“The quality of your commitments will determine the course of your life.” – Ralph Marston
Recently, I spoke to a room full of high school students on the topic of “Don’t Waste Your Life.” Among the advice that I gave them, I offered this nugget of truth: “Don’t just drift through life. Live with intention and purpose.” I believe that is one of the most important lessons that a person can learn—and the sooner we get it, the better.
Living a simple life certainly requires intentional living.
In a world that is hectic, busy, and hurried, simplicity is not. In a culture that encourages selfishness and excess, minimalist living does not. And in a society that is rushing to gain more, satisfaction with less is counter-cultural.
To begin living with intention, we must begin by laying a proper foundation and then add practical steps on top of it.
First, Lay the Foundation.
- Realize that your life is made up of choices. Every morning is a new day full of decisions and opportunities. You get to pick your attitude and your decisions. You don’t have to let the circumstances of your past negatively determine the pattern of your life in the future. You have a choice in the matter. You do not need to be stuck in the same pattern of living that you have been for years… realize that every morning is a new opportunity.
- Evaluate the culture that you’re swimming in. Life is not lived in a vacuum. It is lived surrounded by a culture that is moving somewhere. This culture around us forms a swift downstream current. Living with intention will require you to take a step back and evaluate the flow of the stream to determine where it is headed, how it is affecting you, and if it is taking you in a direction you desire.
- Examine yourself. Know who you are. Get a strong handle on your passions, talents, abilities, and weaknesses. Give precious time and energy to this endeavor. It is one of the most valuable things you can do.
Second, Add Practical Steps.
- Decide to live your life. Stop comparing yourself to others. You were not born to live their life. There is no sense in wasting yours being jealous of theirs. Instead, you were born to live your life – determine today to be good at it. After all, you only get one shot.
- Define a purpose. Identify what you want your life to communicate and contribute. Find a passion to live for that is bigger than yourself. Write it down. It will bring new meaning to your life. It will wake you from the slow death of only living for yourself.
- Set goals. Goals move us and goals shape us. Set goals that are directly in line with your defined purpose. By their very nature, they will introduce intentionality into your life.
- Stay focused. We live in a world of constant connectivity and distraction that is begging for our attention nearly every moment of the day. Learn to turn off the distraction and live your life instead. Turn off the tv and don’t read gossip magazines. Remove nonessential physical belongings that are robbing you of time and energy that could be better spent living with intention.
- Learn from others. Successful people are curious people. They possess the humility to learn from others. Identify people accomplishing your purpose and goals. Then, study them and learn from them.
The worst thing you could ever waste is your life. Instead, commit yourself to intentional living and living with purpose.
Thank you for this. It is so easy to bog oneself down with our circumstances that we forget such small things as being in control of our attitude. It takes nothing to smile and be grateful, and oh what a change that can make in our day. Literally choosing the small things, creates more joy-and when we have more joy, our attitude improves and it’s a snowball effect. Before you know it, we are making other changes, like the ones you mention and a lot of those times, others are positively affected by us as a result. It’s a win-win! If people would just commit to starting their day with a smile and purposeful attitude, regardless of their situation, they would begin to see changes. Everyone can at least do that much. Thank you!
I’m 71 years old, recently divorced and trying to find my place in the world. Every day offers new opportunities for growth. I don’t have cable or network TV, I never listen to the news (tho I do get it in my inbox each day). First thing in the AM, I put on some music and let the day carry me where it will. I’ve embraced the minimalist lifestyle after my other moved out and took his plethora of stuff with him. A great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I gave away about 75% of my clothing, kitchen stuff and other things that were just taking up space. Such a wonder feeling!
Luis Zelaya says
Good for you! I’m glad you are now living life as it should’ve always been.
I don’t know if it was your intention, but you comment seems unnecessarily condescending. Angela’s story is inspiring that she is still able to turn her life around at 75 and also eliminates excuses for those who have not learned to live with intention early in life. Her story also challenges us to look within ourselves. I am 37, I don’t have to wait any longer to make my life mean something. The same goes for you. Perhaps the thought you shared was meant more for you instead of her.
Carol Blackburn says
God bless you on your new journey. You sound like a very capable woman who will enjoy the remainder of her life immensely.
James Jackson says
Joshua, I follow you a bit and I like much of what you write.
