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Last Updated on August 5, 2020

10 Ways to Live an Intentional Life

10 Ways to Live an Intentional Life

They say “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”, but when it comes to your mind, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

What you don’t know about your mind, what runs it, and how it drives your life can definitely hurt you – probably more than anything else.

As a therapist and former social anxiety sufferer, I know exactly how important it is and how life-changing it can be to start living with intention and take back the reigns over your life.

So, I want to share 10 vital facts that will help you understand your mind so that you can live more intentionally. which really means to live life on your terms according to the beliefs and values that best serve you.

Otherwise, what you don’t know will continue to hurt you.

1. Your Mind and Your Brain Are Two Different Things

I think, therefore I am. —  Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes made the distinction centuries ago between the mind  –  the essence of which is thinking  – and brain matter, but it’s been a debate among scientists globally ever since.[1]

What we know to be true is that if you were to point to your mind and your brain, you point at the same thing, right?

You can also be dead with a brain, but you can’t be alive without your mind. You are your consciousness and although scientists are yet to prove the limits of it (if that’s even possible), we know that it’s extremely powerful.[2] Search Google and you’ll find evidence from all over the globe of people healing themselves, surprising doctors, and shaping their realities with focused and willed thoughts.

I have personally experienced the power of changing a deep-rooted fear of public speaking and social interaction. What was once a seriously petrifying notion, where even a thought invoked the “fight or flight” response, is now something I enjoy.

I revisited the painful memories until they weren’t painful. I rationalized the beliefs I had about it and told myself just how much I loved public speaking in public. I gave my mind new pictures to see and proved that if you really will yourself to change, you can. This is an important part of living intentionally.

I got up in front of 60 people and did a cross-examination (ex-lawyer here) and I genuinely enjoyed it. It blew my mind.

Action: Think about something you’d like to change in your life. Is it a behavior you wish you didn’t have or a belief that’s holding you back? Writing is a great way to sort through it all, and once you’ve identified them, keep reading.

3. Your Mind Doesn’t Know the Difference Between What Is Real or Imagined

Right now, I want you to imagine that you’re cutting a slice of lemon. See that freshly cut, juicy lemon in your mind right now.

Smell it. Notice that it’s a really juicy one. The acidic juices are dripping as you cut into it. Now, picture yourself biting straight into it. Close your eyes and picture that acidic, fresh juice seeping all through your mouth.

Salivating yet?

This is a simple but effective demonstration of the fact that your thoughts can bring about physical reactions because your mind thinks that you’ve actually eaten a lemon.

Now, think about what your mind is doing when you’re catastrophizing situations, constantly re-living negative events, or picturing the worst things happening. According to Dr. Dispenza’s You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, your mind doesn’t know the difference.

It feels like it’s actually happening so your body reacts the same way. This is how we get burnout, adrenal fatigue from too much cortisol, and a constant state of fight or flight.

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“If you want to dream big, you have to dream in great detail.” —  Mike Tomlin

When you visualize the state in which you’d like to be in, the presentation that you want to give, or the conversation you want to have in a positive light, your body and mind will act as though it’s happening; it’ll be primed to do what you mentally rehearsed when the time comes.

Action: Picture what you want, see it often, and see it in great detail.

4. Your Mind Doesn’t Always Know What’s Best

I came across a conflicting belief I had when I was overcoming social anxiety. The issue was that what I wanted to do and what my mind thought it needed to do were two different things.

I wanted to interact with people and feel comfortable speaking in groups, but my mind kept trying to keep me away from what it assumed was going to be a painful experience. This is because it was painful for me as a kid when I was bullied, so my body would go into fight or flight and cause me intense anxiety to alert me and help me escape the situation.

My beliefs guided my thoughts, so my thoughts guided my actions, and my actions shaped me into a shy and self-conscious person who wasn’t good at public speaking.

Your mind’s job is to keep you away from harm and pain, but sometimes it’ll make you shy away from the things you really want to do to keep you “safe”.[3] Intentional living does not mean being 100% safe. Sometimes, you have to take risks, too.

Action: Look for inconsistencies – things you wish you could do but don’t feel comfortable or able to do, and aim to align yourself.

5. It Doesn’t Take Years to Change a Behavior or Belief

The reason “talk therapy” takes a lot longer than we’d like is that communication isn’t happening at the most effective brain wave frequency. It’s your subconscious mind that holds the negative beliefs and habits.

