zen habits : breathe

An Intentional Life

Post written by Leo Babauta.

Many of us go through our days awake, but following patterns we’ve developed over the years. We are going through the motions, doing things at home, online, at work without much forethought.

Contrast this with the idea of an Intentional Life: everything you do is done with consciousness, fulfilling one of your core values (compassion, for example). Everything is done with a conscious intent.

It’s true that many things we do have some kind of intent — I’m washing the dishes because I don’t want a messy house or bugs in my kitchen; I’m driving to work because I need to make a living; I’m driving my kids to school because they need to learn. But after repeating these actions every day, the intent kind of fades into the background so that we are barely aware of them. We’ve figured out the intent long ago, and don’t need to think about them anymore.

What if that changed?

What if you were very aware of your intention for your actions? How would that transform the action, and your life?

What if you washed the dishes, but first said you are doing this as a service to your family, to make them happy, and as a form of meditation for yourself, to practice mindfulness? Doing the dishes would suddenly take on much more importance, and would cease to be boring.

The only difference is intention.

What if driving to work was done after mentally declaring an intention to help others at work, to make people happy, to find satisfaction through work? The drive might be much happier, and you might be less likely to get irate when someone inevitably cuts you off in traffic.

This is the Intentional Life.

I practice it in bits and pieces — not all the time, but increasingly. When I do it, my life is different. More purposeful, more consciously lived, more content with any action.

A simple practice of intentionality: before you do the next action online or at work, pause a moment, close your eyes, and mentally say your intention. Why are you doing this? Is it out of compassion for others, or yourself? Is it to make someone happier? To improve the world? Out of gratitude for the work and kindness of others?

And then, as you do the action, be mindful of your intention.

This is a small step, but in those few moments, you will be living an Intentional Life.



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