20 Living with IntentionalPurpose Makes You a Kinder Person

When you are stressed out, working too hard, and running around to meet the latest deadline, or pay a stack of bills, you often are not the nicest person to be around… far from it. If on the other hand, you shift your focus and live your life with purpose and intention, this changes. Living with purpose makes us kinder and nicer. Why is that?

Living with Purpose Helps You Focus On Others

Living with purpose often includes other people. It’s about those around you as much as about yourself. We are social creatures and we like to work with, interact with, and help those around us. When we make those relationships a priority, we take the needs of others into account. That teaches us empathy and understanding, which in turn makes us nicer and kinder to those around us.

Living with Purpose Takes You Out of the Competitive Mindset

When you stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, you stop competing with everyone around you who are competing for the biggest, newest, nicest whatever. Life is about much more than outdoing everyone else. When you realize that and focus on relationships, experiences, and helping each other out, you are kinder because you’re no longer competing for that number one spot.

Living with Purpose Reduces Stress

Since you’re no longer participating in the rat race in the same way as before, and are looking for meaningful activities and relationships that make you happier, it should come as no surprise that your level of stress is greatly reduced. I don’t know about you, but I’m not the kindest person when I’m stressed out. When I’m more relaxed and fulfilled on the other hand, being kind is a natural state of mind.

Living with Purpose Increases Happiness

As you’ve already seen in previous blog posts in this series, living a purpose-driven life makes us happier. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise to you that you’re kinder and nicer to be around when you’re in a good mood. It’s when you’re stressed out, or feeling trapped, mad and angry at the world that you aren’t so much fun to be around.

To recap, living with purpose does quite a few things to make you a kinder, nicer person to be around. If that’s not a great motivator to work towards a more purposeful life, I don’t know what is.

19 Do Money and “Stuff” Really Make You Happy?

In yesterday’s blog post we talked about the importance of living with a purpose for your spiritual health and how it all comes back to living a happy and fulfilled life. Today I want to talk about what doesn’t make most people happy. We’ve talked a lot so far about why it’s important to live with purpose, and a big part of it is because it makes you feel happier and more content.

What doesn’t make people happy is money and more material possessions. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true. Surprised? Yes, of course there’s a time when a little extra cash and a more reliable car increases your happiness and decreases your stress and worries. There’s a threshold below which money and material possessions do make us happier, and that threshold for a family is about $75,000. Once that level is reached, where we live somewhat comfortably and don’t have to worry about having food in the fridge and a roof over our head, something interesting happens. From there on out, more money and more possessions simply gives us more “stuff” to worry about. In those cases, an increase in material and monetary possessions doesn’t increase happiness.

Deep down you already know this. We remember the fun trips we took as kids or the time we got tickets to see a concert much more vividly than a pile of soon-forgotten presents under the tree. Yes, there are exceptions like the year you got the new bike, but that’s when there was purpose and meaning attached to the material gift. There is plenty of evidence that spending your money on life experiences, rather than material goods, will make you happier. This is because we remember the experience much longer than the initial excitement of getting or buying something. Your happiness is also likely to be higher if you spend your money on other people, strengthening personal relationships, or you give money to causes which are aligned with your values.

According to Cornell University psychology professor Thomas Gilovich “People think that experiences are only going to provide temporary happiness, but they actually provide both more happiness and more lasting value. And yet we still keep on buying material things,” he says, “because they’re tangible and we think we can keep on using them. Experiences, on the other hand, tend to meet more of our underlying psychological needs. They’re often shared with other people, giving us a greater sense of connection, and they form a bigger part of our sense of identity. If you’ve climbed in the Himalayas, that’s something you’ll always remember and talk about, long after all your favorite gadgets have gone to the landfill.”

When we want to increase our overall happiness and well being a goal to accumulate as much money and stuff as possible obviously isn’t the answer. Instead, focus on having the basic needs covered so you don’t have to worry too much, and then shift your focus to experiences and relationships. That’s the true key to leading a happy and fulfilled life.

