Seven tips for living with intention

Gratitude on Mount Raymond

Gratitude on the summit of Mount Raymond

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. – E E Cummings

I realized something about myself today. My inspiration to shift from a reactionary life, to one created with intention, was based on the simple belief that people can change and improve their lives. Sounds simple right? Well, it’s not THAT simple. There is some debate as to how much people can change. In preparing to write this post, I started to look for some statistics to share with you. What I found was a mixed bag of conflicting opinions.  There is consensus that our core personality is consistent. I accept that. That said, I chose to believe that it is possible to at least heal from trauma and become whole. Perhaps those idealistic blinders were my greatest asset. Now, realizing that not everyone agrees, I want share some encouraging words with you.

Roughly four years ago, I set out on a journey of change and healing. It hasn’t been easy and yet I’ve committed myself to this path without reservation, holding to the belief that I could succeed. The result? I’m happy, fulfilled, and at peace. Without a doubt, it has been worth the struggle.

But, what about self-esteem, emotional connectedness, facing fears and things like that? Seriously, I have based the last four years on the belief that I can choose to grow in these areas, and I have. I’m not the same girl I was at 17, 27 or even 37. I’m the product of hard work. The notion that our past defines our future freaks me the heck out.

There may be some personality traits you’re stuck with, kinda like a crazy uncle, but don’t allow anyone to tell you that you can’t improve your life.   This is the biggest piece of advice I can give you, but I have a few more tidbits I’ll share below.

Here are seven tips you can use today:

1)      Have confidence in your journey - There will be naysayers, but you are the one on the line, not them. It’s your life, don’t allow anyone discourage you.

2)      Own your issues - I’ll say it again, none of us is perfect. The sooner you accept, own, and get real about your imperfections, the sooner you’ll get where you want to be. If you regularly blame to things out of your control as being the source of your unhappiness, it might be time to look in the mirror. This isn’t absolute, bad things happen, but we often control far more than we want to admit.

3)      Meditate and/or journal - You have no idea how important it is to pause and look inward on a regular basis. I journal nearly every day and meditate a few times a week. The perspective I gain is priceless. On journaling, here is a technique that may work for you: Commit to writing three pages by hand every day. Don’t worry if you don’t think you have anything to write, just start writing whatever comes to mind. I’ve had days where I started by writing lyrics to a song. That said, I’ve never finished that way. Something always comes up. Be sure to add some gratitude in your writings as well. This TED Talk explains the power of doing nothing beautifully: 

4)      Practice gratitude every day - From a good cup of coffee, to the health of a loved one, don’t take things for granted. If you’re struggling, start with simple things like a sunny day or the food on your table. Also, give gratitude for things outside of yourself, our free country, beautiful wild landscapes protected from development… Get creative.

5)      Visualize what you want - Important point here…visualize what you WANT, not what you want rid of. Picture your life with your desires coming true. I pictured positive relationships with my children, writing full-time, physical health, and a simpler life.

By visualizing your desires, even pasting pictures on a vision board, you’ll focus on positive change. What kind of hoodoo am I spewing here??? Well, let me put it a different way. If you have a focus on the changes you want, you’ll do a better job of taking action in the right direction. You’ll be more open to opportunities as well. If that doesn’t convince you, just trust me on this one. It costs nothing to focus on your goals, while dwelling on the negative may cost you joy.

6)      Screw perfectionism - Sorry, I feel the need to make that point very clear. Perfectionism is the insidious thief of self-esteem and adds to anxiety. I had to learn this the hard way, kicking and screaming. Today I intentionally make complete fashion missteps, unleashing  my inner nerd, just to challenge my tendency to seek perfection. Think, take action, and don’t wait for perfection.

7)      Give. A short word, but long on meaning. More you give, the more you receive. Over the years, I have drawn more satisfaction from time and money spent in service to others. From material goods, like food, blankets and money, to time such as volunteering to photograph holiday charity events or providing clerical support to non-profits.

Remember my first tip… Don’t let anyone tell you can’t grow and change. Instead, have confidence in your journey and own the work it will take to complete.

This is your life, live it with intention.

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