Before I retired, I used to think that simple living meant that you had no plan and stopped having goals. I thought it would be spontaneous, and I would just see where the day would take me. Some days are like that, but over the first year I found that living a life where I just drifted, didn’t suit me. I felt that I was wasting my life and would get nothing done, and found little joy in my life. I started watching You Tubes and reading about the simple life I desired, and it dawned on me that living a simple life means living an intentional life.
How do I decide my intentions?
I realised that to live a simple life you have to discover what your values are, and then your intentions and actions need to meet those values. I therefore did some work to discover my values. There are resources on line to help. I thought about what was important to me. My main values were freedom, kindness, integrity, healthy living (especially around my wellbeing and mental health), family life, and reducing waste and my impact on the planet. My values had changed enormously since I had my breakdown, and then later gave up work. Before I valued material things and money, and things like status, but now these are probably bottom of my list. The only value I kept from pre 2010 was family life, as my own unhappy childhood had encouraged me to make that a priority in my life so that my children would have a happier time.
I now base all of my decisions around what is important to me, and those values act as a filter and a spotlight to guide me so that I can live a life I believe in, and can be proud of. The more I have stuck to my values, the nearer my life has come to the one I aspired to have in 2009, when I hit rock bottom. Those values have been so ingrained over the years that I don’t need to think about them anymore, and I know when things do not feel right if I stray from them. An example is that I had a good friend whom I discovered had no integrity. She said one thing but then did another, and constantly criticised someone for her behaviour, but then went on holiday with her. She also decided to leave her husband when he was ill, but when he became successful in his career, she decided to get back with him. Although we had been friends for a long time, having someone like that in my life made me feel unbalanced and did not sit right with me, and so I stopped putting effort into the friendship and let it fizzle away.
What are intentional actions?
Every action that we take in our daily life can be intentional. An example is that I shop intentionally and have a list or an idea of what I want in my head as I have already made a meal plan. I don’t just buy what I see or what I fancy. This means that I do not have to wander around the supermarket deciding what to buy and it helps me be frugal with my money, which in turn gives me freedom to not work.
To hit my value of being healthy I do lots of self-care, spend time in nature, eat healthy food, and try to achieve 10,000 steps a day. As far as kindness is concerned, I try to treat people how I would like to be treated, I try to keep my FB group kind, and I run my website to help other people, even though sometimes it would feel far easier to give it up as it costs me money, and I find IT hard.
As family is high on my list of things that are important to me, I try to support my children in ways that I was never supported, even though they are grown up now and have lives and family of their own. I make my family a priority in my life over other things I may want to do, making an effort to see them, baby sit, and help with tasks on their home. To help me with my value of freedom I live in ways that mean I do not have to work eg. growing my own food, foraging and being frugal. I can choose what I want to do most days instead of someone telling me, or setting me goals and targets. I stay financially free by not applying for benefits or relying on anyone for help. Accepting benefits would mean jumping through hoops and attending courses, applying for jobs I don’t want, or going for assessments.
Reducing waste and having less impact on the planet has been a gradual learning curve, but in turn it has helped me save money and has become a habit I do without thinking. I recycle, upcycle, buy second hand, try to use less plastic, and use natural products that are good for the environment eg. making my own cleaning products and using conkers to make soap powder. I also save on food miles by growing my own food, make meals from food scraps, and walk rather than using the car if I can. My energy bill is far less than most people’s as we turn lights off and heat ourselves before using heating in the house. As I have said before, integrity is really important to me and I try to do what I say I will do, and be transparent in my behaviour, and live by my values, even when no one is watching. I am also honest about my mistakes and limitations.
Intentional impact over time
By living intentionally and taking intentional actions my life now feels aligned with my values. Being intentional becomes a habit, a neural pathway, and becomes easier the more that you do it. Most things I do not even have to think about as they are ingrained habits that I have positively repeated. They are also achieving the results that I want. I feel that I have a close family, I feel free to make my own decisions, I am healthier, my waste is reduced, I am surrounded by people with integrity, and I have a kind FB community that support me. All these things make life feel simpler for me as they bring peace and an inner tranquillity into my life, which in turn makes me feel blessed.