How did I start to live a life with intention not by default?

“Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.”
– Richie Norton

Many years ago, I was with my wife in a mall to buy a wool coat to escape the winter in Columbus, Ohio.
My wife asked me, “Is that wool coat really worth $100?”
“If you decide to buy it, the answer is yes; If you decide not to buy it, the answer is no,” I replied.
“Your decision is based on your feelings about the coat, its price, and the money that you have at the moment. You make the decision by incorporating your feelings and these other factors about the coat,” I added.
Whether or not we’re conscious of it, we compare our precise benefit of anything from owning it with its price.
We always seek a balance of a few factors to make a decision which is beneficial for us.
And we come up with anything’s value to us by posing a simple question.
What’s the most I’d pay for it?
When valuing anything in life, the question turns into: what’s the most I’d pay for it?
We make decisions by being really intentional.

Intention is a precursor for our actions.
It means we only ever take action on things that we believe bring us joy and satisfaction.
Actions means taking risks, there are many types of risks in life.
I have gone through many of these, bigger or smaller, and I’m pretty sure you have also gone through many of these.
Sometimes, we fail, sometimes, we succeed, but always learning and moving.
When we start to live with intention, we start to enjoy our life, at this point, the lines between work and play begin to blur.
We start to do what we love and we start to love what we do.
Everything becomes a learning experience and a part of lifestyle.
This is my experience between work and play.

Strengthening our capacities in life is a continuous process.
It’s a practice, not a one time and done deal.
We can always revisit, refresh and retune, if we have intention, and there will not be a pop quiz next month or next year like what we did in the school.
At the end of the day, it’s not just about learning how to be better at something that we are working on.
It’s all about building our sense of what’s possible and bringing it into our sharp mental focus.
It’s all about changing ourselves from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset and understanding that we can always expand our capacity, no matter what.
When we start to live with intention, by doing some internal homework as I told in my wife’s coat purchasing process, it’s about knowing and trusting ourselves better, and valuing things properly.

In most cases our life goals change every five years on average.
Remember, life is the thing that always seeks intention and happens between our goals in different stages.
The specific steps on our predetermined goals might look different, depending on what we’ve been taught primarily on how to see “success”.
But whether the steps are high school, college, grad school, beginning career, better career, settling down, getting engaged, getting married, having kids, getting early retirement, or fishing in Thailand during retirement, there’s always something laid out.
This is all about being proactive and intentional.
Even as we’re working to achieve small things like getting kids ready for school, or cleaning the bathtub, or saving a little bit extra money for house downpayment or taking a course for weight loss program.
We still have to go through an intentional life one moment at a time, these everyday moments which look mundane but are what make memories in life.
These are nothing but the micro moments of positivity with intention.
Small changes with intention are the beauty of life that are sustainable which for most of us does not cost even a penny.

Let’s take one example of how small things accumulate over time.
The average person eats approximately one ton of food in a year.
If we think about sitting down to eat a ton of food, there is no way it’s going to happen all at once.
But bit by bit or piece by piece or meal by meal, by eating food every day for 365 days in a row, we can eat one ton without even imagining the final amount.
This is compounding and compounding is a macro effect.
Compounding happens faster if we start to live a life with intention, not only in money, in everything, the only thing that makes it very special is our awareness that compounding is playing a profound effect in our lives.

As I realized or experienced, life with intention serves three core purposes- joy, stability, and independence.
When we rely on only past life stories without questioning them, we aren’t making our highest and best decisions.
We’re not making decisions at all, not really. We’re living by default.
And default life is not a life actually, it is just an automation without any joy.
And, no one lives their best life by default.
Do you?
I don’t.
We have to live with intention, not by default.
Because we only get one life to live, we have so many aspirations to fulfill.

Then why don’t we go to seek joy, stability, and independence?
Because, we have beliefs and attitudes that have developed over time inside us.
The experiences of growing up with our parents, our friends, our community is rooted with us.
Many things that were taught by parents, teachers, friends, community, and things that we learned through personal experience are with us.
We still have an echo of “you can’t do that from our uncle” when we were 12 years old.
Something happens good or bad, and it becomes incorporated into how we see the world.
It’s all wrapped up together into a mental pattern that influences how we think and act about everything in life.
But the reality is everything can be changed gradually, if we start to live with intention, one step at a time.

Our path to a life with intention is open and out there, it doesn’t have traffic signals, but only we can drive it. No one else can or will drive it for us.
If we want to raise the odds of living with our dreams, then we have to design our life with intention.
And only then will whatever tools we have for us will truly serve us in creating joy and independence.

