Mental Health

How to stop chasing ‘the next big thing’ and lead a more intentional life

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Lauren Geall
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Tired of constantly chasing success? Asking yourself these two questions could be the secret to opting out of that mindset.

There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to pause. But with working from home leaving many people doing excessive overtime and the pressure to be ‘productive’ during this period fuelling additional worries, it’s clear that lockdown hasn’t caused us to let go of our busy lives quite like we thought it would.

We live in a world where we’re taught to chase success. Whether it’s because we’ve been taught to equate our self-worth with our output, mimic the ‘perfect’ lives we see on our Instagram feeds or manage multiple side hustles in our free time, we’ve become obsessed with being busy – to the detriment of both our mental and physical health.

So, if lockdown hasn’t forced us to rewrite this narrative as we thought it would, what can we do to unpick this obsession?

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For Cait Flanders, author of Adventures In Opting Out: A Field Guide To Leading An Intentional Life, the first step towards slowing down and living a more ‘intentional life’ is all about unpicking the internalised values we carry around with us.

“To me, living an intentional life means that rather than doing the things you think you should be doing, you ask yourself ‘what is right for me?’” she tells Stylist.

“It’s all about trying not to just follow the path that’s laid out or the one that you’re currently focused on, be that consciously or subconsciously. It’s easy to get stuck in that cycle without ever questioning if it’s right for you. And for me, being intentional is actually questioning what feels right for me.”

Adventures In Opting Out
Adventures In Opting Out: A Field Guide To Living A More Intentional Life is Flanders’ guide to leading a slow, mindful life.

To get into this mindset, Flanders recommends asking yourself two questions every time you find yourself saying things like ‘this is what I’m supposed to do’.

“It’s about stopping and asking yourself ‘Where did that story come from?’ ‘Who told me that was true?’” she explains. “That answer will be different for everyone and every time you do something, but it might be something that your family, friend or co-worker told you and you’ve internalised.”

She continues: “Then once you’ve done that, you’ll want to ask yourself, ‘Is that true for me?’”

When it comes to unpicking your need to be busy all the time, that might look like asking yourself why you feel guilty about relaxing or not having a ‘side hustle’ – is that because you feel like you should work harder, or because you’re viewing what’s going on in your life through the lens of someone else’s expectations? 

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Although Flanders admits that those two questions may sound “really simple,” she recommends asking yourself these questions on a daily basis and trying to sit with them for as long as possible, even if it feels uncomfortable. 

You may not find it easy at first, but as you get practised at it it’ll become a more instinctive way of thinking that could help you unpick what you really want out of life – what’s not to love about that? 

Cait Flanders is the author of Adventures In Opting Out: A Field Guide To Leading An Intentional Life, published by Trigger Publishing, priced £12.99, available online and from all good bookstores.

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Images: Trigger Publishing/Getty

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.