Thanksgiving is upon us, followed closely by Christmas and then the New Year. It’s the season where we’re thinking deeply about gratitude and self-reflection, but it’s also be a time where material things take center stage, and the comparison game gets all too easy to play at holiday gatherings. There’s a push and a pull to every thought and emotion I have—I want to create memories with my family, but they may not be Pinterest or Instagram worthy; I want to give thoughtful gifts, but I have severe budget and time constraints; I want to be a great hostess and do everything from scratch, but I want to have the time to enjoy myself at my own party; I want to answer questions about what I do all day with pride, but I struggle with feeling like I’m enough.
With all these warring emotions on my mind, I’ve been thinking about the concept of living intentionally. I keep hearing and reading about it in podcasts and blogs, and it comes up in conversations with friends. I wonder if “living intentionally” will help me frame my outlook on life so that I’m not constantly struggling with the duality of my emotions. I’ve been looking around for inspiration, but as is often the case, I have become even more overwhelmed with concept versus the execution of living intentionally. So, I’m going to try to break it down a bit and define what it means for me. I suspect this is a very personal thing, but maybe this will help you identify what it means to you, and maybe this can be a critical tool for each of us as we go into the holiday season and celebrate the upcoming new year.
Living intentionally isn’t keeping fastidious bullet journals or calendaring every morning over a cup of coffee. It’s not about marking time or keeping accurate records of everything you’re doing. Living intentionally is envisioning how you want your life to look and feel, making some sort of plan to achieve those goals, and being accountable to yourself. Journals, calendars, planners, and lists can be the tools that keep us accountable, but they are not the vision.
Living intentionally must acknowledge where you are in life, your given resources, and your limitations. It is easy to dream and envision a fantasy life where leisure time and money/popularity/beauty/etc. are abundant, but it’s incredibly difficult to make those dreams a reality. Living intentionally should not require drastic or immediate changes to your life, because they are neither attainable nor practical. Living intentionally requires some deep reflection and finding a sense of gratitude with the current state of one’s life, and a hopefulness to start a new endeavor or begin a new path.
Living intentionally requires us not to accept life as is, the status quo, or going along with the way things have always been simply because it is convenient. Living intentionally may, and probably will for a time, feel uncomfortable; there will always be friction between what is and what we want it to be instead.
Living intentionally should reconnect us to our emotions and our truest selves on a deep and profound level. Listen to your inner voice, though it may be difficult to hear with all the noise around us. Noise comes in a lot of forms—the social media we check almost unconsciously, the cable TV news playing in the background, the conversations that turn petty and judgmental, our inner critic we let spoil any given moment—and our resistance to it is crucial. When you can resist the noise, we can find the courage to turn plans into action.
I promise to be gentle with myself this holiday season. I will not criticize my double chin or belly fat in every family photo, I will instead look at my family with awe and be thankful to have them around me. I will not worry I haven’t spent enough on gifts for my friends and family. I will make the most delicious food this Thanksgiving, and I won’t care if it makes it to Instagram. I will call out injustice when I hear it, even if it means making someone uncomfortable, especially when that someone is me. I will take moments for myself amidst the chaos of the holidays and our impending move. And when I forget to do one or all of these things, I won’t tear myself down. I’ll take stock at the end of the night, figure out how to do better tomorrow, and go to sleep so I can rest up for a new day.