As I said, life with intention is a pure independent life.
If we don’t live our life with intention then we start to live in excess.
In reality, excess of anything can be a problem, a long lasting problem.
It doesn’t matter if it’s money, or sex, or alcohol, or drugs, or facebook, or parties, or rice, or broccoli, or sugar, or exercise.
Even excess water can kill us.
Even excess exercise can kill us.
Even excess broccoli can kill us.
Everything in life is designed for intention, because everything requires balance and balance is achieved by intention.
Used smartly, as a tool, intention is a vital resource, an essential component for survival.

How far we go in life depends on how soft and tender we are with the young.
How compassionate we are with the old, how sympathetic we are with the suffering, and how tolerant we are of the weak and strong.
Because in life with intention, we have to go through all of these, it’s just a matter of time.

Let’s take one example related to health of how things are interrelated and why we need intention in life.
This is from Dr. Michael P. O’Leary, professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School.
Blood vessel problems are the leading cause of erectile dysfunction.
Erections serve as a barometer for overall health and it can be an early warning sign of trouble in the heart or elsewhere.
Erectile dysfunction affects more than 18 million men.
Over half of men with type 2 diabetes also have erectile dysfunction.
In reality, men with erectile dysfunction have higher risks of having heart disease, memory loss, dementia, or stroke as their arteries are often clogged throughout the body.
So the fundamental question is almost everybody with the problem goes to a doctor to treat only erectile dysfunction.
Because they are not aware of what’s going on, awareness is a synonym of intention.
In reality, the same biological mechanisms that control blood flow to our brain and to our heart also control blood flow to our sexual organs.
There is a word called “macro”-that means we always have to look for the bigger picture, the truth is we are just a dot of a bigger picture.
The bigger picture at this time is the whole body, the machine, and whole body mechanism.
If we don’t want to be aware of what’s going on in our body in today’s technological age then we are not living with intention.
Remember, most of us aren’t trained to live with intention because it needs a little bit of extra effort.

Let’s take another example which is also related to health and diet.
I learned this late in my life when I started to live with intention.
I learned that we need to be healthy in life, and good health doesn’t come free, we have to be intentional on what we do and what we eat.
But I also learned that we don’t have to go too far to seek a healthy life, it’s again awareness.
It’s about building our sense of what’s true and bringing it into our sharp focus for our benefit.
For example, a lot of people don’t see the benefit and value of our everyday food, rice and beans especially of Asian people.
They always look for something exotic food outside where they see value.
Here is the hidden truth.
There are 22 aminoacids.
Out of 22, 9 amino acids are essential, our body cannot make, we have to eat as diets.
Out of 9, 3 are kind of not available everywhere: they are lysine, tryptophan, and methionine; but rest are found in many different foods that we eat everyday.
Legumes like beans are high in lysine but low in tryptophan and methionine.
Grains like rice are high in tryptophan and methionine but low in lysine.
Look at the meal that we eat everyday of rice and beans- you got the point, it is ideal if we broaden our horizon of understanding at a macro level.
But, of course, we have to eat it in balance.
If anybody says meat is required instead of rice and beans for strength, remind the person with the elephant.
The elephant is vegetarian.
I am bringing these examples just to show you the macro picture of life, if we really want to live with intention.

One final call to remind the importance of intention in life.
What is your understanding of stress in your life?
We have to find the right balance of stress in life.
We, of course, need enough stress but not too much like a guitar string.
If it’s too loose, there is no music, if it’s too tight, it breaks, and there is no music.
When stress becomes chronic, out of balance, it increases inflammation in our brain which exacerbates depression.
Once we’re depressed, our immune system is also depressed.
Keep in mind, chronic stress shortens our telomeres.
Telomeres are the ends of our chromosomes that regulate cellular aging.
When our telomeres get shorter, our lives get shorter.
Chronic stress also adversely affects our gene expression and has a harmful impact on the balance of the trillions of cells in our microbiome.
Again, we have to live with intention but not with over intention, otherwise, our guitar string will break.

Let me remind you the basic truth about a life with intention.
If you go only to other people’s carved path based on their mission then only they will enjoy the ride, not you, so live with intention.
We need intention because it creates macro understanding and that brings balance in life and that ultimately provides happiness, health, and prosperity.
Remember, we only get one life, so live with intention, enjoy the present and look forward to the future.

Thank you for your time.
-Yam Timsina