Minimalism is, essentially, about intentionality.
It is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing anything that distracts us from it.
In most cases, when referring to minimalism, people think about physical possessions. And it is true that minimalists own fewer possessions, but that’s not the entire story.
Intentionality leads to intentionality. So, becoming more intentional in one area of life (possessions) typically spills over into other areas of life as well (schedule or relationships, for example).
When my wife and I (and two young children) began minimizing our possessions, we began to notice how unintentional we had been living. We had closets and shelves and drawers full of things that we didn’t need and didn’t use. We owned more than needed.
When we began to consider how much money and time and energy had gone into purchasing, managing, and maintaining all those possessions, we began to notice the foolishness of unintentional living. Our lives were being wasted, to a great degree, pursuing and accumulating physical items.
I knew, from that moment forward, we would be more thoughtful in the items we purchased, kept, and pursued. We both knew there are more important things to pursue in life than material possessions—and we had wasted too much on them.
This approach quickly spread to other areas of life. Were there non-material things we had also collected that were distracting from our greatest pursuits?
What about our time commitments? Our habits? Our work pursuits? Our finances? Our parenting? Even our relationships?
Had we become unintentional in those areas of life as well—allowing things to creep in that didn’t belong there? It didn’t take long to notice we had. In this way, intentionality in one area of life (physical possessions) brought greater intentionality in other areas as well.
So how do we become more intentional in all areas of life?
We begin by asking questions.
Not necessarily easy questions, but important ones.
Finding intentionality is not always easy. It takes work and thoughtfulness and deep self-awareness.
But these six questions will foster those characteristics in your life. You likely won’t be able to answer them all, right now, as you sit down to read them. But answering them quickly wasn’t the goal when I created the list.
Write them down. Or come back to this article. Work through each one, in order, seeking the richest answers for each. The time spent pursuing intentional living is never wasted—no matter how long it takes.
6 Thought-Provoking Questions to Discover A More Intentional Life (In Any Area)
1. What do I want to accomplish with my life?
An intention means: an idea that you plan (or intend) to carry out.
By definition, living an intentional life, in any area, requires an answer to this question above. What is the aim of my life? What do I want to accomplish with it?
Don’t quit on this question thinking you need every detail of it answered, but a general direction is important. What 3-4 good things do you most desire to accomplish in this world? It may be related to your faith, your family, your work, your passion, or any combination of them.
Do your best. You’ll need some answer here to continue.
2. What do I need in order to accomplish that goal?
Whatever you want to accomplish in life, however you define it, will require resources.
It will require your time, your energy, your focus, and your money.
It will, almost certainly, also require some physical possessions, a healthy body, and enriching relationships.
It might also require a certain level of training, or education, or personal attributes.
Your needed items will change or evolve over the years. But as you seek to answer this question at this point in time, ask yourself, “Right now, to take my next step forward, what do I need?”
3. What is getting in the way of those goals?
What has accumulated in your life that is keeping you from reaching your goal(s)?
The items on this list may be actively preventing you from reaching your goal or just passively distracting you from it.
For example, an unhealthy addiction may be an example of something in your life actively preventing you from being your best self. But “watching too much television” may be just an example of a distraction.
Either way, actively or passively, if it is keeping you from your goal, it is wise to recognize and identify.
4. What caused me to allow things into my life that don’t contribute to that goal?
This question will require deep self-reflection, on many levels, but don’t avoid it. In order to identify how these distractions will be removed, it is important to recognize how they came to be.
Some habits, behaviors, possessions, or commitments appeared in your life just because you weren’t paying attention. They started to accumulate, became normal, and weren’t even recognized as distractions until we considered the question above.
But others accumulated because of fear or avoidance or unhealthy motivations. Unhealthy motivations that take us away from significance and meaning—or however you answered the first question.
If we are going to find victory in the long run living an intentional life, we need to begin identifying the reasons we pursue distractions from it.
5. What steps do I need to take in order to remove them?
After identifying your goals in life, the distractions that keep you from those goals, and the reasons for them, you can begin making a plan to remove those distractions.
Granted, entire articles or blogs or books could be written about specifically removing distractions. And depending on which distractions you need to begin removing, the resources you turn to may vary from person to person.
