In the third instalment of this month of Intentionalism posts, I’m delving into an important part of the journey from minimalism to intentionalism. That is, the reflection and reassessment of one’s values. Along the journey, it is natural to want to shed old, unhealthy habits and mindsets in favour of a fresher outlook. Many turn to meditation, yoga, mindfulness, creativity and other kinds of self-reflection to think about what’s really important to them. The wise will evaluate and regularly re-evaluate themselves on a Wheel of Life* to notice when their values are falling out of alignment.
An intentionalist will then try to live life with their truest values at their core. In their daily routines and practices, they will work hard to keep balancing and re-evaluating their wheel as much as they possibly can.
What are we without our health? Whether you have a healthy body or compromised health, or even mental health issues, it’s important to put your body at centre stage and value it as highly as you can. You only have one, and it will carry you through life. Make good choices and it will last you a long time, unforeseen events aside. We all know what to do. Eat well, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and grains. Avoid junk, chemicals and overly processed consumables. Stretch and work your body, but give it ample rest and get good sleep. Avoid long periods of sitting still and inactivity. Breathe fresh air. Avoid toxic air. Smile, laugh, talk to people who listen, who hear you. Avoid people who don’t see you or value your perspective. Notice when you need a counsellor or psychologist and get the help to give your brain a break from the heavy work. Do things every day that make you happy. Meditate, do yoga, live mindfully, write, draw, take pictures, play music. Feel the sand and grass beneath your toes, the sun and rain on your skin, hear the birds sing and the trees whistle in the wind. Reflect and look inwards to think about where you are living well, and where things feel toxic or negative, and do the hard yards to orient yourself towards a more positive life. Don’t let ill health drag you down, figure out ways to make your body work to steer you on the best course.
Value your loved ones. Call them, see them often. Go out for one-on-one meals, long drives, or weekends away. Really take time to listen to what’s happening for them – don’t just rant to them, relationships are about give and take. Remind them how much you miss them if they live far away. Give hugs freely. Sit on the couch together in a comfortable silence. Message people with pictures, emojis and memes to let them know you’re thinking of them. Notice who lifts you up – and who drags you down. Distance yourself from anyone who seems filled with negativity, and/or have honest conversations with them about changing course. Play with children. Take them out for pizza or ice cream. Do what they like to do, and listen to what they have to say. They’ll be more likely to call on you when they need you. Your heart and your soul need regular connections more than you may realise. And this year, we need our people more than ever.
There is surviving and there is thriving. Surviving is where you are completely flat, all energy used up and then some, and life is hard all the time. It could be financially or in other ways, academically, professionally, mentally, maybe parenting or family challenges. You have no time or ability to enjoy life’s pleasures and every day is just … surviving. Get up, survive, go to bed. Repeat. Thriving is the opposite. It’s where you both earn enough and live well enough to feel happiness and pleasure regularly. There will always be challenges, but on the whole, you make the most of life. Thriving is something I’ve always been pretty good at. People live vicariously through me, following my travels and adventures. I have always embraced mottos like ‘no regrets’ and ‘on my deathbed, I don’t want to say I wish I’d worked more’. I’m now past 40, and my regrets are few. And my goals are plentiful.
As an intentionalist, thriving should come naturally. All the hard stuff should have fallen away and a natural balance found. It looks like spending your days and weeks alternating between work, home and family commitments, self-interests and self-care, spending time with loved ones and pursuing personal growth and community interests, like study or volunteering. In what ways will you choose to thrive? What makes you happy? What parts of you do you want to share with others? How can you look at your week/month/year and make sure you fit in times for self-care, challenges, family, amongst projects and the daily grind?
Where does community fit in your values? Engaging and connecting with your local community takes on many forms. Parent-school engagement. Volunteers. Prayers in your church/mosque/synagogue/temple. Political action. Local market stalls. Supporting entrepreneurs. Whichever, it is about choosing to value being part of a bigger whole, to contribute, to give, to be counted, represented, to have your voice heard and to listen to others. To offer your time and/or money to contribute toward a bigger, better picture. Giving offers plenty of rewards as well. It can release ‘happy’ endorphins in the brain, improve self-esteem, life satisfaction and health, reduce stress and depression, and donations can be tax deductible**.
What is most important to you? Who in the community do you think could benefit from your time and help? Really reflect on what you hold dear. There are plenty of organisations who will willingly take your offerings, but it’s important to work out if you have interests, experience, or specific gifts you could bring, and to whom these are best served. A bit of research and paying attention to community noticeboards, local newspapers and social media groups and pages can open your eyes to what’s out there. All you have to do is find which ones align with you.
This list of values is not exhaustive. But it is intended to help you understand an important part of re-evaluating your life when you choose intentionalism. If you would like to read more, the Minimalists have a book called Live A Meaningful Life that goes into further detail about values. Don’t forget to check out the Wheel of Life assessment tools out there on Google, or the explanation and tool I have linked below. They can really help you see which of your values are underserved and need adjustment. In fact, I might do one now. Never hurts to re-evaluate!
Just remember that knowing your values is one thing, but the important key is to regularly take stock and make sure you’re finding some sort of balance in your life, or tilting^ towards the different values fairly frequently. Having lived a lot of my life tilted solely toward work and travel, I know very well the repercussions of leaving other values to the wayside. The goal of an intentional life is not to live like that, and to strive to make all things represented proportionally.
*Read here for more about Wheels of Life and here is a great design-your-own worksheet. Download it from the link just above figure 2.
** Sources: https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-giving and https://www.moneycrashers.com/benefits-charitable-giving-donations/
^Tilting is Brooke MacAlary’s (Slow Home podcast, Slow Your Home book) version of balance. Acknowledging that balance is often unachievable, she suggests that there are often times where you need to tilt into a priority for a while before you are able to tilt into something else. Think tilting toward a big work project or when your child is very sick, and everything else falls away. Eventually you go back to a more even keel, but just for a while, you need to tilt.