Much of what you write, in fact, inspires me and keeps me re-focussing on my own trajectory. Thank You!
Self-Help and Simplification topics are always more easily understood (and more easily acted upon) when approached from the “I’m in the club” perspective….
(meaning those who have already at least discovered the values that you espouse…and hope to move further in their general direction…)
But DO realize that when you write things like
“Realize that your life is made up of choices. Every morning is a new day full of decisions and opportunities. You get to pick your attitude and your decisions. You don’t have to let the circumstances of your past negatively determine the pattern of your life in the future. You have a choice in the matter. You do not need to be stuck in the same pattern of living that you have been for years… realize that every morning is a new opportunity”. …
…realize that you speak from a perspective, and that not everyone who would love to learn of your perspective COME’S from the same direction….
For many, perhaps even MOST,…a flippant change of direction or move to other choices, a redirected attitude……may be currently well outside of their control, given the circumstances they now live in….
Many of your posts, blog entries, etc. are preaching to the choir.
I already know and believe in what you espouse, you needn’t convince ME….
But if you REALLY want to help others, to introduce others….I think you need to get your head around where THEY are, instead of constantly trying to convince them of the upside of where YOUR head is.
Cleaning out a closet is just great, really, but how will you convince someone who does not have the Time, Money, Energy, etc….to “start”?
Folks are BURIED.
How can you help them uncover themselves so that they may then eventually see the light and begin to understand why consumerism is not any kind of an answer?
You need to go to them, and walk them out, not toss out great content hoping they will eventually mature into it.
How should they START?
Nice work as always – Jim in NC
joshua becker says
Thanks for the feedback. I don’t write from a posture of “where MY head is.” I try to write thoughts that are universally true – regardless if people already believe them or not. For me, that’s the point of writing, introduce people to truth. It is true that “your life is made up of choices. Every morning is a new day full of decisions and opportunities. You get to pick your attitude and your decisions. You don’t have to let the circumstances of your past negatively determine the pattern of your life in the future. You have a choice in the matter.” And so I will write it and people will read it – and they will be drawn to it or they will not – and it will true tomorrow whether they accept it or not.
That was my favorite line of the post! “Every morning is a new day full of decisions and opportunities. You get to pick your attitude and your decisions.” It was a great reminder and I immediately checked my current attitude and chose to be grateful and happy. I feel empowered to be in control of my future. Thank you!
This is very true, for some its hard to understand this particular concept. Most people are run by greed, power, and lust. That saying “your things own u, u don’t own them” is a true statement. It can be scary to learn that what you have known your whole life is not the way to truly be happy and content. The universe will provide and give you signs if you set that intention and listen to your heart. Its just so ingrained in most people (especially Americans) because we live in a world where your value comes from the things you have or how you look. Its why most people are so unhappy!!! Slow down, take stock, and make the appropriate adjustments! You will feel so happy and fulfilled! We are all here to learn, grow, and love! Its the true purpose of life. We can’t take our things with us when we leave this world. You will feel terrified in the end if this is how you live your life! Experiences are what gives us a zest for life! Find something you love and make a career out of it. You will never work a day in your life! Never be afraid to take chances. Most people are afraid of what we don’t understand. Its where ignorance, fear, and hate comes from. If you take chances and truly listen to your heart those chances that are taken will always work! The universe always provides when you have true good intentions!
Luis Zelaya says
Thank you for this. Since we tend to forget easily it does Help refresh my memory every time I read it.
JIM not everyone is supposed to “get it”. What is being offered by any blog is the opportunity to add to your idea toolbox. It is a choice to do so, not a must. You can also choose to not embrace the ideas as well. Every one is ultimately responsible for themselves. I would think that this blog is ment to help people by adding to their toolbox of thinking. How someone arrives when they read is not the responsibility of the author.
Jim, we all come from a different place so reaching our goals may need a different path for each person, but that doesn’t mean they’re unachievable. I think speaking to young school aged people is such a great thing to do. You never know who will be inspired and each may take away some or all. I wish I had that inspiration from a young age.
Lauren GoRecki says
Thank you for writing this! I couldn’t agree more. The style of writing is so “preachy.” Not sure that it’s on purpose but it sure comes off that way. So much so that I can hardly read it anymore. It always sounds judgmental and oversimplified.
