your brain patterns, beliefs and daily habits are essentially hard-wired like the back end of a computer. You’re just running the daily systems on repeat in the foreground.
Whilst this may all sound incredibly pessimistic, the good news is that change is possible. Whilst it may push you outside of your comfort zone at times, I’m here to share my journey with you towards Intentionalism.
Intentionalism is about taking back control and being in the driver’s seat of your life. It is about digging deep and doing the inner work to critically examine your core values. Your values are the foundations upon which you’re building your life. It is about understanding your why. It is about using this to design your life and underpin your daily habits, to build the life you truly love and deserve.
From Directionless and Unfulfilled, to Building a Life of Intention
Two and a half years ago on my thirtieth birthday, and on the verge of entering into another national lockdown, I had just broken off the engagement to my long-term fiancé, lost my job, and sold our house to move back in with my parents. Whilst I was grateful for my family’s support and a roof over my head, it’s an understatement to say that this was far from the happy-ever-after I’d envisioned.
Lying alone in my single childhood bed, it felt in a way like the world was ending. And, in a morbidly ironic way, maybe being in the middle of a global pandemic… it really was ending.
As a natural-born worrier, I should by all accounts have been terrified. This was not how things were meant to happen. I had no idea what was around the corner, and I certainly didn’t feel ready to find out! But strangely at the same time, there was also an underlying calm in the eye of the storm. There was peace in the knowledge that everything was falling apart around me.
If you’ve ever been (un)lucky enough to hit rock bottom in your life, you’ll know that it can actually be a rather fortunate place to find yourself. With all the stability of work, house and relationship pulled out from under my feet, my whole identity was brought into question. I began to systematically challenge everything I believed about myself.
Who was I? What did I care about and what excited me? What did I want to do with my life?
Who Even Am I?
The following couple of years involved a lot of solitude and reflection. Having been a self-confessed bookworm since childhood, I devoured just about every self-help book I could get my hands on.
On the surface, it probably didn’t appear that very much was happening. I came off social media and avoided dating sites. I focused all of my attention inwards. And during this quiet time, I started to make some of the smallest changes which have grown into the most significant structures.
You see, what I began to realise is that I had failed to ever seriously question my beliefs or identify my core values. For the longest time, I had suffered from OCD and health anxiety, which felt like living under the rule of an iron-fisted dictator. I was a slave to my irrational thoughts and anxieties, and had continually diminished and denied myself my best life due to fear.
Through a combination of self-study and therapy, what I also learnt alongside my mental health issues, is that I was always playing the “good girl”; acting out the narrative of what my family and society viewed as successful. From an outsider’s perspective I had it all: the decent job, the committed relationship, the detached house. But something was just… off.
Because it was like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom.
At my core, I was bored and unfulfilled, with a vague sense of disconnect threatening just under the surface. I kept trying to fill my life with short-term dopamine hits. Whether it was an hour disappearing as I scrolled through Instagram, or the late-night splurging I couldn’t really afford on ASOS, my life was a series of soft-core addictions I wasn’t even fully aware of.
The Journey Towards Intentionalism
Intentionalism grew out of a desire to understand myself at a deep level, and a commitment to being the best version of myself every single day. I didn’t want to keep filling the bottomless pit of unfulfillment with trash TV, junk food, social media or fast fashion. There had to be a way to live with purpose and clarity, and I was determined to find it.
Firstly, I made a pledge to myself that I would have a set of minimum daily requirements that I would hold myself accountable to, as a form of self-care, whether I felt like it or not. My job was simply to treat myself like someone I valued, and whose time I respected. This involved a daily routine which consisted of ten micro-habits:
- Get up on alarm
- Make bed
- Cold shower
- Go for a walk outside
- Eat a healthy breakfast
- Read for 5 minutes
- Write for 5 minutes
- Write down 3 things I’m grateful for
- Meditate for 5 minutes
- Have a set bedtime
Whilst the cold shower may not have made it long term(!), little did I know that this would kick-start my interest in neuroplasticity; or simply put, how we can literally rewire our brains, change our habits and essentially become different people.
The Four Pillars of Intentionalism
Knowing my why when committing to these micro-habits helped me to develop Mindfulness; the first and foremost pillar of Intentionalism. Having my own unique set of intrinsic values meant I could rely less on the opinion of others, and understand at a core level my individual likes, motivations, passions and dreams.
It also taught me my next important lesson in Intentionalism: Productivity. Self-discipline is developed like a physical muscle. There is satisfaction in long-term gain over short-term gratification, through necessary sacrifices in the moment. Strong daily habits which support your values have an astonishing compound effect when pursued with consistency over time.
My third lesson in Intentionalism was Minimalism. I came to understand that I didn’t need half the things I thought I did to make me happy. I began to cultivate a healthy distrust of all marketing messages and disconnect as much as possible. An intentional life goes hand in hand with Minimalism.
And finally, I started to think about how everything I do is an extension of my values, which led me to consider how I treat other sentient beings on this planet. My journey towards Intentionalism led me to Veganism in January 2022. Despite my love of all things dairy, I can honestly say it’s one of the best and most empowering decisions I’ve ever made.
These four pillars mean that I can now build a life of active creation rather than passive consumption. I value deep work and meaningful creativity, which instantly puts me at odds with the culture we live in, and allows me to do what I love creating content to serve others. If unhappiness is boredom, then happiness is excitement for a cause I’m passionate about.
Change the Input to Change the Output
You’ve got to change your hardware in order to run different systems, to in turn produce different results.
You won’t always be met with approval, but you’re not doing things for appearances anymore. You’re doing them because they come from the core of who you really are. And in the long run, that feels much more satisfying on a soul level than anyone else’s vision of success.
You are not simply the sum of your early family life, culture and experiences. You have the power to change the blueprint and forge out bravely on your own; with no role model, to places you’ve never been before. Anything is possible when you make the necessary changes in your life to consistently pursue the things that matter to you.
This is the life-changing stuff which no one stops to think that children should be learning about in school. And because of this, it might be difficult to know where to start.
How do I know what my values are? What are my true likes and dislikes? What should I be pursuing in life that will fulfil me on a deeper level?
Here at Intentional View, we will explore these questions and many more. I am here to help you with this journey as I undertake my own. And I can’t wait to see where it takes us!