It also means focusing on finding purpose in what you do. In addition to financial goals, start making goals for relationships and experiences. Instead of focusing on that next big promotion or bonus check, or how you’ll afford a new car, spend your time and energy on the things and people that are important for you. Start living with purpose and start making a difference. That’s what will increase your own happiness and well being as well as that of those around you.

Exercise: List five experiences you want to have for yourself and/or your family.

18 Living with Purpose Is Good for Your Spiritual Health

Today I want to talk about spiritual health or wellness and the effect living with purpose has on it. I don’t care what your own spirituality or religion is. We live in a very diverse society and as a result, some of my readers have different beliefs than others. Even within a group of people from the same faith or belief system, there are vast differences between individual faiths and spiritual beliefs. In the end, living with purpose and intention is beneficial, no matter what your beliefs are.

That’s why living with purpose is so important and why it is good for your overall spiritual health. Having a purpose is a primal human need. We want to be needed and we need to know that we’re making a difference to feel fulfilled, happy, and complete.

The Need to Be Needed

We like to be needed by others. It makes us sad and lonely when we can’t help those around us and make a difference in their lives. Having a purpose and living with purpose allows us to do just that on a regular basis. It fulfills the need to be needed.

The Need to Find Meaning in Life

Another common human desire or need is to find meaning in life. We don’t like to feel like we’re wasting our time here wondering what we are doing here. Intentional living gives meaning to each day. That in turn makes us feel happier and more fulfilled.

The Need to Have Hope

At the end of the day, even when things seem bad, we need to have hope. Having a purpose means we have a plan and we have something to strive towards. That’s hope there. It is hope that we’ll make a difference, it is hope that things will get better, and it is hope that we can solve problems when they happen.

The Need for Values

We also need values to live a happy and fulfilled life. Our values are like a compass that guides us along the way. If you are a parent, you know how important it is to communicate strong values to your children. Without values as a guidepost, they feel lost and insecure. That can add a lot of stress and unhappiness. We’re no different as adults. Living our life with purpose by default provides us with a strong set of values to live by.

Exercise: Make a list of your top five values. Are you honoring them in your life? How?

17 When You Have a Purpose, You’re Taking Action and Aren’t Afraid of Failure

When you start to think about and then live your life more purposefully, something remarkable happens. You start taking action. You start doing things instead of procrastinating or second guessing yourself. You get off the couch and get going on the things you’ve always wanted to do.

Taking action becomes so much easier when you have a clear purpose. You have a goal in mind and you know exactly what the next step is that you need to take. Even more importantly, you are highly motivated to get it done.

Let’s look at weight loss as an example. You can try to lose some weight and get into shape for months and even years with little success. Sure, you eat a little better and you go for a walk every now and then, but because you don’t have an actual purpose, you don’t get far. You also occasionally give in to the urge to snack, get second helping, or indulge in a cookie. There’s no big reason to get serious about losing weight and there’s no deadline.

Now pretend you’re getting married in nine months and you are determined to look great on your big day. You have a dress or suit size in mind and a pretty good idea of how many pounds you have to lose by your wedding day. Suddenly you have a purpose, a goal, and a deadline. That’s exactly what it takes to get serious about losing weight.

You start taking massive action. You clean up your diet, cut out the sugar and processed food. You start working out to tone and reshape your body as you start to drop those pounds. You read up on and learn as much as you can about nutrition and the latest trends in diet and exercise. Best of all the pounds start to drop and you’re looking better and better the closer you get to your non-negotiable deadline.

That’s the power of having a purpose in action. It spurs you on and motivates you to do things and make changes. Having a purpose also keeps you from procrastinating out of a false fear of failure. Does that mean you won’t fail? Of course not. There’s a chance you may not hit your weight loss goal and there a very good chance that you’ll cheat and have a doughnut at some point on your weight loss journey. That’s not the point and not the type of failure I’m talking about. No matter what because of your purpose you’re going to make some serious progress and even if you stumble, you pick yourself up and get right back to it… because you have an important purpose that’s motivating you. Not trying because you think you may fail is no longer an option and that’s a pretty big deal.

