As mentioned in The Intentionally Good Life’s (IGL’s) first official post, moving from the U.S. to the U.K. has allowed us to experience tremendous growth, together and individually.
After spending five years in a long-distance relationship, launching our marriage–in a new country, nonetheless–has forced us to examine what is actually important to us.
This examination began (for me, at least) with our first experience in letting go of physical possessions.
Prior to our move, I was trying figure out how we would ship our belongings to the UK. I vividly remember sitting at my dimly lit cubicle in my old office during my lunch break. I was on hold with the help line from one of several shipping companies whom I was trying to get quotes from. When a human finally answered me (after I pressed 0 over and over again), he kindly informed me that it would cost upwards of $5000 to rent a TINY PORTION of a shipping container. He also told me that even if I were to pay this premium price, our belongings wouldn’t arrive for at least 30 days, likely 60+ days.
I hung up the phone and frantically texted Mike, “How will we ship all of our things? Our books? Our kitchen items? MY ROCK COLLECTION!” I thought to myself, “How will I make a foreign flat, our first home together, feel like home if I can’t have my things?”
When we both got home from work that night, I remember sitting down at the dinner table. I was mentally preparing for a debate over the importance of shipping these items. I knew Mike would insist it wasn’t worth it (for those of you that don’t know him personally, he’s proudly frugal), and I was prepared to disagree.
Instead, Mike took my hand; he always holds my hand or half hugs me when he’s about to lecture me – I like to think of it as an endearing quality. He told me that our possessions didn’t matter. What mattered was that we were married. We were finally together after bursting at the seams with anticipation over the past five years. We were about to embark on an adventure in a foreign country. Home wouldn’t be where our stuff was. Home would be the space we create and the support system we grow together. I smiled – there was no debate to be had.
I’m not sure if Mike knew how right he would be, or if he was just spouting romantic thoughts to keep me from having a nervous breakdown. Probably some combination of the two. But that’s what led to our decision to fly across the Atlantic with two duffel bags each, transporting only our most essential possessions. It was liberating. And it was one of several steps that have transformed how we’re looking to shape the rest of our lives together.
Why intentional, and how did we arrive at this concept? Overall it boils down to me spending a lot of time thinking (shocking, I know) about what made the difference between my good days and my lousy days.
Upon reflection, I noticed that if I managed to stick to a productive routine – got an adequate amount of sleep, ate the right food, got enough exercise, had a home-cooked dinner, spent time with Casey – I would feel more balanced, content and in control. These all require deliberate decisions and actions, and all seem to have a material impact on my level of satisfaction at the end of each day. Put a few of these days together in a row, and it’s easier to feel more satisfied and fulfilled in life.
If I let my day happen to me – snooze in bed after my alarm, eat crap food, binge on Netflix, mindlessly waste time on social media, miss my morning coffee routine and evening dinner with Casey, things tend to go south. I feel more stressed, less productive, and less satisfied. I had to acknowledge that being intentional helps me to feel more balanced and productive, which leads to greater satisfaction, which makes it easier to be intentional, and so on. It’s a muscle memory that needs to be practiced.
(That said, there are times where it’s worth being unintentional, intentionally – sometimes you need to check out as much as possible and simply absorb life around you. A legitimately unplugged vacation, for instance. More on this in a later post.)
Over time I’ve become more convinced that most facets of life, or rather, what I wanted life to be, could be condensed down to this “intentional” concept. Quality over quantity, self-motivated/directed, stop-whining-and-waiting-for-what-you-think-you-deserve-and-instead-go-get-it.
This applies to relationships, health, work, money, life goals, etc. While life events are not always outright manageable or controllable, certainly having an internal locus of control goes a long way toward improving the process, outcome or (perhaps most importantly) your reaction to the outcome.
Being intentional doesn’t mean being a control freak (this can wreak havoc on your mental well-being and relationships), but it does mean being proactive and deliberate such that you can control some aspect of the ongoing quality and character of your life. This is an ongoing process that requires maintenance and occasional adjustments – no set it and forget it here, and also not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We’ll share our thoughts and experiences as we move forward on this path toward an intentionally good life, and invite you to share in the journey!