So naturally, when we get onto the same frequency (alpha and theta brain waves[4]), we can communicate more effectively with this part of our mind. It sticks quicker and, when guided, it can give us the answers we can’t access at a conscious level.[5]

Action: Open your mind to subconscious methods of reprogramming, whether it’s a guided recording on youtube or with a hypnotherapist, and know that you can change without losing years of your life trying.

6. Your Mind Will Believe Negative Things Over Positive Things

If you’ve never heard of the negativity bias, you will no doubt have experienced its effects.

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Remember a time where someone said someone said something critical or mean about you. Even though you did several positive things that day, or received more compliments, did you find it was really hard to get that one negative thing out of your head?

Thought so. It’s not an exact science, but your mind needs significantly more positives to counter a negative.

Action: Actively work on reinforcing the positive when you hear negative comments or feel negative thoughts. Know that you can turn it around, but your mind is geared negatively so you’ve got to practice this skill. Knowing this is key to intentional living.

7. Your Mind Believes the Things You Tell It

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you tell yourself you’re worthless or stupid, your mind will believe that to be true.

If you tell your self you love being confident, you feel calm and you can achieve whatever you want. It will believe that too (though it will need to hear that more often because of the negativity bias, remember!). That’s why if you want to live intentionally, you have to consider the things you tell yourself.

Action: Consider the words you say to yourself every day. Decide who you want to be and tell yourself that’s exactly who you are. Watch how you change.

8. Your Beliefs Are Often Irrational and Harmful

Did you know that when children experience family violence, their brains have similar patterns of activity as soldiers that have fought in a war?[6]

If you’ve suffered trauma, bullying, physical or verbal abuse as a child, the chances are that your subconscious mind formed irrational beliefs before your logical mind developed, and if you let them, these beliefs could be running your entire life.[7]

But when you identify, rationalize, and re-visit these beliefs, you can change them. Unless you revisit these beliefs as an adult, you could risk living your life based on irrelevant things that hurt your younger self.

Action: Reflect on those tough life moments – the ones that are often hard to think about but the ones that may have shaped you. Work through it with a therapist, or write it all down so you can start to question and rationalize what you believed to be true. Reflection is an important aspect of intentional living.

9. Your Mind Defaults to What Is Familiar

We are creatures of habit. We love doing what we know because it’s relatively certain. Uncertainty and unfamiliarity are uncomfortable.

Case in point: COVID19.

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But sometimes, what is familiar to you isn’t good for you. The familiar eating patterns you have, the negative thought loops you’re stuck in, the self-deprecation, the anxious feelings, the overreactions – all of these things we do out of habit but not necessarily because we want to.[8]

The good news is that you can make the familiar unfamiliar. But new habits that really stick are those that sit at an identity level (i.e. you can’t beat yourself up for not reaching your goal of losing 10 kgs (an outcome) when you don’t identify with being a fit and healthy person (your identity)).[9] You must identify with what you’re trying to change otherwise it won’t stick.

Action: Imagine you could watch yourself throughout the day and notice whether the things you’re doing are because you want to or if you’re doing it because it’s easy because it’s what you’ve always done. Look for clues, particularly if you feel guilty, sad, angry, or annoyed after a thing you eat or say or do.

10. You Are Not Your Thoughts

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” —  Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

Think about it, based on the preceding facts I’ve listed about your mind, you now know that your mind believes what you tell it. It can be physically affected by your thoughts, and it can shape your entire reality.

If you can notice your thoughts, let them flow in and out, keep the ones that help you, and let go of the ones that don’t. Then, you’ll reach a level of mind control that very few can reach.

It starts by getting quiet, calm, and doing whatever makes you focused and happy, like running, meditation, walking, or listening to music.

Action: Become aware of your own negative thought loops and practice letting them go or just noticing them rather than giving in to them, believing them straight away, and reacting.

Final Thoughts

I hope these 10 facts help you as much as they have helped me and my clients. These are not guaranteed to make you live intentionally, but they will definitely help you live life on your terms.

And finally, watch this interview with Antonio Neves to learn more about how to stop living on autopilot:

Remember, you aren’t responsible for the negative things that you heard or experienced in your life, but you are most definitely responsible for changing them.