16 Creating Meaningful and Purposeful Relationships

Relationships are a big part of living a more intentional and purpose-driven life. We are social creatures and we need other people around us to feel happy and complete. That means creating purposeful and meaningful relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.

While all relationships are important, the ones that will have the biggest impact on your own personal life are family and close friends.  These are the people who mean the most to you and often are the ones you spend a lot of your time with. While good work relationships are also important, they don’t have to be quite as deep and meaningful as personal relationship. As long as you communicate well with your coworkers and boss for example and you get along OK, you’re good to go. With your best friend, your spouse, or your grandma on the other hand, working on a more meaningful relationship can have a huge impact.

Be Intentional In Your Relationships

The first step in having more meaningful relationships is taking a look at where you’re at right now and then figuring out where you would like it to be. Do you want a more intimate relationship with your spouse? Do you want to be closer with your kids and have them open up to you? Do you want to have a more relaxed relationship with your book club friends? Once you know how you would like those relationships to be and look like you can work on being more purposeful and intentional in your interactions with those people.

Don’t Like Something? Change It

While we can’t change people, we can change our relationship with them. Most relationships aren’t perfect. Some are downright awful. Sometimes that means setting boundaries. Sometimes, that may even mean cutting people out of our lives. Most of the time though, it means working on the relationship and having open and honest conversations. Work with the other person to come up with something that works well for both of you. Compromise and put in the effort to improve the relationship the two of you have.

Good Relationships Take Work

A good relationship takes work. This is true of your marriage, your relationship with your kids, staying close to your best friend and any other close relationship you can think of. If you get lazy and start taking it for granted, it will wither and die. Don’t let that happen.

Instead, put in the work. Get up early in the morning to go for a run with your spouse, spend the time to talk to your kids over dinner instead of plopping down in front of the TV right after dinner. Make the time to go hang out with your friends regularly. Be intentional about your relationships and do your part to make sure they stay meaningful and strong. Yes, it takes work, time, and effort, but it is well worth it.

15 Traveling The World has Big Benefits for You!  

We live in a very global and interconnected world. Experiencing more of it in person will help you understand it better.  Maybe traveling the world isn’t possible for you right now, but at least making an effort to travel more and further than you are now might be. Not only is it a lot of fun, it’s also good for you and can help you live a more purpose-driven life. Of course if one of your big goals is to travel more and see as much of the world as you can, this is a no-brainer. Even if traveling isn’t one of your ambitions right now and you’re perfectly comfortable staying in your little corner of the world, I encourage you to explore the option and give travel a try because there are many benefits to traveling the world….

Experience New Cultures

As you travel the world and interact with the people living in other countries, you learn a lot about different cultures. It’s fun to try new food, go shopping in a very different atmosphere and looking at very different products, stumble through conversations in a foreign language, and just soak up the fact that things can be done differently. Traveling is a great way to experience new cultures and learn from those experiences.

Become More Open Minded

Experiencing new cultures helps you become more open minded. You realize that there is more than one way to do things in all areas of life. Cooking is done differently, parenting is done differently, and even the rhythm of life might be very different. And that’s just the beginning. You will come across all sorts of new ideas that challenge the way you think about things. That’s a good thing because it gives you the opportunity to rethink how you’re doing things and become more intentional and purposeful in what you do.

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Because so many things are done very differently and the entire culture is different from your own, traveling gets you out of your comfort zone. It’s great when you feel like you’re stuck in a rut or just need some fresh inspiration.

When we stay in our comfort zone, it’s hard to grow and it’s hard to change how we live our lives. Stepping out of that zone and doing things that are new, uncomfortable, and challenging is how we grow has human beings. Traveling is a great way to do that.

