Living an Intentional Life

Living an Intentional Life

The fall months have often marked a significant time for change. Students return to school, warm weather fades, and we enter the final months of the calendar year. In 2020 change is more potent than ever before. In the midst of a global pandemic and with palpable tensions marked by injustice and inequality, people are seeking to find purpose and intention in their lives. So, how do you live an intentional life? We sought to help answer this question through an exploration of existing literature on career development across several areas.

Design Thinking

The first area for exploration is through a process known as design thinking. Design thinking has been adopted by many sectors as an innovative approach to problem-solving. Design thinking relies on a fundamental step-by-step process which can be applied to your own career and in your life:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

As broad as this may sound, these steps can be used to help you find intention in your career and your life, overall. For example, perhaps you find yourself struggling to understand how to contribute to the fight against climate change. You might begin by empathizing with those who are directly affected in their communities. From there, you may be able to define how specifically they are being impacted. You ideate about the ways your job or career may be able to support this cause (no idea is too small). Then, you prototype your idea. Perhaps this involves raising your concern with your supervisor or colleagues and brainstorming how best to approach the problem. Then, you might test your idea and your colleagues ideas in your various roles.

This may sound quite generalized, but the concept of design thinking is intended to help you think outside the box, and - most importantly - start with empathy. Stanford Professor Dr. Bill Burnett summarizes this introspective approach by asking the question “What do you want to be know for?”¹.

Paying Attention to Possibilities

The second area for exploration relates to paying attention to possibilities. Perhaps due to the nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, you have found yourself out of work or wishing to make a career move. While this may prove to be a stressful and uncertain period, this time may also allow you to define and pursue your true intentions. Often we may not be aware of what our intentions really are and that is okay.

Paying attention to possibilities requires us to be curious and give full curiosity to any situation that we are in. Learning more about the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, or listening to discussions around indigenous rights may provoke intense curiosity. Don’t be afraid to be curious and ask yourself important questions. You may not have the answers, but curiosity is key. Kari Marken, PhD’19 shares insights and strategies on paying attention to possibilities in our most recent Your Next Career Step podcast².

Overcoming Fear

The final area we explored for the topic of living an intentional life is overcoming fear. The journey to living an intentional life requires us to confront fear, particularly the fear of failure.

Last Fall, we explored this topic with Nikola Girke, BHK’99 in our webinar Overcoming Fear in the Second Act of your Career ³. Nikola outlined the process of overcoming fear in several fundamental steps. First, celebrate who you are. Reflect back on your experiences, good and bad, and try to identify key learnings. Second, acknowledge where you are. Appreciate what you can bring to the table by assessing your transferable skills. Third, define what you want to become. This last step might require you to use your Design Thinking skills.

Overcoming fear requires us to reflect back on our experiences, identify our key learnings and move forward with a better understanding of ourselves. This process may allow us to find more intention of our careers and our lives.

By drawing from several areas of career development, we may now have a better understanding of how to live an intentional life. Be sure to dive further into this topic by engaging with the resources provided.

Do you have any advice for living an intentional life? We welcome you to share you feedback through our Alumni Career Stories series. Let us know your thoughts!


¹For more information on Design Thinking, check out this important webinar: Stanford Webinar: Designing Your Life - How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

²For more information on Paying Attention to Possibilities, listen to our most recent podcast here.

³To watch the full webinar Overcoming Failure in the Second Act of Your Career with Nikola Girke, BHK’99, visit the link here.