February 24, 2017

Seven Keys to Unlocking an Intentional Life.

Over 10 years ago, I was in the middle of a crisis.

The worst kind of crisis.

Catapulted into widowhood at 29, I was lost and overwhelmed. Dealing with the loss of my husband, while struggling to understand who I was and what I wanted from life, I was underwater.

In the midst of my grief and inner work, I began to turn inward, listening. It was my life, and I didn’t want to half-ass it.

Since then, I’ve been challenging my own status quo by carefully examining and questioning my truth. My life hasn’t unfolded in a straight line—no, it’s been painful and messy at times. I’ve backtracked, ran in circles, and put off stuff that scares me—and I still do.

Even though it hasn’t been simple, it’s been heartfelt and rich with learning and growth. It’s these seven tried and true nuggets of goodness which have been my mainstay throughout.

Refined over the years, I still use them daily. I hope they serve you as well as they continue to serve me.

1. “I don’t know” is not an answer.

“I don’t know” has always felt safe. For years I wallowed in it until given a key piece of advice: I don’t know is an excuse. Stinging with embarrassment, I came up with every reason to justify my unknowing. Once I understood I was hiding from my true self, I decided to find her.

Here’s what works: In the morning I make time for myself, a ritual of my own. Waking an hour before I need to leave the house, I make myself a cup of coffee and sit quietly.

Depending on how I’m feeling I may use a guided meditation or an app, (I have a resource page with a few of my favorites here). When my mind wanders, I gently bring my attention back to the breath. Even if I find only 20 seconds of focused calm within my meditation, I find my day unfolds more smoothly.

2. Raise the vibe.

I consider maintaining my positive mindset similarly to working on my physical shape—a daily practice. I begin by being mindful of my feelings and the little voice inside my head.

If given the opportunity, my negative voice would whisper to me throughout the day. Sometimes it get’s the best of me, and I focus on tweaking my inner monologue to resemble an uplifting conversation between best friends; chock full of understanding, forgiveness, and kudos.

Maintaining positive emotions is my one number one job. Period. I do this in a variety of ways.

Here’s what works: I have a list of happy-inducing items, little things that don’t cost any money. Listening to music, snapping photos and sharing them and or reading a chapter from an uplifting book. I also write early in the morning and listen to podcast episodes and audio clips throughout the day. I consider time spent raising my vibration a gift to myself. What about you? Do you make time for yourself in special ways?

3. Give yourself permission.

There have been times in my life when I sought permission from someone else. Making a move, leaving a job, or simply a change of mindset. I was missing the point: the person I needed the permission from was myself. Making a leap in action can feel downright scary.

It was the fear of others’ reactions that prevented me from moving forward. Wondering if I would be judged or my decisions questioned—these insidious thoughts took root, causing me to remain small and safe.

Here’s what works: Once I shifted my perspective and granted myself permission to do the thing it was freeing. Fear and doubt immediately rushed in, but exhilaration was right on its heels. These emotions are so closely related; they’re found on different sides of the same coin. Now I understand that pushing through the fear to get to the excitement is the key. It’s not easy, but it’s a daily practice and well worth it.

4. Shake things up.

When I become unhappy with the status quo of life, it’s my signal to make changes. Rather than the same routine, I shake it up! I begin with small, simple things like taking an alternative route to the gym or trying a new coffee shop for an afternoon work session. In line at the grocery store, I stay off the phone and engage in a conversation with a stranger. Meeting new people places me in the flow of life and opens up the possibilities. Staying out of my comfort zone sets the stage for bigger things.

Here’s what works: Once comfortable with the idea of doing little things in a different way, I apply these habits to bigger concepts. I think about my life and the changes I would like to make. Then I take it a step further and ask myself, what are some steps I can take today?

5. Start asking, “Why not me?”

This is about worth, my most revisited lesson. I have spent a good portion of my life living in a specific, limiting way. Building others up in my head and comparing myself. When I began questioning my limiting beliefs, I discovered a little secret: they were mine only. No one else shared them. You may consider taking a deep dive into yours as well. I bet you’ll find the same.

Here’s what works: I journal the best version of my life, removing limiting thoughts from the situation. Sometimes it’s difficult to begin, so I think of it as a game and spill it out on the paper. Then I read this big, juicy tale out loud. It feels weird. But I do it anyway. Closing my eyes I tell the tale again. It feels more natural the second time and begins to feel more like my story. Just through rewriting the tale, my dream life suddenly feels more attainable.

6. Perspective is everything.

A problem is a matter a perspective. A small shift in our mindset can transform the problem into an opportunity.
For instance, years ago, an unexpected increase in my monthly rent was the excuse I had been waiting for to relocate. I could have also used it as an opportunity to downsize and go traveling. There were many solutions to a situation I initially viewed as a problem.

Once I looked with a fresh mindset, I had several choices and the freedom to choose for myself. With training and over time, I encounter problems less frequently: they seem to take care of themselves.

Here’s what works: When presented with a situation, issue, or problem I challenge myself to consider it from many angles. These small, daily exercises have led to more opportunities and freedom.

7. Take leaps.

With this fresh new mindset has come opportunities. While they had been available the entire time, now I’m in a position to identify them. I try to scare myself. Daily.

There is a pop of excitement and fear when I consider taking action. The fear is normal, the key is using the excitement as a stiff wind to push through my fear.

Here’s what works: I know myself better than anyone, as do you. I use this self-awareness and set myself up for success by holding myself accountable. If I make a public announcement, then I know I will follow through. Often I use this tactic to push myself to make the leap.


Author: Robyn Woodman

Image: Karine/ Flickr 

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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