People, especially those in young adulthood or in their middle ages, often find themselves questioning their life and purpose. You might find yourself wondering, what am I doing? Or, what should I do? The answer to these questions differs from person to person, and what it means to live intentionally also varies depending on the person. In case an individual is not able to find an answer to these, there can be a certain discomfort or disappointment as they feel lost and without purpose. However, there is a basic framework that can be adhered to which helps everyone one of us live intentionally.
Some important qualities
Firstly, we must learn to nurture wisdom in ourselves. Wisdom means that we are able to recognise what is good for us, what is bad for us, and what we are indifferent to. It is easy to understand what is good for you, like honesty, kindness, empathy, and what is bad for you like, dishonesty, greed, jealousy. In the indifferent category come the things that are not completely good or bad, like money, success, possessions, etc. You should not be too worried about whether you have a lot of these things or not, as they do not define your life’s worth.
Next there is temperance, which includes things like self-restraint, self-discipline and self-control. It is about balancing the short-term gains with the things that are good for us in the long-term. It also means that there should be moderation in all things, whether that be eating, watching TV or even working. Learning to exhibit self-control in your life and work towards things that provide long-term rewards rather than instant gratification will work wonders in your life. The classic example of this is exercise, which does not have any immediate results unless we are disciplined and stick to it, and after a while the hard work will show.
Following this is courage, which is not the elimination of fear or anxiety, but rather feeling the fear and anxiety and still acting in the right way. Courage is perhaps one of the most important qualities in life in general. When we are afraid of something, we should try to deal with that fear directly by leaning into it rather than running away from it. This is a display of courage. For example, if someone is scared of jumping in the water, the best way to overcome this fear is to simply jump without thinking about it too much. It is the same in case we have to make a difficult decision in life, but we are afraid of making it. Being courageous means we make the decision despite the fear behind it.
Lastly there is the virtue of justice. This is not to mean justice like in our legal system or jurisprudence. Rather it means our duty to the society and to our fellow man. So, if we want to live intentionally, we also have to live in ways that are beneficial to other people. This implies being caring and considerate of people around us. Justice also means doing the right things whenever we can, which is called being righteous. Righteousness helps us in living fulfilling and happy lives, free from feelings of greed or anger. An example for this could be if you see someone drop money, would you act in service of yourself and be greedy (pick it up and take it) or be righteous and just (pick it up and return it). The latter should be the one to aim for.
Hence, it can be concluded that living life intentionally may mean different things to different people, but there are certain qualities we can follow to help in our search for meaning. It is important to highlight here that there is a difference between happiness and meaning. Happiness occurs at points in our life for short periods, while meaning enlightens our whole life and gives us direction. Every person’s meaning in life may be different, but it serves the same purpose, which is to give us purpose. So, finding meaning in our lives will help us to live intentionally, and will also help us to become overall better people.