Restriction vs. Intention

It can feel sometimes (okay, A LOT of the time) like pretty much everything in my life is restricted. We’re in the worst drought in California history, so we’re restricting our water usage (I take this very seriously and it has absolutely changed the way we do everything that requires water). I’m restriction my spending. I’m restriction my calorie consuption. I’m restricting how much we own (or trying to). And as a mother, my time feels constantly restricted by the day-to-day needs of my family. Pretty much every aspect of my life right now feels restricted.

It can really get me down.

But I’m trying not to let it. I’m trying to reframe it from restriction (which feels, well, restrictive) to intention (which feels, well, intentional). Restriction is about what I can’t do. Intention is about what I’m trying to do.

It helps that all these intentions are working in concert. Making more intentional choices about the food I buy helps me save money and eat fewer calories. Making more intentional decisions about purchases helps me keep new things out of our house. They are all tied together. Each intention supports the next, infusing my life with… intention.

Intention is a good thing. Intention is a wonderful thing. So many of my choices were driven by habit or distraction, it feels good to make choices with purpose.

And it’s starting to get easier. Especially when I’m able to see these choices not as self-imposed restrictions, but as personally important intendments. That is when I feel good about not getting the pretzel at the zoo (I’ve been going to the zoo a lot lately), instead of feeling like I’m missing out. Now if I can keep feeling like all these little choices are intentional, and not restrictive, I just might make it out of this spending freeze without losing my mind.

Is there anything in your life that feel “restrictive” right now? Could it be reframed as “intentional”?


  1. Also one other thought with a food analogy. At various times in my life I have had to restrict my diet (no refined carbs or sugars when ttc or pregnant, no wheat with second pregnancy) and the thing that made it bearable was focusing on the list of new foods to try that I wouldn’t have thought of without the restrictions. That made it a little more exciting. There are free fun things to do out there and there are reduced cost substitutes to many things one spends money on… And it can be fun figuring them out and trying them out. Some will be duds but there’s an excitement in focusing on trying out new things you can do that you can feel virtuous about and not feel guilty about if they don’t work out.

    1. I shall try to take this approach. I pretty much hate cooking and don’t love thinking much about what I’m going to eat, but maybe I can change my whole outlook on food to make it more enticing.

  2. This is awesome! Just what I needed to read this AM. This is exactly the mental shift needed to make permanent life changes.

  3. It’s an interesting thought. It’s actually my default to “restrict”- try not to eat too much, try not to spend- my husband is constantly trying to get me to “live” a little so for me my intentions are actually to DO things and to spend, eat, do and live- and it’s HARD. I was raised to believe you save, delay gratification, and so forth so it’s HARD for me to do these things. And, ugh, the water! We sure need some rain this winter.

    1. How interesting that it is your intention to do and spend more while it’s my intention to do the opposite. I wish we could trade a little of our tendencies so that neither of us would struggle so much. 😉

  4. This is great. I really think that your mental approach to these things is what matters most. The extremely frugal tend to have a mindet that is at the other end of the spectrum from restriction. To them, their successful ability to live with less provides such a great source of accomplishment that is in itself a large gain.

    I think that acting with intention, particularly when accompanied by knowledge and skill, is the absolute ideal.

  5. In terms of our finances we have moved to a place of intention, not restriction. I’ve been thinking of it as us finally understanding what we want (to pay down a new, very large mortgage after our move to a high COL city) and recognizing that saying yes to something (all kinds of consumption) means saying no to something else (lower mortgage). We are thinking about our budget etc as saying yes to the things that matter, rather than saying no to the things we want.

  6. This is great! It’s very Buddhist. Reminds me of a Thich Nhat Hanh story about changing the way we look at things.

    You’re looking for the good, and I love that. I’ve learned to be that way (a little) with the monetary restrictions we’ve had imposed the last year or so. Restricting myself from doing one thing reminds me that it might instead free me up to do something else that I wouldn’t otherwise do. Not buying nearly as much wine means that we can (tomorrow, yay!) go to our favourite brunch place. Not going to our favourite brunch place more than once every two months or so, means that when we do go we don’t have to feel guilty. Similar approach with food (though you’re reminding me to be stricter than I am) will help me too, I hope.

  7. Oh, and can I say that instead of restrictions, I see that everything you’re doing at the moment is a wonderful investment in yourself, your family and your future. Though I’m sure it doesn’t always feel that way.

  8. Interesting. This made me think. In some ways, I have been feeling like my life has been shrinking over the past year. I lost my job = my income & my social circle have shrunk. I have been trying to declutter my house & restrict my spending ( = shrinking possessions). We have been talking about selling the house & moving into a condo (= shrinking home — & hence the decluttering efforts!). I’ve been trying to “reframe” things in my mind — i.e., fewer things, but the promise of more travel & experiences to come in the future; no lawns to mow or snow to shovel = happier dh (hopefully), etc. — but it’s hard to let go of the old familiar life & stuff. Thanks for giving me something to think about!

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