More on Intentional Living

Featured photo credit: Brad Pearson via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Mind-Body Distinction
[2] Quartz: Scientists say your “mind” isn’t confined to your brain, or even your body))

The brain is the physical substance, and the mind is the conscious product of those firing neurons, according to the classic argument. But growing evidence shows that the mind goes far beyond the physical workings of your brain. –– Olivia Goldhill

It may seem basic, but being aware of the fact that your mind is something that isn’t constrained by your brain—that it’s a container for something much larger and that it’s powerful beyond anything you can believe—is the first step to gaining higher consciousness. To live intentionally also means to gain such higher consciousness.

Action: Don’t take your consciousness for granted, and question everything you know to be true.

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2. Your Mind Can Physically Change Your Brain

The time has come for science to confront the serious implications of the fact that directed willed mental activity can clearly and systematically alter brain function. — Jeffrey Schwartz, The Mind and The Brain

This is what mind over matter means: our mind can control and influence our physical state and change our brain function.((Psychology Today: 7 Ways to Use Your Mind to Strengthen and Heal Your Body

[3] Marisa Peer: How to Control Your Thoughts
[4] Psychology Today: Alpha Brain Waves Boost Creativity and Reduce Depression
[5] Science Daily: Brain wave device enhances memory function
[6] Science Daily: Maltreated children show same pattern of brain activity as combat soldiers
[7] NCBI: The Unconscious Mind
[8] NCBI: The Unconscious Mind
[9] James Clear: The Habits Guide: How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

More by this author

Daina Worrall

Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

10 Ways to Live an Intentional Life How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

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Published on August 5, 2020

7 Tips for Overcoming Challenges in Life Like a Pro

7 Tips for Overcoming Challenges in Life Like a Pro

Life is all about the continuous effort required for overcoming challenges. Every day brings forth new hurdles, and you always have to be on guard to dodge these hurdles if you wish to live a relatively smooth, successful life.

The consistent motivation required for overcoming difficulties in life can be easily lost, even by the most successful people. It can be difficult to dig deep and find the courage to face challenges, but once you do, that strength never leaves.

If you feel like giving up, you’ve come to the right place. The 7 tips you’ll find today will give you the right boost of energy to continue your push against your daily struggles!

1. Shift Your Perspective

Every challenging situation, right off the bat, affects your perspective first.

Let’s say, this morning you woke up to an email from your boss that said that you have to work through the weekend. You had planned to meet your friends after months this weekend. Of course, you’ll instantly start to feel angry and sad.

Next, you open the fridge to make some eggs for breakfast, but the eggs have gone bad. You’re also out of cereal. Later on in the day, you have to go out grocery shopping, but your favorite, most comfortable jeans are dirty. Although this inconvenience is minor, it could possibly be the last straw.

Apparently, your entire day has gone in the wrong direction. However, the real issue is not that minor challenges got to you back-to-back. Instead, it’s your perspective.

From the moment you read the email, you put a negative twist on everything. Since then, everything was perceived as a bigger problem than it actually was. You already knew that you were out of cereal. You also probably knew that the eggs would go bad by this day.

Despite that, your negative mindset made your overreact.

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Make it a habit to never let negativity take over. No, you shouldn’t force yourself to be positive but at least try to focus your negative energy on the real challenge. Ignore the minor inconveniences like you would on a good day.

If you let your energy go to waste on such small matters, you’ll be drained of energy before you even begin to figure out how to overcome your challenges.

2. Learn From Someone Who Has Been There

If it gives you comfort, then you should know that you’re not the only one going through this issue. Someone out there is going through similar circumstances, and possibly even worse.

Similarly, there’s someone out there who has been through the same challenge but was able to get out of it unharmed.

There are millions of people in similar circumstances. You may know at least one such individual who has gone through a similar issue. It could be a celebrity, someone from your neighborhood, a member from your extended family, or anyone from anywhere.

This person’s experience is a source of motivation, as well as a guide, to get through your challenge. Overcoming challenges can be as easy as observing the people around you in the long term.

If you can’t think of anyone who has tackled the problem already, it’s alright. You’ll know of someone who, if ever faced with a similar situation, could walk through it without an issue. Maybe that’s because this person has enough money to buy their solution, or they have the physical and mental ability to find a way out.

