Recently I had a conversation with my good friend Laura about doing things with intent – making things happen instead of letting it happen to you. It came up because we were talking about how excited I was to be able to pick out what clothes I get to wear to work at my new job instead of having to wear a uniform, whitening my teeth because I’ve been embarrassed by the color, and meal prepping so I’m ready for the week. We talked about being a “girl boss” and “getting our lives together” and how exciting the prospect is.
But the idea of intentional choices and living life on purpose has intrigued me more and more lately.Laura had an interview for a job at a company she was pretty excited to work at, so she made sure that she’d made every effort to look her best – did her hair and makeup, picked out a perfect outfit, got enough sleep. When she was leaving, though, she noticed that the nail polish she’d had on was chipping. She obviously had a choice – go to the interview with chipped nail polish and let that be a thing that happened to her that she was just accepting, or take it off and go with clean nails.
She said she thought of me and of our conversation about being a “girl boss” and decided that she would take the nail polish off and go to the interview with clean, unpolished nails.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s a relatively small or trivial thing to be worried about. But in that moment, and as it pertains to your attitude and outlook, it’s pretty big.
Deciding to remove your nail polish instead of going in with chipped nails or deciding to dedicate just thirty minutes a day on one machine at the gym because it’s something you care about, or deciding to drink water instead of a soda because you can feel yourself getting dehydrated are all such simple but meaningful ways you can be intentional with your life instead of just responding to the things that happen to you.
As someone with anxiety, as I’ve talked about before, it’s so easy for me to just let things happen. It’s easier to let go of control and not deal with the responsibility of making a decision. Or at least it feels that way.
Doing things with intention requires you to make a decision and stick with it. It requires a lot of self-talk, reminding yourself that there’s no point in worrying about the outcomes of anything else because “we have made the decision to do this, and we’re going to do it, and that’s that.”
Because here’s the deal: to reference a book that I mostly enjoyed (save for the outright fat-shaming and problematic views on mental health), You are a Badass by Jen Sincero – if you’re supposed to be doing a thing, and you decide to avoid doing that thing by doing something else even minutely more enjoyable, but you’re still constantly worrying about doing that first thing, you’re not only not doing the thing you should be doing, you’re also not enjoying the thing you’re doing instead.
And it doesn’t even have to be like her example: you should be writing your book, but you take a beach vacation instead, but instead of enjoying the beach vacation, you’re spending the whole time worrying about not writing your book. Either enjoy the beach vacay, or get to writing.
I recently made the decision to get intentional about my skincare. I’ll be 30 soon and am long past the age where I should start caring about it. I did it for a week and had issues and learned a bit, but then I took a break from it. Every night after, when I would take off my makeup and brush my teeth, I’d look at my new bottle of face wash that I’d used for a grand total of three nights, and I felt guilty about seeing it just sitting there, unused. I thought about the money and time I’d spent choosing it and the excitement I’d felt about doing something with intent and about how easy it really was to just pump some into my hand, scrub it on my face, and rinse it off. Easy peasy. But still, I just brushed my teeth, took my makeup off, and went to bed; feeling guilty, but not doing anything about it.
That is, until one night, when I finally had a talk with myself: “Enough, Angel. Either use it, or don’t, but we’re not playing this game anymore. It’s sitting right there if you want it, but if you don’t, decide that and be done with it. You’re no longer allowed to make us feel guilty for not using it if you’re not changing your actions.”
So I might use it tonight, or I might have already started using it again by the time this post goes up, or it might still be sitting in the exact same spot on my counter literally collecting dust, but whatever I decide, I’m not going to allow myself to think about or feel any type of way about it that doesn’t serve to help me.
Whatever in your life is your proverbial “face wash dilemma”, it’s time to start living with intent. It’s time to start making decisions and stop letting every single outside thing control how we live our lives, because that doesn’t serve us. There will always be unforeseen circumstances, no one can predict the future and our lives are never exactly as we plan them, but we will no longer be the victims of our circumstances. We will evaluate the situation, decide what best meets our needs, and make the decision to follow through, not allowing that tiny asshole voice in our head to make us feel guilty or tell us what could have happened if we’d chosen differently.