I truly believe the first 2 steps to laying the foundation of an intentional life include clarifying your values and training your mind to stay in the present moment. Being clear on your personal core values will help with making choices, and the ability to stay in the present moment will contribute to more self-awareness.
Tyshiana Johnson says
I love this post! I have been unknowingly been doing this the past two years. I documented my journey living on my blog. Here I cover the importance of emotional intelligence and focusing on yourself.
Thank you for this post. I’ve read it three times today!
Gladys Nganga says
I have been living in the same pattern of life and I desire to live a purposeful life. Your words have encouraged me to change my attitude and start living intentionally.
Spoken words that books won’t teach you!! thank you for this post.
so grateful for reading this post. The world need more and more of such posts to remind and wake people up that living with no purpose and intention or confused along the way. This is really inspiring posts.
This is awesome. I am sure reading at least 10 times more. It’s great!!
DR. APOKI CHARLES says
GREAT WORK. Permission to share this on my radio programme.
You could also read How to Find Fulfilling Work by the School of Life for some career focused tips.
Sarah B says
What a wonderful post! Thank you for the reminders of what is truly important! I have a heart’s desire for living with less, but have not achieved a true minimalist lifestyle yet. I recognize the importance of less, esp as it relates to the home. It’s a constant mindset change, and it can be easy to let clutter creep back into my life if I don’t stay mindful.
I am an interior designer with a passion for helping people learn to love their homes. I admin a Facebook group for discussions about interior design, DIY projects, and decluttering. I would love to share your post, and some of your quotes on the Facebook group. (Please let me know if that would be ok)
Tichy Robbins says
I enjoyed this article. As far as examining myself, learning who I am, could you please suggest a good book on how to do that precisely? Shouldn’t be rocket science, but I don’t know how to approach this…
Try The Search for Significance by Robert S McGee. It has made a huge difference for me. Have a great journey!
Cheri Myers says
as a Christian, I found “The Purpose Driven Life” the best book to help answer those questions. It covers quite a bit of that material based on the Bible. The expanded updated edition is titled “What on Earth Am I Here For”. I understand that this blog is followed by people that come from many places as far as faith is concerned but this has certainly helped me.
I loved Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak. If you don’t already, begin journal writing, as well. Start with just a few things you are grateful for and go from there. Journal writing allows you to reflect back on thoughts and feelings in a somewhat concrete way. You could write about what went well and what didn’t that day, who was a support, what did you learn, what are your hopes…all the best to you!
Jackie Nowell says
I agree, but it’s also wise to ‘keep in mind’ that “life sometimes happens when we’re making other plans’ and yes sometimes random stuff happens that we cannot control.
Thanks for the powerful word of advice. Now I know how to finish strong
Great encouragement Mr. Becker. God bless you.
Know thyself. Ancient wisdom that will eternally ring true.
Martha Martin says
Thank you for your website and Facebook post! It has helped me turn my life around. Instead of getting up every morning and feeling overwhelmed with all the ‘stuff’ I have to clean, I have decided to follow your advise and start cleansing my home. It is an amazing feeling, not to mention my outlook is so much happier and less cluttered and confused!
I’ve cleaned out the basement this week, next week it is the inside out h my home, one room at a time. I think the secret is don’t try to do it all at once, take your time and listen to your body and mind when you start getting to the point where you can’t let go, it’s time to take a break and start over another day!
Please keep up the advice and words of wisdom, qui try and share the ones that hit home for my friends on fb. I’ve had a lot of great feedback from others, going to do the same!
You are truly a blessing, my prayers and support is with you!
Thank you again!
Kevin Spatt says
Josh – I think I met you at MVC in Scottsdale a couple of years ago. I decided in April to drop a destructive habit and today the thought ‘Intentional Living’ crossed my path. I hadn’t thought about it but I realized that that is what I am doing now. And it is a beautiful thing. Thank you. Jesus is showing me how to be a Christian and a rebel at the same time. Very cool stuff……
Absolutely Tara says
This is a simple and to the point post that is full of truth. I love it. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for sharing. I started out this year of my life vowing to be intentional with my life, before I was just drifting waiting for things to happen and waiting for “signs”. Now, I’m working and moving and living…well trying the best I can for now. But it’s good to have guidance and practical advice along the way. Thanks!
Thank you Joshua for all your posts. I always look forward to reading them daily on FB. I’m working on minimizing my possessions. It’s not easy but I am enjoying the process.
