Choosing a simpler or slower life, an intentional life, can feel like hard slogging at the start. It means going against the grain, forming new habits and mindsets, choosing to practice patience when the process takes time.
Picking ourselves up over and over again when we fall off the proverbial wagon.
I call myself a recovering perfectionist and live with a mighty opinionated inner critic. She likes to follow me around all day nagging and pointing out all the ways I fail to measure up—to both your standards and mine! My goodness she’s bossy.
Over the years I have struggled with staying the course. I have needed to learn to forgive my missteps or perceived imperfections, to speak to myself like my own best friend, and to take joy in this messy but beautiful journey. Maybe some of you can relate.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu
What We Practice Grows Stronger
This is a journey—we are all beautiful lives in progress. We can slowly but surely craft an intentional life. Remember, what we practice grows stronger.
1. Every time we step into a store and face the old temptation to buy something that we like, but don’t truly need, and we remind ourselves of our higher goals and values, we grow stronger.
2. When we push back against messages that devalue those who don’t fit neat and tidy into a certain image or economic status, we might feel intimidated at the start, even afraid of conflict; but with practice we grow stronger.
3. Having the hard conversation about why we choose to opt out of obligatory holiday giving feels awkward and uncomfortable the first time or two. But slowly, it becomes more natural and less fraught with emotion.
4. Over time as we stop attempting to fill our emotional hunger with food, busyness or material purchases, as we learn to sit with hard emotions instead of running or numbing, we deepen roots and heal.
5. Learning to stop yelling at the kids and instead deal with our emotions in a healthier, kinder manner, comes with practice. It involves saying sorry countless times and determinedly forging ahead.
6. At first we might feel conspicuous rewearing, over and over, the same clothes from our thoughtfully crafted minimalist wardrobe. But in time we grow into ourselves and walk with quiet confidence.
7. We may feel a little sorry for ourselves at first when we begin to opt out of the expensive social functions we can’t actually afford but used to take part in to keep up appearances. But living more authentically brings a profound sense of relief and freedom.
8. Selling the impressive dream home to become debt-free might shock people; they may not understand. We may panic just a little bit and second guess our own decision. But walking out the desire for debt freedom becomes easier and more joyful as we go.
9. Learning to make simple, real food at home instead of eating out all the time can feel intimidating and boring and maybe we don’t particularly enjoy eating our own cooking at first. But skill develops slowly, over time, and soon we will notice the benefits to both health and wallet.
10. Letting go of comparison, honestly acknowledging where jealousy bubbles up in our lives and why, practicing self-acceptance, this is all hard work. But incredibly freeing and important work.
And be encouraged because whatever we practice grows stronger.
None of us knew how to be a parent at first did we? We had to learn how to budget, nurse a baby, dribble a ball, drive a car. The ease only came with practice. With showing up and doing the work and being gentle on ourselves when the going got rough. Trying again.
When our child is learning to ride a bike or tentatively sounding out words in their first reader, we come alongside and cheer them on. We celebrate their small wins along the way. We pick them up when they fall, dry their tears and offer words of hope and encouragement. We know that if they just keep practicing, it’ll come.
But we don’t always offer ourselves the same grace, do we?
Whenever we seek to bring about healthy change in life, resistance can arise, loud and intimidating. We might fall back into old habits. It is so easy to become discouraged and give up before we even really get started.
It feels life-giving to remember that baby steps count. We can celebrate progress not perfection. Let’s ditch the all or nothing mentality. If you’ve got a bossy inner critic like mine, do not let her have the last word!
Remember that this is a journey—we are all beautiful lives in progress. There does not need to be a mad rush to a finish line. We can slow down, breathe, and enjoy the process of slowly but surely crafting an intentional life.
And always remember that what we practice grows stronger.