Depending on what you identified in Question 3, a simple Google search may be a great place to start.
“How do I stop watching so much television?”
“How do I remove unneeded time commitments?”
“How do I break the habit of ________?”
Again, I don’t think any of these questions are necessarily easy to answer. (I hope you can see by now how difficult some of this work is). But answering this question is always worth the effort.
6. How often do I need to re-evaluate my life direction?
Unintentionality has a crafty way of sneaking up on us. We can claim intentionality in our calendar today, only to have it slowly fill back up again. We gain victory over unhealthy habits for a period of time only to see new unhealthy habits begin to emerge down the road.
So, a final question to ask needs to be focused on how often you will return to this list. Consider it your Intentionality Check Up.
You will find these questions get easier and easier the more often you ask them. Answering them the first time is always the hardest.
And while it is true that our goals/needs/distractions may change from season to season in our lives, once we begin in a direction toward intentionality, it is easier to steer back in that direction down the road when needed.
These six questions about intentionality in any area of life can be applied in countless phases and stages of our lives. As well they should.
Kodey WhiteWolf says
Nice to have reminders
Working on this myself. Get craft cards debt paid off, saving some money & get credit score up more, Goal to be able to buy our own home with 2-4 acres outside city limits & get out of apt living. Goal is next summer (2024)
These questions are great for refocusing my life towards a positive direction. I am feeling misunderstood and dejected from chosing to move away from unhappiness in my career and have now chosen to return to study to pursue a different career. These questions remind me why I had to try a different path, and help me to be stronger in the actions I have already made to stand up for myself and respect myself. Eseciallynwhen many of my choices have been lonely ones
– thank you for these tools to help overcome my mental suffering.
Nice read, as always, Joshua.
However, how do you figure out question 1?
There are people who know early what their calling is, what if you don’t? Any advice?
These questions are awesome. I am definitely going to bookmark this to refer back to it. Thanks for them.
You know Joshua, I am amazed at how much you and your family have been able to simplify and live intentionally. I feel that I have gotten this down for the most part (and always learning more), but I struggle with passing this message on to my 12 year old son.
His father and I are divorced and couldn’t be any more different (in the way we live and in what we value). While I live a very simple, buy-what-you-need life whose idea of a fun day is laying around on the grass at the park or going for a walk/hike, he is very extravagant and often wants the best and newest things out there.
Now that my son is getting older he is leaning more towards wanting new and the best things. I don’t know if there is more I can do besides modeling and talking to him about living simply and the important things in life vs extravagant living.
(Sorry for going off topic from your post )
Hello Kari, just be gentle and patient. Let him see you are happy with your choices and speak his love language. Let him decide for himself, and remember what he thinks/prefers now will not always be the same. Character will evolve over time.
Thanks so much for replying Colette, I really appreciate it. And you are right, what he prefers now will not always be the same. Patience and love! <3
Great reply Colette. That helped me too.
My kids are in their forties. The best thing you can do is find folks with similar values. My kids went to a suburban high school with kids from fifty different countries. Their friends ate different foods and often had fewer possessions. It was great preparation for real life. Most people on earth have much less than the average American.
This is just what I needed to read today! I moved in January, into a small one-bdrm, and I’m still downsizing. I was in a 3 bdrm home for 27 years. Now that the kids are grown, I’m in a new stage, and want to simplify, so that I can be much more intentional with my day to day living. Thank you so much for these questions that will help get me on a happier and healthier track! God bless you, Joshua!
Mark Ho says
I like your sharing about the burden and cost of possessing unnecessary things, including money, time and enter gym for purchasing, managing and maintaining them.
Thank you for posting about this, Joshua. I definitely struggle with this… and I need to do better. Having a game plan helps.
Maria Pinto says
I like these six thought provoking questions Joshua. I think it is a good idea to write them down and then to brainstorm about them, then to slowly start clearing the cobwebs out of one’s brain. Some decisions may be a bit painful but this process I believe will bring truth and clarity to real intentional living. Thank you.
Marcel Ritchie says
i have followed those paths and found them useful to apply
lots of hard and painful digging and fruitful also
i am glad that you have the same way to deal and find your truth
the question here is when do you fit the journalling into your day?
i have found myself doing it once a month _ or even once every three months _ rather than none indeed.