This past summer, I had the chance to live in Washington, D.C. as I completed my internship. And while there is so much to learn from living alone in a big city in your twenties, one lesson that really stuck with me was undertaking living with more intention. This lifestyle entails practicing deliberate intention every day; it starts with a calculated, conscious choice to pursue a specific course of action or direction.
As my junior year spring semester came to an end, I was left completely exhausted. It felt like I was stuck on autopilot with a predictable routine. I wasn’t making progress toward my goals and it felt like I was missing something. I said yes to too many commitments and was left procrastinating heavily to avoid dealing with all of it. Does this feel familiar to you? If so, then it’s probably time to live with more intention; it is time to step out of mindless activities and ensure your life is based on your own conscious choice of how you want your life to be.
Ironically, living with more intention happened to me unintentionally. Having to balance a 40-hour work week with online classes and the desire to explore the city meant I not only had to closely plan my days, but also had to prioritize. I had to sit down and decide what mattered to me most and how I wanted to split my time. I had to identify normal behaviors and patterns that just seemed to suck time out from under me and redirect my efforts toward other activities. For instance, I started completely turning my phone off after 9 p.m. (unless I was out, of course). Since I couldn’t sit there and just scroll for hours at a time, I had to find fulfilling activities. I started working out more often, going on long evening walks, organizing other areas of my life like my finances and I even read six books in under a month.
Moreover, living alone in a new city meant I had to be intentional about relationships and meeting new people. I had to schedule times to FaceTime with friends and family back home. I also had to be more proactive in going out and meeting new people or connecting with coworkers over happy hour. I tried to be more present and truly enjoy the times when I was surrounded by exciting new people.
A third big part of living with intention is learning to say no. If a commitment does not align itself with what you value or does not bring you any closer to the person you hope to be, do not be afraid to say no. Some days it feels like I have to stay open and keep saying yes to everything: yes to starting a new research project, yes to leading a club, yes to volunteering for dorm events, yes to going out every single night, yes, yes, yes … and quite frankly, it can be overwhelming. Living with intention means you will recognize how precious your time is, savor the moments of free time you have and decline participating in activities that do not add value to your life. Keep in mind that added value comes in all shapes and forms: happiness, more free time, longer breaks, etc. Value is not only centered around more money or more prestigious status.
All this is to say that you start settling into a routine for the semester and feel overwhelmed by all the commitments and tasks you have to complete, so take some time to identify your goals for the semester and highlight what matters to you most. Let these goals and values become a compass for more intentional deliberate living. How else do you think you could tune in to yourself?
Krista Lourdes Akiki is a senior majoring in business analytics and minoring in computing and digital technologies. She grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and moved back to the U.S. to pursue her undergraduate degree. She loves learning new languages, traveling and of course trying new foods. She craves adventure and new experiences and hopes to share these with readers through her writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @kristalourdesakiki via Twitter.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.