Our modern lives move fast. There seems to be a constant stream of distractions, errands, to-do lists, and general busyness. It’s a pace that moves so fast that life can pass us by without much notice. The answer of course is stop that train of mindless moving and choose purposeful living.
That can sometimes feel easier said than done, however. It seems that our modern culture glorifies that crazy, hectic pace. Trying to forge a path of intentional, purposeful living almost seems radical in a world that is on auto-pilot much of the time.
It might be radical but it is also achievable. It doesn’t take giant leaps either – it’s not about going off-grid or shunning technology. It’s simply about making small intentional decisions each and every day. (Also, it’s not about perfection but simply about the journey.)
Make Food From Scratch
Everyone has to eat and multiple times a day at that. This very basic, human need is the perfect place to begin a journey of purposeful living. Making a meal from scratch automatically slows us down and increases awareness. It’s so easy to be distracted by convenience and fast food but those can also keep us starving for meaning and nutrition.
This isn’t about gourmet 17-course meals. It is about putting together food that wasn’t made in a factory or by someone else. It can be as simple as a chicken breast chopped, cooked, and served over lettuce as a salad or a pot roast tossed into a slow cooker with potatoes, carrots, and water for a slow but easy meal.
Choose to bake the cookies or cake from scratch. Skip the refrigerated dough and packaged mixes. They don’t taste as good as homemade (they don’t) and making them from scratch provides a chance to slow down and spread joy. Bake the loaf of bread. Fix a pot of soup.
There is still a place for eating out at restaurants in a purposeful life but do that too with intention rather than just mindlessly shoving food into the body. Choose to eat out as celebration now and then but make it from scratch at home as often as possible (and remember to keep it simple so as not to be overwhelming).
Skip the Microwave
This is the perfect way to stop rushing, slow down and do things with intention. Heat water in a kettle on the stove for tea. Reheat the soup on the stove and put in a thermal bottle for lunch. Plan ahead and actually thaw the meat out rather than rushing it in the defrost setting. A little planning and intention can go a long way into making life feel less rushed.
It’s not about all or nothing, necessarily. Just pay attention and do things with intention rather than moving about the to-do list with no thought. It’s so easy in a busy day to lose track and that’s okay now and then, thankfully it’s easy to reset too.
Mend Clothes & Repair Broken Things
Take the time to sew on a button. Patch the hole in a sweatshirt – even if you can’t sew use iron-on patches. Simply mend the clothing instead of tossing it or buying new.
Glue something broken back together. Tape the broken rake handle and make it last another season. Repair don’t replace whenever possible.
There’s a level of frugality to this but it goes beyond simply pinching pennies. Repair teaches us skills and patience. It also helps us avoid the trap of instant gratification. Throwing things away makes it easy to not pay attention to our life which is the opposite of purposeful living. Take the time to pay attention to possessions and how they rule rather than make life better.
Obviously there are times and tasks when repair is impossible. That’s okay too, the key is to pay attention and make intentional decisions about when to repair (or hire a repairman) and when to toss.
Do It By Hand
This is not about eschewing modern convenience at every turn. However, there are times when doing something by hand provides not only satisfaction but a level of mental clarity that can only be found when we slow down. Doing something by hand requires a different pace rather than just moving and finishing.
Wash the dishes by hand. Rake the leaves instead of blowing them with a noisy machine. Sweep the floor with a broom not a robot. It’s not that machines or technology is bad, they have their place (folks with disabilities, big parties, etc.). However, often these technologies that are supposed to make our lives easier just mean that we fill up the time in other rushed ways.
Intentionally choose which machines to use and when to do it by hand. A family of 2 means that washing dishes by hand is probably easier than it is for the family of 8 for example. It’s also a choice that doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Use the dishwasher after Thanksgiving for example but not after a lunch for two.
Walk the Errands
Carry the mail to the post office. Use a backpack or wagon for small grocery trips. Walk to the library. If walking to do errands simply isn’t possible (you live 50 miles from the post office, grocery store, etc.), park in a central location and walk as many errands as possible.
There’s nothing like walking the mile to the store rather than driving it to force a slower pace. Walking outside has a way of clearing the head, invigorating the body, and encouraging attention. Walking means that we have time alone with our head and that inherently means we’re not moving through the day without paying attention.
Obviously, there are times when walking isn’t possible. Make the time now and then (and on especially nice days) as an exercise in purposeful and seasonal living. Again, not all or nothing simply sometimes.
Use Pen & Paper
Skip the to-do app and write a to-do list on paper. Write an actual letter or card and put a stamp on it for a loved one. Take notes in a journal.
Technology is a wonderful thing but it has a way of increasing use rather than decreasing it. Anytime a screen is turned on the danger of getting sucked into social media, online news, and more increases. Those things aren’t necessarily bad but they are often the exact opposite of purposeful living. Use apps when necessary but examine that to make sure it is necessary not frivolous or an excuse to get online.
Email is a wonderful thing, but an actual letter is even better. Use email to deal with work and arrange quick plans. Don’t use email to send a birthday note. Send a postcard from your vacation rather than expecting everyone to keep up on Instagram. This act of writing and sharing without technology can only build more meaningful relationships with loved ones rather than worrying about how many ‘likes’ are received.
Purposeful Living Day by Day
Finally, remember that purposeful living isn’t one grand experiment. It’s not completed one day and suddenly everyday from there on out is easy and intentional. Rather than trying to make every day perfectly intentional, focus on the journey and doing little things that add up. Examine personal priorities and make sure they do indeed equal personal and purposeful living.