How To Practice Intentional Living (The Way God Designed)

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Do you ever feel like life just isn’t working – like life is happening to you, not for you?

I know all too well that when complacency sneaks in, it can leave you feeling disempowered, overwhelmed and stuck in so many areas of your life.

So, how do you find balance when life feels out of whack?

The answer: practice intentional living the way God designed.

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While there are many coaches and experts who’ll teach you how to live intentionally, most do so from a worldview that leaves spirituality out. I would argue, however, that our being does not make sense apart from the context of God.

Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

So with that in mind, we are going to examine how you can live intentionally, but we’re going to do it while looking to scripture, God’s Living Word.

What Is Intentional Living?

Literally, intentional living means to live on purpose or to live deliberately with an aim or a plan.

It’s about taking a stand for what you believe and pursuing a life that honors those beliefs. That looks like taking leadership of your life rather than coasting on auto-pilot and it requires you to let go of the belief that you’re a victim and life is the sum of your circumstances.

My favorite definition though is that intentional living is co-authoring your life with the Creator of the universe (God) to make your highest contribution to yourself and the world.

Finding Your Purpose

In all of my experience with personal development books, podcasts, courses, and seminars, everything seemed to point to one underlying question: what is your life for?

When talking about living intentionally though, most of the experts didn’t address that question head on. Instead, they share tactics and strategies like…

  • How to change your attitude and make better decisions
  • How to find happiness and live with fewer regrets
  • How to “find your why”

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with exploring those ideas, to me, it makes more sense to first identify God’s purpose for your life and allow that to shape your approach to life. (Afterall, the very definition of intentional living is living with purpose.)

But I also understand that finding your distinct purpose can feel a lot like hunting for unicorns. It seems that at every new phase in life, this question is staring you in the face as if you still don’t have it figured out.

I believe that your life’s purpose will become clear as you begin living intentionally – God’s way.

How to Live Intentionally

1. Know God & How He Works

Since you’re designing your life together with God, you need to know His character, His promises, and His plans.

God desires an intimate relationship with us but we are separated from him in sin. It is through our repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21) that we can restore our relationship to God and experience life to the full (John 10:10).

God has given us the Bible, which Voodie Bauchman eloquently describes as “a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in nature.”

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

In Romans 12:2 we are commanded, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

It is through a daily practice of reading God’s word, prayer, worship and being involved in a community of believers that we begin to know the Creator of the universe on a personal, experiential level.

2. Set Your Intention (Goal Setting)

The next step to living an intentional life is to set your intention (or set some goals).

That brings us back to the underlying question: What is your life for?

What do you want to achieve? How are you going to contribute to the world? Life is short, so how are you going to make the most of it?

When I was knee-deep in my own self-help journey, I noticed that goal setting apart from the context of God meant… 

  • Writing down your dreams and desires 
  • Aligning your energy with your desire to manifest it into reality
  • Creating vision boards
  • Thinking positive

This practice was all about imposing my own will and was completely self-focused. Then I discovered, all of that was rooted in the law of attraction, which is not a Biblical practice. So I did a little research and found that the Bible takes a very balanced approach to goal setting.

  • In Proverbs 6:6-11 we’re warned against being lazy and failing to plan. 
  • In Proverbs 21:5, it stresses the importance of planning wisely. 
  • In 2 Chronicles 15:7, it encourages us to be strong and not to give up for our work will be rewarded.  

But look what James 4:13-16 says,

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

Did you notice the warning against making plans apart from God?

This isn’t the only place you’ll find this theme in scripture. Proverbs 16:3, Proverbs 16:9, Proverbs 19:21 all share a common message – we can make plans, but ultimately, it’s the Lord who establishes our steps.

So when it comes to setting goals, remember, it isn’t just about you.

I love what Dr. David G Benner says in his book, The Gift of Being Yourself. He writes: “To live apart from a sense of calling by God is to live a life oriented simply to our own choices about who we want to be and what we want to do. Calling brings freedom and fulfillment because it orients us toward something bigger than self.”

If you’re up for a goal-setting exercise, grab a piece of paper, or you can print out the free Intentional Living Game Plan workbook I created so you can just print & go.

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Intentional Living Game Plan

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On your workbook, I’ve given you ten specific areas of your life that you can examine. They are:

  1. Spirituality
  2. Physical health
  3. Mental wellbeing
  4. Work or life purpose
  5. Environment or surroundings
  6. Restoration (self-care, hobbies, joy)
  7. Romance/ marriage
  8. Friends and family
  9. Finances
  10. Personal growth

For each category, I want you

For each category, I want you to ask yourself, “Who does God want me to be in regard to my _____? Who am I committed to being in regard to my _____? (Fill in the blank with one of those ten categories.)

I want you to pay attention to the word “be” in both of these questions.

“Being” is defined as the nature or essence of a person and is very different than “feeling” which is an emotional state or reaction. Being is part of who you are and it’s wrapped up in your identity.

Here are a few examples:

  • God calls me to honor my body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
    • I am committed to being strong and healthy so that I can have energy at the end of the day to give my best self to my family.
  • God calls me to be devoted to another in love (Romans 12:10).
    • I am committed to being spontaneous and flirtatious so that I can have fun and grow closer with my husband.
  • God calls me to godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
    • I am committed to living abundantly with fewer things so I can spend more time with the people I love and less time managing the things that we have and the messes that we make.