I love this post!! The first point speaks to me so clearly and is one I’ve felt strongly about for years: “Realize that your life is made up of choices”. It seems that so many people don’t understand this. I run across people who aren’t happy at their job and I want to “scream” (well, maybe not that extreme) at them to do something else. They don’t have to stay where they are and make themselves and others around them, miserable. Kind regards – Audrey
Its very helpful..but i dont know how to start following this…could anyone here to help me?i hope you people undrstands this.. And thank you mark
Kit Hebert says
A friend in the U.S. directed me to this site. I don’t agree with all aspects of these minhimalist/intentional guidelines, although I fully endorse a minimalist life, piggy-backed internet connection notwithstanding. I rarely ever discuss prudence of economy, since Thoreau articulated all that needs to be said about it, so the following comments represent a departure for me.
To begin with, I’m convinced you can drift along quite well in the mainstream and be fully intentional about it. You might be swept inadvertently into an eddy, joining a minimalist current that moves in the opposite direction. But this is frequently an accidental rather than intentional deviation. Often, a change of circumstances or a twist of fate or an unexpected challenge accounts for minimalist living. Sometimes the living part is apparent long before any conscious aspect of it is manifested, before you become aware that a frugality born of necessity has taken hold, gradually constituting a natural and comfortable expression of living.
Even into late middle age, I never defined or sought any particular purpose, and I still don’t. Most goals were linked to immediate and habitual tasks, which satisfied me well enough. And there were long-range strategies I adhered to. I was focused when I chose to be. I did benefit from the input and expertise of others. But identifying those who can help you accomplish certain goals can be tricky. This is because aspirations and ideals can be as capricious as the people who concoct them.
It is somewhat presumptuous and precipitous to count on the strength, quality and longevity of youthful commitments. Sometimes these early commitments pan out, sometimes they don’t. I suppose the purpose of suggesting commitments is to encourage the habit of making them.
Likewise, I wouldn’t assume that ‘successful’ people are necessarily curious; they are typically focused, a singular purpose harnassed by enthusiasm — perhaps some intellectual or physical leverage accounting for it. Successful types are typically ambitious and highly competitive, too. But I wouldn’t necessarily qualify them as inordinately curious. That’s not the principal qualifier.
When I was much younger, I met a number of people seeking a lifestyle that would fulfill them, some espousing the doctrine of less-is-more. They whole-heartedly embraced the process of fulfillment, but their objective remained elusive. A convenient strength lay in consorting with others who shared the same objective, but this advantage worked against them in the long run.
Being intentional about something doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll achieve your objective. Getting sucked into the eddy really has little to do with guidelines or even intent. Sometimes it comes down to an accident of fortune, perhaps initiated by either misfortune or great good luck.
Thank you for taking the time to post. Your message was insightful but it was your prose that I enjoyed more. It is a rare thing these days to see such beautiful verbiage!
I like the idea of evaluating the culture and where it is taking you. I have started this process and if I had started earlier I would have saved myself some grief.
Jeanie Andersen says
I LOVE what you wrote (you encourage me so much with all your writings)…my favorite part was about turning off the TV (especially news AND commercials)!!!
I really like this article you have written. Sometimes I feel lost trying to figure out what exactly suits my family. Everything I want seems to be counter cultural, and it creates so much conflict. It’s the conflict I want to remove! It’s hard to move in these directions sometimes when even your family will resist, because they just don’t know any better. Busy and hurried is just what everything is and what they see everywhere. I just keep saying to myself God calls us to be different. To stand out. When I attempt to make the changes I know our family needs to make to achieve a greater peace…I’m always reminded of the call of Christians to be different, and different will often cause conflict for us. But I hope my decisions to reduce and live a certain way are pleasing to God in the end. But it’s hard!
I am so happy I found this new life.
Freddy Panes says
to live with a purpose is what we should do. a lot of people are like zombies > they just go with the flow. it is really sad
I wish I had known this earlier in my life and been surrounded by people aware of this. I have drifted because I worked myself into nervous exhaustion and compared myself thereafter as not being successful. Ruined health through self-doubt and not through following what I enjoy and value and being afraid to fail. I turn 50 soon and want to be in the presence of others who live intentionally to reinforce my commitment to this.
