Let Go of Fear and Learn to Be Intentional
Note: This is a guest post from Sarah Horgan of Simple + Intentional.
“Intentional days create a life on purpose.” —Adrienne Enns
I didn’t grow up knowing how to be intentional. I don’t think I even knew what the word meant. In fact, I was completely unintentional about most of the decisions I made in life, if I made any at all.
Maybe, as you’re reading this, you can relate. Or perhaps you had the opposite, someone driving the bus in your life. Making a lot of decisions for you with certain goals in mind? Wanting the best for you but taking control instead of involving you in the process.
You’ll go to law school, make lots of money so you can buy a big house. Get married, have kids and on and on and on. And maybe, you even achieved those goals but they felt empty. Not lining up with who YOU are.
These two stories are ones I hear again and again. Either life just sort of happened to you or there were some serious goals set in place but they weren’t YOUR goals. The desire to please others over ourselves, do or appear in a way that is like-able or achieve success that we think will bring us happiness sets a path. Neither one of which was an intentional one.
Fear isn’t the root of an intentional life
I’m the first one. I had little guidance, any decisions I made were left entirely up to me and were rooted in wanting others to be proud of me. I hadn’t developed the skill of thinking forward or digging deep into what I really wanted. Beyond security. Fear was my number one driver. Seek comfort, seek security, find safety, chase love, you’ll be okay.
But fear is not the root of growth. It’s not a place to create a life from. It weighs you down, keeps you stuck. And it took getting diagnosed with stage 4 cancer to start to shake me out of it.
It was with that diagnosis that I began to understand some big ideas that changed my life.
Perfect + Nice
I had long identified as a perfectionist. Prided myself on being a ‘nice’ person, well liked. But what I hadn’t dug into was the realization that perfectionism isn’t actually a good thing. Nor is people pleasing.
I looked at it like I was setting a high bar, having high standards isn’t a bad thing, right? And of course I want to be nice! But the problem with both of those things is they detract from an ability to live intentionally and be yourself.
Living involves taking action. And perfectionism is the biggest roadblock to action because nothing will ever be perfect. So we fail to launch when we’re never happy with what we create. And people pleasing puts other’s feelings and needs before our own. It’s a hustle for acceptance that never ends.
Take a moment and think, what haven’t you done because of perfectionism and people pleasing?
- Publicly share any kind of creative project
- Take risks in social situations or share opinions
- Dress according to how you feel vs what you think you ‘should’ wear
- Follow a dream of yours because it’s ‘silly’ or those you love won’t accept it
Or what have you spent way too much time and energy on trying to achieve perfection and acceptance?
- What your home looks like or the car you drive
- Your physical appearance; how you dress, your makeup, hair, etc
- Your kids extracurriculars
- Your job title, where you live or the size of your house
- Who you spend your time with
- How you spend your time
How to live more intentionally
In order to live a life that is more intentional, rooted in what matters to us (as individuals), we must shed the need for external recognition. So how do we do that?
Through small intentional action, practicing thinking new thoughts and deeply examining what matters to us most. And it’s a process.
“An unintentional life accepts everything and does nothing. An intentional life embraces only the things that will add to the mission of significance.” —John c. Maxwell
We aren’t going to let go of our perfectionist tendencies overnight or our desire to please others but what we can do overnight is choose new ways of responding.
Think new thoughts
When we feel that pull to say yes when we mean no or get stalled up in perfection we can tell ourselves something different. Like:
- Done is better than perfect
- Making mistakes is how I grow
- What I look like does not define my value
- I am loved no matter what
- I am creating my best life by taking action
- It’s okay to say no. I’m saying yes to what matters
- I can’t do everything. Saying no is necessary
- If everything is important than nothing is
Understanding what we want
We also need to build a deep understanding of what we actually want. And although this seems simple, it’s not. Especially if you’ve never practiced thinking about it before. You may have no idea what you want. So you have to try things to find out.
What do you feel a pull to do? Volunteer, get more active, build community or be creative? How do you want to do those things? And then try it out!
And this is where you start to really let go of perfectionism and people pleasing, is through taking action. Discovering, being open to new things and making decisions.
Small intentional action
And this is how minimalism came to me because the more decisions I made, the more I realized what mattered. And the more I realized what mattered, the less I needed to hold on to. I learned what my stuff represented – my fear. So the less I feared, the more I got rid of.
I told myself over and over again, “Done is better than perfect. It’s okay if you make a mistake. You are safe.” And I started to believe it. So what if I got rid of something I needed? The world is full of stuff, I can find it again. I learned to trust myself and know that if I had the itch to let go of something—I was right. I learned what added to my life and what got in the way.
And the other side of all that stuff was freedom. Freedom of mind, freedom of space and freedom of time. I no longer needed to spend my weekends cleaning and organizing. I didn’t experience anxiety over things going wrong. I felt more at peace and finally had time to pursue what had meaning for me.
All that scarcity left me, ironically, as I had fewer things. The less clinging, the more confidence and security I felt. I had given myself empowerment. I had started to CREATE my life instead of just waking up everyday. And it allowed me to become who I am. Who I really am, not who I’m pretending to be to hustle for love and acceptance.
So if you can relate to any of this. Feel even the slightest flutter in your gut or you’ve nodded your head once while reading. Try it!
- Try letting go of something
- Try putting yourself out there
- Try showing up for YOU
- Try being messy
I promise you the risk is worth it. Here in lies gratitude, peace, fulfillment, purpose and love. It took almost dying for me to get here and a lot of bumps along the way but I’m grateful for it all.
So ask yourself what do you want? And then chase it. Don’t worry what others think because this is not their life, it’s yours. And you get one, so create it with intention to be the best that it can be.
Sarah Horgan is a coach, wife, mom, and cancer survivor. You can find more of her work at Simple + Intentional, an inspiring blog about choosing what matters to you and learning how to let go of the rest. And I recommend following her on Instagram here.