Humans don’t always act purposefully when confronted with mental or emotional challenges. If we allow our responses to happen on autopilot, we can be sure life will take control of us rather than us taking command of our lives. Intentional living turns that all around.
What Is Intentional Living?
Intentional living is where purpose, values, and actions all intersect.
It means making choices to carry us through life rather than letting life decide our direction. Being intentional is a sort of promise. When we follow through on the promise of who we want to be, then we can say we are living life with intention. Intentional living should pervade everything we do, from family time to what we accomplish at work.
You can use the following three steps as a guide to become more intentional in life.
Step 1: Define Your Values
Values are the rules by which we operate our lives. They determine how we reach our destination, how we play the game of life. Ask yourself, “what do I care about?” If you’re stuck for an answer, look at your actions. Do you spend time learning? Volunteering? Working?
Upon reflection, we could come to see that our actions do not align with our values. Perhaps we value our family, but our actions show us at work more than at home. Living an intentional life means aligning our actions to our values, not the other way around.
Write down your list of values. Use an to get started. Once we know our values, then we must determine the direction in which we’re going. That would be our purpose.
Step 2: Choose Your Purpose
Abraham Lincoln said, “You can have anything you want if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose.” Leading an intentional life means actively choosing that purpose.
When thinking about your purpose, look again at your actions, but this time, pan out to look for recurring themes in your life. Do you have an artistic side that you’ve brought to any project? Are you always championing for those who cannot advocate for themselves?
Most people will have several purposes of varying importance, and some of these may change over our lifetimes. That’s okay. As we learn and grow, our purpose might also change or deepen.
Step 3: Act Out Your Intentions
It looks simple written here, but this step is often met with resistance and sliding back into old habits. Being intentional means being “always on”—at first. Over time, we can build a framework by which we can easily measure any action. The easiest way to get started is to ask, “how does this action align with my values, and does it take me toward my ultimate purpose?”
Once we determine our values and purpose, we can make a more specific statement, such as “does this action include selflessness and honesty, and does it take me toward my goal of acting as a servant leader?”
Don’t live life as a reaction. Choose your actions wisely.
How to Be Intentional at Work?
So, how do we translate these steps to being intentional at work and in our careers?
Step 1: Align Company’s Values to Yours
If your company has values, see how they align with your personal ones and start asking yourself if you’re showing your company’s values at work. Know your company’s mission statement and use it as a touchstone in your daily tasks.
Step 2: Prioritize Tasks Based on Goals
Only put priorities onto your schedule. Don’t allow your time to fill with work that doesn’t serve your personal purpose or the company’s mission. That also includes protecting yourself from time-wasting activities such as social media.
Step 3: Cultivate Relationships
Be intentional in interactions with bosses and coworkers to build better relationships. Seek new connections at work and network with purpose. Being intentional in whom we meet and interact with can change the way we experience company culture or even put us in line for promotion.
Step 4: Ask Questions, Listen, & Speak Up
Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need or speak up with an idea, as taking action is how our purpose comes to fruition.
Being more intentional in life and work is not easy. It takes reflection and practice. If you want to learn more about being intentional, I invite you to explore Take Command: A Dale Carnegie Book written by myself and Michael Crom. This new book brings Dale Carnegie’s teachings into the modern world, giving us new principles for leading our business and our lives.