Morgan Dragonwillow says
Living simply is definitely my goal if not my intention. It is amazing how easy it is to float through your life and wake up one day, wondering where it all went. I believe setting goals are key as well as checking in regularly to make sure you are staying on track or redefining your goals. Unfortunately goal setting has been a weekness of mine. I see where that has hindered me and I intend to rectify that beginning today. Thank you for this post.
Meghashyam Chirravoori says
It is interesting that I stumbled across this post just when I was about to draft my “3 months” plan!
Every 3 months I site down and intentionally decide exactly want to achieve in every sphere of my life in the next 3 months. I also look at what I have achieved in the past 3 months. Today is my D day. :) I will examine myself, define my purpose and even set goals. :)
Thank you for the synchronous post!
That sounds really interesting! I love that idea. Could you give me a few practical examples? Like what exactly do you write down? Thanks :)
Tichy Robbins says
Interesting. Did this plan that you follow originate with you or is there somewhere that I can read up on this?
awesome post Joshua, keep it up :)
Awesome post. It’s never too late to improve and make changes (I’m 52), so I’m making the decisions needed to simplify and live with defined intentions.
This is a concept I wish I would have grasped when I was much younger! I wonder how different life would have been. Not that it is bad now, but I see how intentional living instead of drifting would have helped avoid some junk :) All the more reason to teach this to our kids!
I so agree… I should have followed this a long time ago.
A quienes tengan dudas o lo califiquen de difícil, una experiencia por si les es de utilidad: mira en tu interior en busca de tu seguridad.
Y para quienes deseen leer un texto que se alinea con este post: la letra de la canción “Antes de que cuente diez” de Fito&Fittipaldis, pura poesía
Gracias a todos los que, a diario, regalais aire fresco a través de esta ventana tecnológica.
Another great post – thank you. My favorite piece of advice you’ve given here is the “Decide to live your life” paragraph – what a terrific reminder.
jay carstensen says
I would add to not be afraid of failure. Go for it and learn if you come up short. The attempt is a lesson waiting to happen!
I totally agree and live by these sentiments. It takes years sometimes to build up this mindfulness to a degree where you can live it daily.
Changing thoughts is powerful I have learnt.
Thanks for sharing.
Adventure-Some Matthew says
To “Decide to live your life” I would add, “for yourself”. So many people I know seem to live for others: dressing/acting/buying things in order to impress. Neither their physical appearance nor their possessions will truly impress someone, but only their actions and who they really are.
Mark Cancellieri says
Great post. The only thing that I would add is that we need to realize that we don’t need to figure out our entire life’s direction in the beginning. This was the mistake that I made when I was younger, and it held me back. I didn’t fully commit to my intentions because I was afraid of making the wrong choice.
The reality is that we can always change our path somewhere down the road. This takes a lot of the pressure off. We can decide on a particular intention and live by it, and then we can change if it isn’t quite right. Odds are that your intentions will evolve over time anyway. I know that my intentions have changed pretty dramatically over the last few years as I have clarified what I really want, and now I’m really going for it. It’s pretty exciting.
Good additions, Mark.
Thank you for this, this has been holding me back for quite sometime as well.
Thank you, Mark!
Thank you, Mark!
So you see: It is the yourney of your life Thats more important than reaching Its goal. There is no goal in the horizon. ;)
Well, what I have taken away from Mark is that he set goals, did not reach them, possibly because he did everything in his power to achieve it, but maybe others had control over his achievements/potential success. Then again, maybe he reached his goal, and decided he really did not like it, so he moved on. To find your purpose is not a mere A+B=C. This happened to me. We cannot control what others do; we can only control what we accomplish. I met with a young lady, who wanted to get into vet school, but realized she could not get in school, because she did not have a 4.0 GPA. So, she got a masters degree in biology instead. Now, she is a professor.
Inder Jeet says
Thanks Mark!! you have put it fantastically and will surely gonna help me.
Good advice as we can plan life all out and one monkey wrench gets thrown in and is all for naught.
Tom Jones says
I completely agree and I have begun the process of living intentionally. What you said about the option to always be able to change your mind if things are not a good fit is Incredibly important to remember. So many people seem to be stuck. We’ve decided that is not for us!
This is an excellent post and right in line with what I am trying to do now. Thank you!
Thank you for sharing this information in such simple words…i really learn a lot from this block thank you Martie