To truly begin the journey of living intentionally, you first have to identify the beliefs which will guide you. Someone who believes in sustainability could have a different path than those who believe in fair trade. It’s important to define this difference.
There are many paths to discover why you believe the way you do. One of the most consistent ways that I discover the core of my beliefs is to ask myself “Why” five times. For example:
I want to support small American artists and makers.
Why? Because I know that supporting small American businesspeople sends more money into our local economy. (Yes – artists are businesspeople!)
Why is it important to put more money into our local economy? Because more money in our local economy means small businesses in my area can survive.
Why are small businesses important? Because buying a new piece of garden furniture from Brian Boggs Chairmakers makes me feel better than supporting a nameless, faceless corporation.
Why does supporting Brian Boggs Chairmakers make me feel better? Because Brian uses the money I pay him to support his family and employ people in his community and support other small businesses in the area. Ultimately, more of his money stays in our community.
Why is it important for money to stay in our community? Because a healthy local economy can survive downturns more easily. Small businesses are more agile, and they can adapt to economic disturbances more easily than large corporations. Small businesses also make up the majority of businesses in the US, so investing in our local communities ultimately improves the larger economy as well.
By asking “Why” five times, I have defined what it is about supporting the local economy that resonates with me and my values. These reasons propel me on entertaining trips around my community to find a replacement for the mug that I just broke. They’ve gifted me with a drug store that has a soda fountain with several different flavors of ice cream to tempt me when I pick up my wife’s prescriptions.
Building Habits from Conscious Decisions
Once you have your reasons, you can consciously make decisions which support your beliefs. Then, you can build habits which support those decisions. Small actions are the easiest to build into habits.
For example, I happen to have a small farm stand on a road on my way home from work. Instead of automatically heading for the big chain grocery store, I decided to support my local produce providers by looking at the farm stand first.
After a few false starts, I began to regularly swerve in there to check for local produce, dairy and honey as the first stop on my regular grocery shopping regime. This change has enlivened my diet with heirloom tomatoes, local apples and fun tiny eggplants. I’ve made friends with the fellow who owns the farm stand, which supports a variety of independent farms.
Ultimately, I’ve improved my social life, my diet and my community. Building this habit took a little time, but the rewards have been outstanding.
By building those habits and sinking them into our regular routines, living intentionally becomes easier to maintain. And we all need that ease in our increasingly busy world.