As human beings who live in a modern, digitally-driven society, we are constantly bombarded with stuff every second of every day. According to a 2014 study from Media Dynamics Inc., we receive messages and see brand “exposures” (the number of ads, labels, brand names, logos, etc.) 3,000 to 20,000 times per day. We receive dozens of notifications, messages, emails, and calls from multiple apps on our phones and computers. And, if you live in a city, you are surrounded by overwhelming noise from the many people, cars, construction, etc. around you.
It can be incredibly difficult to cut through all this stuff when it is telling you to do more, be more, and buy more. Interestingly, that is exactly what the conscious living movement is trying to do. It wants you to do, be, and buy things, but with intention.
This is obviously easier said than done, but the first step to living with intention is to ask yourself the hard questions. You need to discover who you are, what you believe in, what you want, and why you want these things. Life is made up of a series of decisions, and it’s important for you to make these decisions in ways that stay true to yourself and your values. This isn’t going to look the same for every person, but you can look to others to help guide your own decision in the right direction.
For many people, living a conscious lifestyle first starts with cutting down on what you buy. You watched Marie Kondo, realized the clutter, got rid of it, and are watching what you buy so the clutter doesn’t come back (and it also saves up money and reduces waste, which are huge bonuses).
If you are overwhelmed with things, buy less—keeping a log will help you stay accountable. Reduce your food waste by only buying what you know you will eat. Don’t buy things so you have “extras”—one will most likely get buried deep somewhere and you’ll only use one anyway. Do something as simple as making sure you use up all of your product before you buy a new one—you don’t want two half-full bottles lying around.
Watching your purchases is typically the first step for intentional living because it’s something that you can see, which inherently makes it easier. But just as we are conscious about the clothes and products we buy and use, we need to apply this same mindset to our activities (both our jobs and extracurriculars) and friendships. The whole quality over quantity argument pertains to the things you do and the people in your life, too. You shouldn’t do things you don’t enjoy because other people want you to (obviously), and you don’t need to hang out with people you don’t have meaningful connections with. Those are complete wastes of your time and energy.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the things you are doing, know that it is okay to cut back. Our society has normalized the “busy from when I wake up to when I go to sleep” lifestyle. Just think of all those extracurriculars you did in high school just because you knew they would look good on college applications. That kind of living doesn’t need to apply to your adult life. If it does not bring you any amount of joy, do not do it. But at the same time, if you have a lot of things that you do enjoy, you can only stretch yourself so thin; you need to reevaluate these activities and only do those that also bring you the most value. You don’t need to be the person who does everything, you only need to be the person who does what they love to do.
The same thing can be said for relationships. You should spend the most time with people who bring value to your life. Do they make you happy? Do you have deep and meaningful conversations? Do they motivate you and push you to be a better person? Do you want the same things out of life? Relationships take time and investment, so you want to make sure you’re devoting your time and energy to the people who are going to help you get the most out of life.
We’ve all heard the saying “less is more.” I don’t want to say that is true for everybody, but what is true is that everyone needs take a step back every once in a while, and analyze what they actually need in their life, be it things, activities, or people. Quite often, we realize we are holding on to way more than we actually need. And when we live with intention, we find what is just right.