Seven tips for intentional living

image of a glowing sign that says design your future

I’m a self-improvement enthusiast. I’ve been trying different approaches and seeking new information since discovering the world of personal development and self help in my early 20s.

I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out. Nor have I been able to do the things all the time—I’ve gone through serious ruts. But over the years I’ve come to recognize we can craft a great life when we live intentionally.

How to craft the life you want

1) Stop complaining and stop with excuses

It’s easier to change our words before we can change our minds. When you catch yourself about to grumble about something, stop. Just stop. Don’t say it! I read Will Bowen’s A Complaint Free World in my 20s and the message stuck with me. It’s hard to stop complaining because complaints are part of social discourse. Pay attention next time you strike up a conversation with someone. Try to change the tone and focus on being grateful instead. If you notice yourself complaining a lot, it’s a clue to dig a little deeper. How are you feeling? And what are the thoughts behind those feelings?

2) Make health a priority

Sustainable success (whatever that means for you) is built on a strong foundation. If you’re not taking care of your physical and mental health, you aren’t the best you. There are many excuses people have for not prioritizing health. And along with the excuses, people have complaints: achy joints, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, too-tight clothing.

Food is medicine. Start with diet first. Stop eating so much sugar and cut back on starches. Dr. Mark Hyman is one of my favourite experts when it comes to how to eat. Also, I found the book Why We Get Fat to be very eye opening.

When you’re ready to introduce more fitness, find solutions you can stick to. Like slipping in some walking during the day (take the stairs to your floor, park further away in the parking lot, take the long way to a meeting). For workouts, check out Fitness Blender for accessible at-home workouts, or I have a subscription to Beachbody on Demand, which includes a number of workout programs. If you’re willing to make a larger investment for amazing results, consider a personal trainer. Your personal trainer will create a plan based on your specific situation and goals, educate you and hold you accountable. In all cases, your success depends on your consistency and commitment not to sabotage yourself.

3) Have goals and visualize them

’m writing this from my home office in our chalet surrounded by trees. When I was in my early 20s, I recall visualizing myself living in the woods and writing as a freelancer, even traveling for consulting. I thought that would be late in my career – maybe near retirement. I have to say, what my husband and I have achieved so far is pretty awesome. We’re not done though!

The path that got me here wasn’t what I expected. And that’s a key point.

It’s important to have an idea of where we want to get to and what that feels like. And then we can take steps to achieve that. But there are various paths that could lead to the same point.

There are formal ways to plan your goals. I’ve worked with coaches to help me stay on track. This year I used the Passion Planner, which I find helpful. I also have a vision board in my office with images that represent our ideal future state.

And my husband and I started 2018 by doing an activity to check our individual goals and find out what is shared. I created a worksheet to help us do it. You can make a copy here.

4) Seek opportunities to learn

We all learn daily. When we stop learning, we’re dead. What I’m talking about here is to seek learning. Take courses, listen to podcasts, read, challenge yourself, teach yourself new skills. Don’t have time you say? Take stock of how many hours you spend on social media or watching TV. There’s some time.

I wake up between 5 and 5:30 a.m. most days so I can spend a couple hours on some projects before the kids wake up. In 2017, I completed two Udacity courses during this time. It’s possible to improve ourselves once we start seeking opportunities to learn. The act of learning helps us unlock new potential. And it keeps our brain active and young. 

5) Find your purpose

I want to improve society and make things better for those who come after me. I’ve always wanted to influence change. Sharing my opinions and ideas about self improvement and communications helps me do this. Through my copywriting and communication strategy business, I seek to work with organizations that want to do more good—be more transparent, establish stronger, more positive relationships and bring more value to society.

Identifying your purpose and then finding ways to live it personally and professionally as often as possible will help you experience more joy. One way to start to get clear on your purpose is through your goal setting. What’s the stuff that lights you up? How do you want to live and what impact do you want to have?

6) Accept that suffering is part of the deal

Sad and challenging stuff happens. People get sick. People die. We end up in jobs we don’t like. We lose friends. Accidents happen. We make mistakes. People do or say things that hurt us. We struggle with addictions. We have regrets. We miss people.

This is all part of the deal.

The goal isn’t to eliminate this stuff. It will happen. Humans are wired for survival. When we accept that situations we perceive to be bad or negative will occur, we can lose the ‘why me’ mindset and get to work on exploring and accepting our grief and feelings, and then moving to what we will do with that situation.

At a later point in life, we will look back and understand more about why certain things went the way they did. For now, simply accepting that not everything will be great is a good step.

And all of this is easy to say, but doing it consistently is the challenge. I’ve found Brené Brown’s work to be helpful in this area.

7) Enjoy the moments

In the end, our moments are all we have.

Relationships are what make a good life.

This is a key point to remember if you’re a parent. Kids won’t remember all the things you bought for them, but they will remember the time you spent together.

For kids, I believe it’s quality over quantity. Don’t stress if both parents are working full-time hours and you only have evenings and weekends. If that’s the reality that makes sense for you, accept it and then make sure you’re present in the time you do have.

This is something I struggle with. When I was working full time as a communications manager, I’d bring home my work (literally and figuratively). I always wanted to do more. Or I’d be focused on an issue I was trying to fix.

When I left that world for part-time freelance, I had to shift my mindset. I found I was still focusing on client work when I was with my kids. I made a conscious decision to change that. Not only am I more productive when I give my attention fully to the present task, but now I’m having these wonderfully simple and fulfilling experiences with my children. And I know that’s beyond valuable for me. These are moments I will have forever.

You can do it

It’s easy to become caught up in the busyness of life and forget about what we’re really doing here.

We’re humans. We crave connection and meaning. To do lists aren’t always rooted in meaning. And most of us aren’t out there saving lives in real time. So, take stock of what you’re classifying as urgent in your mind and check to see if it truly aligns with what you value. Make sure you’re consistently doing the things that align with the life you want, which means prioritizing them over immediate gratification sometimes. 

One of my favourite quotes about choice and change hangs on my office wall.

When you make a choice, you change the future.

Deepak Chopra 

So simply stated, yet so powerful. We’re creating our reality by our choices and habits every day, however minor they may seem. 

I wish you courage and continued success.

2 thoughts on “Seven tips for intentional living

  1. Ray Houghton Reply

    Hi Allison,
    By the sounds of your blog your life is going in the direction that you and Scott have chosen and I think that’s amazing.

    I really enjoyed reading your seven tips and think they are right on point. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I plan to share your post with hopes that some of my friends can benefit from reading your tips. I am a big fan of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Your tips remind of of Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. It all starts with a vision, each of us can chose what that vision is and what we see as the end goal.

    When Diane and I first met you and Scott I knew there was something special about you two, this blog has now proven those initial thoughts.

    Thanks again for sharing and I look forward to seeing more from you.

    • Alison Post authorReply

      Hi Ray, thank you so much for your kind words and your support :)! I hope we get to meet you guys on the beach again one day!

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