Intentional Living

July 24th, 2011.

What a day for intentional living (even if I didn't know it at the time)!

Was it a blistering hot summer day? Was I struggling to find my footing as a parent of an eight-month-old infant?

I don't know. I'm only sure of one thing that happened on that day.

It was the last time that I purchased clothing… until two weeks ago.

I went sixteen months without a thread of new clothing. Shirts, pants, socks, shoes, hats, accessories, jackets…none of them came into my possession.

Some people make buying no new or used clothing for a period of time a major goal. And that's a great goal because it limits the impact they're having on a finite set of resources.

For me, it was completely unintentional.

Now, I've been a minimalist since my personal renaissance began three years ago. Along the way, I've created and achieved a number of minimalist goals like:

But some of my biggest accomplishments were totally unintentional. They were and will be a by-product of my lifestyle and that excites the hell out of me!

This is not the end of the story though. It's just the beginning.

How I Know

I'm only a good minimalist in some ways. In other ways, I'm an intentional anti-minimalist.

If you're living an intentional life, than you need to know when to intentionally break the rules, right?

One of my minimalist failings is my use of Quicken, the Swiss Army knife of personal finance software. Spending, budgeting, investing…you name it and Quicken's probably my personal finance tool for it. I love it so much that I created a bonus module in Start Investing with $100 about how to use Quicken to track your investments.

So as I was prepping for a recent monthly personal finance review with Melinda, I saw a $9.99 charge in the Clothing category with my name on it. It was the pair of winter gloves I bought to replace a fifteen year old set that had deteriorated to the point that they probably couldn't be classified as gloves anymore.

I was curious like George. Exactly when was the last time I bought clothing?

Yep. July 24th, 2011.

Quicken can be simple with a lot of work, yet maximizing its value takes constant energy. I believe if it highlights bad spending habits, helps my family keep its budget, and tells me when I've achieved a significant, unintentional minimalist victory, it's worth it.

My awareness of this unintentional minimalist achievement was a watershed moment. It's times like that where you realize just how deeply you're living your highest values. These are the moments I know my attempts to constantly simplify are working.

Do you think it's a good sign that your accidental accomplishments rival (or outshine) your purposeful accomplishments?

Identifying Intentional Living Victories

Intentional Living

I uncovered a secret victory because of a huge emphasis on personal finance mastery and skilled use of Quicken. In other words, I took a mindset (“be amazing at personal finance”) and combined it with a skill set (“know Quicken inside and out”) to unravel how I'm doing in other essential areas of life like minimalism.

The longer you've been with Value of Simple, the more you'll know that self-awareness and worldly awareness are among the greatest gifts you can give yourself. You also understand better how you can leverage seemingly unrelated values that actually complement each other in amazing ways.

When have you used a combination of awareness, systems, values, knowledge, and tools to see just how far you've progressed on your journey? Measurements of progression are mighty hard until all these components are in place.

My high-level method of tracking my path along this wonderful personal renaissance might need tweaking for you, but it could be a great starting point. Here's what it looks like:

  1. Understand your belief systems and the blueprint that drives why you do everything. A Personal User Guide is great for this.
  2. Figure out how to embody your deepest values at all times. My example is just one of many ways.
  3. Set goal markers to know when and by how much you're accomplishing your most important goals. A goal setting workbook is good for that.
  4. Pick your resources for tracking intentional accomplishments and unintentional victories. Among others, I recommend Quicken, simple spreadsheets, and being accountable for communicating what you've done to as many people as you're comfortable with. Pulse Checks are optional of course.
  5. Schedule your tracking. Whether it's annual or daily, the best tracking resources are useless unless you schedule time to use them.
  6. Celebrate the intentional and unintentional victories in a blog post, special dinner, a simple high-five, by remembering internal triumphs are more important than external awards, or anything else you can think of

The devil is not in the details here. You have everything you need to do this, so why not get started (or restarted) on measuring your own journey?

Victories Under Your Nose

Now you know one way I uncover victories hiding in plain sight. It took personal finance know-how to tip me off in a way that an increasingly empty closet and dresser drawers couldn't.

This proves a few things:

  1. My senses are observationally challenged and my brain is organizationally adept
  2. My loathing of clothes shopping works well in a minimalist lifestyle (you'd hate shopping too if you were 6'6″ and could never find clothes that fit you)
  3. Our greatest accomplishments can remain unknown unless we have the self-awareness and tools to increase it
  4. Honoring unintentional achievements is just as important as celebrating meeting intentional goals

A combination of intentional living and a system to uncover its unintentional benefits is a beautiful thing. Now's always a great time to live more intentionally, become amazing at personal finance, simplify your journey, and discover the hidden paybacks.

If you want to succeed even more with intentional living, join the Value of Simple newsletter for eight more great reasons to find life's unintentional benefits.

When's the last time you identified an unintentional victory? How could you use existing or new tools to analyze and reflect upon the values that are most important to you? Share with us in the comments!

Photo Credit: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, jepoirrier