Whatever the case, try to follow the same footsteps. Come up with alternatives to suit your circumstances. As long as you have an example to see, you’ll have the strong will to continue in the same direction. A real-life example is the best motivation to continue the fight against your life’s hurdles.

Similarly bring to mind a challenge you have overcome already. Once you realize you’ve done it once, you’ll have the inspiration to do it again.

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3. Don’t Shy Away From Help

You came into this world alone, and you’ll leave alone. Yet, every human depends on others for their survival between these two points of existence. Even the strongest economies in the world are interdependent. It’s only natural to expect an emotionally or physically strained person like you to seek help as well.

If you aren’t capable of pulling yourself out of the tough situation, go ahead and seek out support or help. A third party will likely be able to offer a perspective you hadn’t seen.

Having someone to support you through your tough time is great. The best scenario is if they have the expertise to get you over the hurdle. Even if that’s not the case, the emotional support is more than enough to keep you going in tough times.

They may also be able to present examples of challenges you have overcome to motivate you to overcome whatever you’re facing now.

4. Figure out a Solution

There’s a solution to almost every problem you’ll face as you seek success in life.

No matter how big of a mountain you think has come in front of you, it won’t kill you. You can reach its top with the small steps you take every day.

If you’re thinking of ways of overcoming challenges, you’re already on the right track. Only with a mind that wants to overcome an issue can you actually do it. So, start thinking of all possible and impossible solutions to your problem.

For example, if you’re currently going through a financial problem, some solutions include shifting to a better-paid job, working more than one job, taking out a loan, winning the lottery, robbing a bank, and the list goes on. By simply acknowledging that there are so many solutions to your problem, half your worries will be eradicated.

The next step is, of course, to work on a realistic solution. Once you’re figured out the most feasible route for yourself, you need to start taking baby steps towards it.

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Let’s say you decided to change your job. You’ll start by looking out for career choices that pay well and are also relevant to your skills and experience. Next, you’ll apply to places that have open vacancies, and so on.

With a focused goal, you won’t lose your sense of direction amid all the hindrances.

5. Compartmentalize

Do you know what pulls people down during a tough time? It’s not that one challenge, but the fact that this one challenge overshadows everything and makes it difficult to overcome life challenges along the way.

An issue in your career reflects on your behavior with your partner, keeps you from hanging out with your friends, strains your motivation to stay fit, and basically harms every other aspect of your life. All of this is because that one challenge is all that’s on your mind. You’re unable to distract your brain to think of other things.

This behavior is harmful not just to you, but also to those around you. Keep the challenges of your life restricted. If they take over, you won’t be able to overcome them. To solve one problem, you need to continue to live normally in other parts so that you don’t lose your strength.

How do you overcome challenges?

Learn to compartmentalize so that your brain is trained to keep the good things away from the negative[1]. With an organized mind, you can conquer any challenge that comes to you.

6. Focus on the Bigger Picture

There are many quotes about overcoming challenges, but one that rings particularly true is this:

One closed door opens another.

One hurdle may seem like a full stop, but it may be exactly what you need to reach a final goal.

Imagine the prettiest landscape; a land full of peace, serenity, natural beauty, a starry sky, and everything nice that you can think of. If you know that the final destination is worth it, you won’t mind the narrow path that you’ll have to walk on to get to it.

Similarly, if you can shift your focus to the bigger picture, the minor challenges won’t seem to be an issue. Instead, you’ll make the most of them by learning from every challenging second. Going through a hard time can bring you many benefits if you have the right point of view[2].

7. Help Others

In the end, despite your challenges, be ready to offer help to others.

You will be contributing to the cycle of help while also learning a great deal from their way of tackling a life issue. Moreover, offering a helping hand ensures you’ve got someone you can rely on during your tough times, too.

The Takeaway

Overcoming challenges in life requires a balanced way of tackling the problem without letting it affect healthy parts of your life. It not only requires physical effort, but also mental strength.

The 7 tips you learned today are a good balance between both. They keep you mentally strong so that you can give your maximum physically. Altogether, you can put up a strong fight against the hardest challenges. No obstacle can stop you from living your life to the fullest.

All you’ve got to do now is stay determined and push yourself by implementing these tips in your life. Then, notice yourself looking forward to new challenges instead of dreading them!

More Tips for Overcoming Challenges in Life

Featured photo credit: Jonathan Chng via unsplash.com

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Reference

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