Even if traveling isn’t big on your “to-do” list right now, I encourage you to make it a priority. If actual world travel isn’t an option for you right now, do a bit of armchair traveling by learning more about a foreign country including its culture and language.

14 Never Stop Learning

As children, learning was an important part of our lives–you probably went to school every day. As young adults we perhaps continue through college and learning on the job. Many of us stop learning on a regular basis by the time we hit our thirties. We may pick up something new here or there, or learn a new piece of software or equipment at work. But for the most part, the feeling is that we’ve acquired all the knowledge we need in life. While that’s technically true, there is a lot to be said about life-long learning.

Does this mean that you should go back to school as an adult? Not necessarily. While that’s certainly an option, formal education in a school or university setting isn’t the only way we learn.  There are a lot of advantages to self-learning in a variety of ways. Life-long learning keeps your mind strong, helps you stay up-to-date on technology in a fast paced and ever-changing world, and improves quality of life.

Independent or self-paced learning can take a lot of different forms. You might simply decide to read up on a particular course through a variety of google searches. You can teach yourself a new skill through online articles and YouTube videos. Harvard has free courses on line, as well as MIT and many other universities. Listening to audio books or formal lectures like those available at the “Great Courses” website or through iTunes are other options. And of course there are plenty of online and local courses you can take on all sorts of topics. Take a workshop, learn a new language or find a new hobby that requires new skills. There is an almost unlimited amount of knowledge available to you.

Learning keeps our mind active and curious. Mastering a new skill or figuring out a tough problem creates a lot of pride and confidence, all of which help create purpose and intention in our lives. Think of learning as a way to exercise your mind. Continued learning helps us understand the world around us, and the people in it better. That in turn will help make us more compassionate and well-informed humans. Added bonus! Self-paced learning is a great way to practice self-motivation, a skill that will useful throughout life.

Think about what you’re doing already that is part of life-long learning. What are some things you would like to learn? Start making a short list of knowledge and skill goals and then start tackling them one a time. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to use Photoshop, knit a sweater, or you’re interested in medieval history. Maybe you want to build your own computer, or learn how to operate a lathe. So what are you waiting for? Make a plan and start making life-long learning a habit.

13 Rediscover Your Hobbies and Interests

Over the past few days we’ve taken a look at how we spend our time, what we spend it on and where your time leaks are. We started to be more intentional on how we spend our time and what we spend it on. When we’re not watching TV mindlessly, or letting social media suck us in, we have time to do the things we thought we simply didn’t have time for.

Today I want to encourage you to spend that time on your hobbies or new interests. Do you remember having all afternoon, weekends, and school holidays to do what you loved to do? Let that child out to play again!  Without the obligations of adulthood, it’s easy to enjoy a hobby or explore other interests. When we become adults, it can be harder to pursue those activities and often let go of the things we enjoy doing the most. It’s time to take back that joy and pick up those hobbies and interests again …or even find something new to try.

Hobbies give balance to our lives and allow us to spend some much needed time on something we enjoy. They help us destress and are fun. For example, if you work in an office job where you spend most of your time working at a computer all day, it can be hard to see what you have achieved. You work hard, but at the end of the day, you don’t see anything in front of you that shows what you’ve accomplished. To balance this out, consider a hobby like gardening, sewing, knitting, painting or woodworking. Spend an hour in the evening on your favorite hobby and you can actually see, feel, and touch the progress you’ve made.

Hobbies can also help us unwind and let go of all the stress and anxiety that has built up over the workday. This in turn is good for our health and mental well being. People with relaxing hobbies like playing music, crafting, painting, or gardening to name a few tend to sleep better and feel more refreshed.

Hobbies also give us a chance to connect with other like-minded individuals. There are classes, groups, clubs, and even guilds for all sorts of different things. Or you can simply form your own group. Find a few other cycling enthusiasts and start organizing group rides on the weekends. Start a monthly book club for a chance to discuss your favorite works of fiction with other readers. Rediscover your hobbies and interests and make them part of your everyday life again!

