Today’s post comes from my friend Megan who blogs over at Learning Lotuses. Megan was one of the first bloggers I connected with when I started the blog almost a year ago. We had seen each other in different blogging groups and liked each other’s posts, but Megan was the first one to reach out. I’m so glad she did.
We partnered on our guided imagery/meditation course, but this is the first time she has done a guest post for the blog. In this post, she talks about how she decided to live her values to live intentionally, and how that has led her to a life of happiness. I think you’ll really enjoy her personal story and be able to identify some of yourself in her story. I know I did.
How to Live Intentionally | Breaking Through the Social Norms
The single biggest thing that I have learned in my life is that you are not limited by where you come from.
Growing up in an extremely rural area, I always knew there was more to the world. Things I wanted to see. Things I wanted to do. People I wanted to meet. But sometimes I felt as though this was completely unattainable.
Where I grew up, people marry their high school sweethearts, have a job in the same town or the next town over, and own a home and have a family by the time they are 25 years old. None of this ever sounded appealing to me. But, of course, there was always the looming presence of “This is what you should be doing”.
A couple of times I fell into step with the ideology that I needed to settle down. But something always happened that tore it apart. Which, of course, sucked at the time but it was the best thing for me (and for them!) in the long run.
I can’t recall the exact moment but, at some point, I just decided that I wasn’t going to do the things I was “supposed” to be doing. So I stopped. And I started living for me.
I decided to live intentionally.
What is Intentional Living?
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of intentional living, it is the idea that your lifestyle is based on conscious attempts to live according to your own values and beliefs.
On a day-to-day basis, intentional living means to take moments to yourself to breathe, rid yourself of the chaos around you, take the time to learn something new, and be mindful about your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
On a bigger scale, intentional living means to know what you want and go for it. It is about following your heart, understanding yourself, knowing what you want out of life, going after it with determination, embracing the challenges, and committing to it fully.
For some people, living intentionally means to live more religiously, frugally, or simply. It could mean changing your lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint or environmental impact or quitting a job you hate to pursue something you love.
For me, living intentionally means leaving my comfort zone. After all, growth doesn’t happen from comfort zones and you learn the most about yourself, and about those in your life, during uncomfortable times.
If I’m being completely honest, whenever I start to feel comfortable somewhere, I panic. My mind immediately begins to think of ways that I can get out, go somewhere new, experience something different. Not because I am afraid of commitment, disagree with others’ lifestyles or am protesting a traditional “woman’s” lifestyle.
My panic comes from the fear of missing out. Fear that I will never get to see and do all of the things I want to see and do. Fear of not experiencing true happiness. Fear of settling rather than going for what I truly want.
So, I went for what I truly wanted. So far, I’ve checked off a couple of boxes on my bucket list. First, I moved to Montreal to pursue my Masters degree. I’ve always wanted a Masters degree and I’ve always wanted to go to McGill University. I don’t know why, so I can’t explain it to you, but this has always been something I wanted to do. So I did it. Whenever someone asked me why I was completing my Masters degree, my answer was always “because I can, because I want to”. They always looked at me weird. I don’t blame them- who goes for a Masters degree for seemingly no reason? Me. But I did it and it was to this day one of the best experiences of my life.
Second, I want to see the world- experience new things, new people, new cultures. I love culture, it fascinates me. I haven’t been to too many places yet- a few places in Canada, New York, New Jersey, a few other US states, and Jamaica. But my biggest move has been to South Korea. Yup, I packed my bags and moved around the world not knowing a single person, the language, or where I was even going. I’m teaching ESL here now and I love it. Also, while I am on this side of the world, I plan to travel around and check off a few more boxes on my bucket list!
Intentional Living and Happiness
I want my life to be about experiences, not possessions. The idea that we need a lot of things to live now astounds me. There was a time where I wanted a fancy apartment, new car, and all the best clothes and shoes (mostly shoes). Not anymore.
Aside from the obvious benefits of experiences including learning about new things and cultures and having tons of fun, my experiences help me grow as a person. They encourage me to be more mindful by helping me to develop a better understanding of myself and others, challenge me to do things I wouldn’t normally do, improve self-esteem and self-confidence, and increase the good kind of stress, and improve overall well-being and happiness.
That’s all I want out of life, to be truly happy.
I believe that, if we are truly happy, we don’t think about how happy we are. We don’t need to think about the things that make us happy to forget about the things that weigh on us. Of course, we all have those moments where we look at someone we love or think in the moment about how happy we are. But if we are truly happy, is there a constant need to remind ourselves how happy we are? I don’t think so.
For me, true happiness is about just being there, just living and breathing, doing the things we love. But, being happy also means being intentional about your happiness. For those times when you lose your happiness, even for a moment, it is important that we bring ourselves back to happy. And that means being intentional – knowing what makes us happy and being happy with the choices we make throughout our lives.
When I made the decision to live my life the way I wanted and not settle for the norm of the community in which I was raised, I had no idea that I was living intentionally. I just knew I was doing something for myself. And I knew that I was much happier living this way.
Isn’t that what we want? To be truly happy?
Megan runs a website+blog called Learning Lotuses, aimed at encouraging social-emotional learning and wellbeing using the practices of yoga and mindfulness. She creates resources and courses for educators and parents to help them include yoga and mindfulness in their child/ren’s everyday lives.
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