the art of living intentionally

The Art of Living Intentionally with Leah Santa-Cruz

Do you feel like you’re hustling through your days at the beck and call of circumstances,  relationships, and situations outside of your control? Or are you being pulled by the daunting shoulds—what you think you “should” be doing, wanting, or feeling? 

If so, you’re not alone. 

I'm Leah Santa Cruz, Balance's Co-Head of Meditation, and this year, I encourage you to flip the script and dig deeper into what you truly desire, whether it’s something big, like exploring a new career path or relocating to a different place, or small, like making everyday choices that align more with your values. 

The good news? It’s easier to live a more intentional life than you think. So here are my four tried-and-true steps to starting the new year (or a new day) with more purpose and intention. 

Step 1: Know Your Desires

Recognizing your desires may not be obvious at first. So start with a simple daily journal practice, ideally before or after meditation. Jot down everything that stirs or calls your heart, regardless of how big or small it is. This takes as little as two minutes a day, but significantly helps you recognize the forces driving your thoughts and actions in a big way. 

By tuning into your desires every day, you’re taking the first step towards a life that resonates with your deepest values and dreams. 

Step 2: Know What Fuels Your Desires 

Fun fact: The term desire originates from the Latin disiderare, meaning to gaze at the stars. In ancient times, stars were used for navigation; similarly, our desires can be like our internal navigation system, guiding us toward growth, connection, and expansion. 

To help you better understand where your desires are coming from and why you might have them, check in with yourself through mindful practices like meditation. Here are a few prompts to get you started: 

Does this desire stem from inspiration or fear?  

Let’s say you might have a desire to learn a new skill, like playing a musical instrument. Using our example, perhaps the inspiration comes from a genuine love for music, rather than the fear of missing out on a skill others possess.

Could pursuing this desire be a way to avoid facing myself, others, or reality?

Maybe learning to play an instrument is a positive outlet for self-expression rather than a means of escape.

Will fulfilling this desire have a positive impact on my life, such as enhancing self-care, career growth, or personal connections?

Learning a musical instrument could contribute to your self-care by providing a creative and enjoyable outlet, fostering personal connections when your music is shared with others, or even opening up opportunities for a different kind of career growth.

By exploring these questions, you’ll gain insights into the motives behind your desires, allowing you to align them with positive intentions and personal growth.

Step 3: Understand Your Inner Critic

When you’re being called to grow outside of your comfort zone in some way, your inner critic often steps in, making sure you’re well aware of what could go wrong. 

Oftentimes, your inner critic manifests as a voice of doubt, telling you that you’re not able or worthy to do what your desires call you toward. But the next time you recognize a desire, pay attention to the immediate thoughts that follow. It’s usually your inner critic trying to deter you from doing anything unfamiliar, telling you it isn’t possible. 

When this happens, remember this: Your desire is not irrational—your mind is simply inclined to be risk-averse. Understanding this can help you more confidently move past your inner critic and into the direction of your dreams. 

Another good way to outsmart your inner critic? Look for the evidence for what you choose to believe. 

For example, if you desire a bigger friend group but have recently moved to a new place and don’t know many people, think of instances where you successfully initiated conversations or formed connections, even if on a smaller scale. It could be as straightforward as a memory of striking up a chat with a colleague or making a new acquaintance at the dog park.

The more you stack those reasons against your inner critic’s, the quieter that voice will get, making it easier to live an intentional life.

Step 4: Have an Attitude of Gratitude 

It’s simple but true: Appreciating what you already have uplifts your mood and helps your desires come to life. Gratitude fosters a positive outlook, making you more relaxed, happy, clear-minded, and ready for new opportunities. 

Start Living More Intentionally Today

Living intentionally is a journey of self-discovery that involves understanding your desires and fears, as well as nurturing a grateful heart. And I hope this step-by-step guide will help you kickstart your desire to dream a little deeper, take action on what you want, and silence your inner critic in 2024 and beyond. 

If you want more support or opportunities to reflect through guided meditation, I encourage you to download the Balance app. Balance’s library of hundreds of guided meditations, sleep stories, and other audio tracks makes for the perfect companion to navigating a more intentional, purpose-driven life.

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