Now, when you write out your commitments, I want you to avoid using words like more, better or different when setting your goals. Instead, I want you to try and think of some new ways of being that you may not have ever considered before.

Of course, you don’t have to write this out for every area. You can pick your top 3 areas that you want to improve and write out your commitments. You will need at least one to move on to the next step.

3. Align Your Daily Actions

Once you’ve created your goals to live into, I want you to reverse engineer the actions you’ll need to take monthly, weekly and daily to fulfill that commitment.

For example, if you’re committed to being strong and healthy, you could have some broad goals like lose 10 pounds, buy a gym membership or eat healthier.

From there, you’ll want to break your broad goals into weekly goals. For example, lose one pound per week and lift weights four times per week.

And finally, go one step further breaking those weekly goals into daily tasks. For example, if you consistently eat 4 cups of vegetables per day, and close all of your rings on your Apple watch, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll fulfill on your commitment to being strong and healthy for your kids.

It’s the mundane, day-to-day tasks that will add up to your desired result over time.

So now, I want you to pick at least one area of your life and start writing down the monthly, weekly and then daily actions you’d need to take to be strong and healthy, or confident, or whatever you choose for your goals.

free download

Intentional Living Game Plan

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When You Don’t Feel Like It

I also want to note here that there will be days that you don’t feel like doing anything. But by living intentionally, you can move forward when you find that you’re not in the mood to follow through on your long-term vision or commitments by:

  1. changing your mood, or
  2. by showing up in spite of your mood.

There will be days that you rise above your circumstances, thoughts, and feelings and do your daily tasks because who you are is strong and healthy. And there will be days when you don’t.

Just know that living intentionally is working towards a future God desires for you; it’s not about being perfect every single day. It’s making commitments and setting goals and watching yourself rise and fall and rise again as you pursue your intentional life. When you live every day with the mindset “I’m on my way,” you’ll be more willing to embrace every part of your journey, the highs, and the lows.

4. Think on Purpose

The next step to living intentionally is to think on purpose.

Dr. Roger Birkman said, “The reality of life is that your perceptions – right or wrong – influence everything else you do. When you get a proper perspective on your perceptions, you may be surprised how many other things fall into place.”

I don’t know if you know this or not, but your thoughts are powerful.

How you perceive the world is given by what you’re currently thinking. Your thoughts are so powerful that they produce your feelings, and your feelings create your actions, and your actions create your results.

So if you look around at your life right now – from the car you drive to the house you live in, to the job you work at, to the person you’re married to – you created all of those results based on your thought patterns.

Whoa.

If you can let that sink it, it can be very sobering to consider.

Seemingly innocent thoughts like “it is what it is” or “this is all there is” are limiting you and keeping you from stepping into God’s purpose for your life.

So, when was the last time you paid attention to your thoughts – even ones that seem like blatant observations of the world?

What The Bible Says About Your Thinking

Three verses stand out:

  1. In Romans 12:2 it says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what the will of God is, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  2. In Proverbs 4:23 it says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” The word heart in this verse refers widely to feelings, will and even intellect.
  3. And in Philippians 4:8 it says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

God has a lot to say about how we should think about and relate to the world. We need to turn to His word so that we recognize our thoughts for what they are and how to act or not act upon them.

Watch Your Thoughts

In January 2019, I decided to make it a regular practice to watch my thoughts. Whenever I feel stuck or overwhelmed with negative thought patterns, I write all my thoughts on a blank sheet of college-ruled notebook paper.

This process has been game-changing, y’all!

By writing in my “Thought Download Journal”, it gives me the opportunity to become aware of my emotions. It allows me to process them in new and different ways. By having my thoughts in writing, I’m able to observe my thoughts and then intentionally choose to keep thinking them or shift the thoughts to new ones.

Watching your thoughts is a great way to check your thoughts against the truth.

In Hebrews 4:12 it says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

5. Reflect. Reevaluate. Choose.

As you walk with the Lord, set goals, and practice your daily success habits, you’ll want to stop along the way to reflect, reevaluate and choose.

Intentional living is a lot like taking a cross-country road trip. Along your journey, you’ll need to pull over and refuel. You’ll need to stop, put gas in your car, grab a bite to each and stretch your legs – not once, but multiple times. On your way to your goals, you need to do the same.

Ask yourself…

  • How’s my progress in regards to the goals I set?
  • What have I been able to accomplish so far?
  • What have been some of the most powerful learning moments so far?
  • Is this what God wants for my life?
  • If I were setting goals today, would I still choose this goal again?

After a little self-reflection and prayer, decide on purpose to continue pursuing your goals or make revisions to your plan if needed.

Remember, living an intentional life isn’t about perfection. It’s about powerfully choosing all of your life and stepping into the purpose that God has called you to.

A Final Note

Once you start living intentionally, you’ll notice a few things…

  • You’ll become a woman who is hungry for God’s word.
  • You’ll create possibilities and goals for your life that fill your cup and glorify God in the process.
  • You’ll live each day on purpose – no more coasting or getting by.
  • You’ll become emotionally intelligent and self-aware.
  • You’ll be able to confidently choose all of your life – even the parts that seem messy and imperfect.

So the final question I have for you is this:

Are you going to take a stand for what you believe and pursue a life that honors those beliefs?

Leave a comment below and tell me about a goal you’re living into or what nugget of wisdom you got out of this post.

Don’t be shy! Let’s start a conversation.

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Intentional Living Game Plan

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