12 Social Media: Your Guilty Pleasure?  

In yesterday’s blog post we talked about the time we spend vegging out in front of the TV or computer and how that time slips away from us. Today, I want to tackle another big time thief – social media. Yes, it’s an amazing tool, but it can also be quite distracting. It doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook, Pinterest, Tumbler, Instagram, or your social media platform of choice.

Social media is accessible everywhere! We can check in from our computers, tablet, and of course the ever-present smart phone. We get alerts, we check in when we’re bored, or have a couple of minutes to kill. Boom! Thirty minutes or more have gone by that we’re not getting back. Time just sort of leaks away, seconds at a time, but they add up to minutes and hours that you didn’t plan to spend.

Eye opener: Carry a pen and paper around with you, get a click counter or an app on your phone and start keeping track of how many times you access social media per day. Include any and all devices you use and add to the running total even when you’re just looking at it “for a second”. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be a bit shocked by how high that number actually is. This is one distraction that isn’t usually caught by the time log we talked about a few days ago since the social media interactions are so quick and frequent. Trust me though, no matter how briefly you access each platform, it all starts to add up and distracts you from other things.

How often do you miss part of a conversation or a fun moment with your kids because you were busy commenting on a Facebook post, retweeting something, or pinning a fun craft idea that you likely won’t get around to trying? Is it worth missing all those important little moments in life? And think about what you would have time and mental energy to do if you weren’t constantly distracted by social media?

The goal is to live more intentionally and do things with purpose. We don’t want to let social media posts distract us from that goal. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time to use social media, far from it. They are a wonderful tool and a great way to connect with people. But they are also dangerously addictive. Don’t believe me? Time to go cold turkey and find out.

Exercise: Commit to not using social media at all for 24 hours. Turn off or ignore the social media alerts on your phone and don’t allow yourself to go to the sites on your computer. How does that feel? Do you miss it? Does it make you nervous or anxious?

It’s time to take control over social media instead of letting it control us. What can you change starting today to make that happen?

11 Let’s Talk About Television

Scary question: How much time do you spend sitting mindlessly in front of the TV or on your phone, surfing the net, playing video games and such? If you’re anything like the average American it’s a lot more than you’d like to admit or even think possible. Remember the post on Day 9 about a time journal? If you haven’t done it, now’s a great time!

I know, I know—it’s fun to sit down and watch your favorite TV show or hang out and game. When it’s intentional and this is how you choose to spend your time, go for it and enjoy. It only becomes problematic when time flies by and suddenly it is three hours later and you have no idea what just happened. That’s when TVs, gaming consoles, laptops, tablets and the like become time thieves–stealing minutes of your life that you will never get back.

Why is this a problem? Because time is a truly limited resource! You can probably find a way to get more of everything else, be it money, friends, or something easy like bread. But time, we can’t get back and we don’t get more of it either. There’s no way to earn a few extra hours. We all work with 24 of them per day. Since they are our most limited resource, we should make sure we use them wisely and intentionally.

Today’s challenge: Become more aware of what’s eating up a lot of your time when it comes to this type of entertainment. Instead of mindlessly popping down on the couch after a day at work and drifting off until it’s time to go to bed, think about it before you do. Is this how you want to spend your time? If so, go ahead. If there’s something else you want to try, go for it. In other words, start making conscious choices about your free time.

Maybe you decide to go for a walk first, or meet up with a friend for a couple of beers before heading to the living room. Maybe you decide to read a book or have a meaningful conversation with your spouse or children. Maybe you decide to dust off the old board games for some non-electronic interactive family fun. Pick what makes the most sense to you. Find something purposeful to do with all those extra hours in your day.

You’ll be amazed at just how much free time you have once you stop wasting it. Suddenly there is time for that new hobby you thought you couldn’t get around to. There’s time to get in some exercise and still find time to watch your favorite movie. Being intentional and purposeful with your time, particularly during those times of the day when it would otherwise just slip away minute by minute never to return, can have a profound on your life and your well being.