What Is Intentional Living?

intentional living is like having guardrails
image from unsplash.com

The tagline for Simply in the Suburbs is “Intentional Living in the Land of Distractions.”

At some point everyday, I ask myself, “What do I even mean by ‘intentional living'”?

I mean…what is this website trying to help dads, moms, and young professionals accomplish?

And why should you, a busy person living a very busy life, take a few minutes to read?

When I ask myself what intentional living means, what I’m really asking is why you should even be concerned with the idea. How will intentional living help you? What personal, professional, and relational goals benefit from living intentionally?

Is living intentionally any better than living unintentionally, by just putting one random foot in front of the other random foot?

Finally… Are most individuals already living with intention? Is this just a ‘me’ issue? Should I journal about this idea instead of blogging about it?

My sense is that I’m not the only one that suffers from occasional feelings of ‘How in the world did I get where I now am?’

We suffer from these feelings in areas like health (how did I gain x number of lbs over the last 5 years?) and finances (I didn’t think we were spending more than we were making) and career (I thought I’d be at a different place by now).

Even worse is unintentional living around are greatest relational priorities: faith, family, and friends. Or the personal hopes and dreams we had for ourselves: ‘I always wanted to do such and such… but I don’t see it happening any time soon.’

I don’t think it’s just a ‘me’ problem – our tendency to float and drift and let things fall off our radars.

Defining “Intentional Living”

To be intentional is to not allow circumstances, happenstance, and drift be the main determinants of what happens to you.

To be intentional is to make clear decisions about what is important to you – your top, most important, want to be remembered for, priorities.

To be intentional is to have a plan.

Intentional living, then, is living in accordance with the decisions you’ve already made about what is important to you.

It is also taking full on responsibility for what you do with the cards that you’ve been dealt, even if those cards really do suck.

Living intentionally involves crafting a plan that dovetails with your heart, your understanding of your purpose, and your clear top priorities.

From there, intentional living is actually following that plan.

What Intentional Living Is NOT

Intentional living isn’t micromanaging your calendar.  I’ve tried that. It’s stressful. The overly tight daily to-do list tempts me still.

Intentional living is not controlling what you can’t control.  You can only control your actions and reactions although we often tell ourselves and others that we can’t.  I’m a believer in God, so ultimately, I know I’m not at the main helm.

To practice intentional living is not to heap yourself with additional stressful action items and to give yourself too many goals that you have to achieve. Goals and new habits might be a part of the deal, but don’t burden yourself with piles of rules and regulations.

intentional living is like having guardrails
image from unsplash.com

Word Pictures for Intentional Living

Intentional living is like having guardrails.

Guardrails give you an indication when you’re about to find yourself off the road, often to some minor damage to your vehicle. You haven’t fallen over the cliff yet, but you’re much closer. (Click here for a great teasing out of this guardrail idea).

Intentional living helps keep you on the road.

Living intentionally is like a bobsled course.

A loose but focused plan are the big ice walls that keeps the bobsled of your life heading down the course.

You might bump up against those walls and not be quite as efficient as you could be, but living on purpose keeps you from flying out of control.

Are You Intentional or Not?

This is a good question to ask yourself.

If there’s an area where you’ve not been quite pleased, you might have been struggling and trying and focusing all your energy on it. Being intentional might not be the problem there. You just need to keep experimenting and being honest about your efforts and results.

But there might be an area that strikes you right now as an area you’ve neglected. You’ve not paid that priority any attention.

I encourage you to pull that thing that you would consider a top priority out of the back of your cluttered mental closet and start creating a plan – start putting guardrails up in your life that will give that area the protection it deserves.

See if clarity comes.


If you want to work on an overall plan, check out my Starting Well Challenge. I’ll be updating the Challenge soon, but the nuts and bolts won’t change.

It’s a great place to start identifying the things that are most important to you and creating a plan around those priorities.

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