I’ve always been an independent thinker. I like to follow my own rules, I don’t like to be told what to do, and I am full of ambition (though what that ambition looks like has changed over the years).
While some little girls dream of their wedding day and who they will eventually marry, I used to dream of traveling the world and healing people. When people would tell me to marry rich, I would say “Why? I’m going to take care of myself”. When I was deciding between clinical practice and academia, my parents asked me why I couldn’t do both.
So when I left my career, one that was successful by most standards and one that I had worked hard to build over decades, people may have been surprised but I wasn’t.
I loved my job, and all the iterations before it. Because being self employed meant that I had the privilege and the confidence and flexibility to do what I wanted with my career. I was able to pick up and move, and start all over again. I was able to teach and see patients, I was able to impact more people by creating content on YouTube (that was an adventure!). I was able to change my hours to suit my family and eventually I was able to structure my schedule and work up to taking a summer off with my kids. Of course it wasn’t all easy or without its own sacrifices but I intentionally did what I had to do to continue loving my job while also loving my life.
And then I didn’t. I wanted to try some more creative projects (enter my podcast and my book), I wanted to talk about things that I had learnt over the years that created a huge gap in health and wellness for people’s lives. And doing it within my practice didn’t make sense. Not to mention that I wanted to be more present with my family, who quite honestly were going through things that were stressful and difficult to juggle with a busy practice.
When I left, I knew, 100% that it was the right decision for me. It had been in my mind for a while, simmering, planning and decision boarding. But when I’d talk to others, I’d get mixed comments.
- What are you doing?
- Why did you do that?
- Don’t you want to go back to work?
- Can you afford to take time off?
- But your patients need you?
I also had
- That’s so inspiring, how did you do that?
- Wow, that’s courageous
- I wish I could figure out how to do what I want too
Since then I’ve had many conversations about life and balance and staying true to yourself. How can we make decisions that are genuinely aligned with our values and yet still strive for what we want?
Even now, as I follow my creative endeavours, sometimes I wonder about what I want to do vs what I should do. Should I promote my book on social media even though I’m not a fan of social media, how do I market myself and my services and my products in an ethical and non-salesy way?
So today I’m going to share a few steps I use to make decisions while staying authentic and true to my values.
Because living an intentional life is about making conscious choices, combining a deep sense of awareness with an understanding of the actions that will move you towards your goals (I’m still ambitious, and OK with that, as long as I can act with integrity).
Defining Your Values for Intentional Decision Making
Prioritizing Your Values: Aligning with What Truly Matters to You
The first step to living intentionally is to identify your values. What do you consider to be most important in life? Now this one is hard because if I give you a list of 3 or 33 values, you’ll want to say ‘all of them’. Of course, we all want to have and prioritize all possible good values. What I do is try to prioritize them. Not how I think they SHOULD be, but how they actually ARE.
Navigating Cultural and Societal Expectations: Staying True to Your Authentic Self
For example, my culture and upbringing tells me that in order to show love to my family I should sacrifice everything for them. (Of course that’s not totally true but it’s often how I subconsciously interpret it. I should stay home and not go away without my kids, I should make sure dinner is ready every evening even if I’m busy, etc). This programming (whether intended or not) makes me feel things like guilt, which impact my decisions.
So yes, family is one of my values. And if I was trying to be socially acceptable I’d say that they were my primary value. And yes, definitely if push comes to shove and we’re in a life or death situation, I’d sacrifice my life for any one of my family members without hesitation.
But currently, when we’re all just going about our day to day lives, and my kids have grown up to be somewhat independent (it’s changed now that they don’t need me to do as much for them) my priority is actually personal growth. When I feel like I’m stimulated, I’m happier. And I’m willing to trade some days away from my family to satisfy that value of growth/learning/achievement/contribution in my work or in my personal fitness where I’m also growing.
And because I’m clear that growth is one of my top priorities (barring any emergencies with my family), I realized that my job was no longer offering me that. I needed to use my skills and my expertise in a different way to continue helping people but in a way that felt more aligned with my values.
Clarifying your values can help you get more clear on your decisions to keep them aligned with what you want.
Identifying What You’re Willing to Trade for Your Goals
The path to achieving your goals may not be the same as someone else. In order to get something, we all also have to give something up. It might be time or energy. It might be a belief, or a fear. It might be something else we value.
Sacrifices and Trade-offs: Determining What You Value Most
It’s essential to know what you’re willing to do (or not do) to achieve your goals. If your goal is to advance in your career, you may need to sacrifice some personal time to work on projects or attend networking events.
Balancing Personal and Professional Commitments: Making Conscious Choices
For me, I want to build a legacy with the work I’m creating. I’m writing this book to help people, which means I want to get it into as many hands as possible. That means I have to ‘sell’. Personally I have no objection to selling or promoting what I’m doing because I try to put out work that I’m proud of. But that means I make decisions every day to only publish content that I think is valuable.
It would be easy to publish for the sake of staying consistent, or to interview people for my podcast who are selling something. But I’ve pulled the plug on things that didn’t feel good to me because I’m trying not to get caught into the vortex of content creation and the speed of consumption.
So when I need to make decisions about my business, I’m willing to market myself (which doesn’t feel easy) but I’m not willing to compromise on the quality of what I put out there (not aiming for perfection – as long as I’m doing the best that I currently know how, and hope that I can continue to learn and become better).
So often we try so hard to get something (money, success, a title, etc) but we don’t realize what we’re giving up in return.
Managing Your Time for Intentional Decision Making
Identifying Time Wasters: Maximizing Productivity and Efficiency
I could talk about efficiency or productivity here, but what I think is actually more of an opportunity is to think about how we waste time. Not with things that could be considered down time, those are actually critical. More with things we spend time on that we don’t want to. Negative thoughts, navigating conversations with people we have no interest in building relationships with, scrolling mindlessly instead of watching/reading/experiencing something that makes us feel good. Think about how you spend your time and how do you do more of that?
Cultivating Positive Habits: Optimizing Time for What Truly Matters
In the whirlwind of daily life, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and lose sight of what truly matters. That’s why cultivating positive habits and optimizing our time is crucial. By intentionally choosing how we spend our moments, we can create space for the things that bring us joy, fulfillment, and align with our values. It’s about finding that sweet spot where productivity meets purpose, where we prioritize self-care, meaningful relationships, personal growth, and the activities that light up our souls.
Expanding Your Definition of Success
I notice that sometimes we understand something in a very narrow way, we define words in our mind, and in society and take them as given. Success is one of those words. It means certain things to our families and our friends. We think it means the same thing to us. But does it? Is it always about more – money, fame, followers, titles? If you want to live a life that aligns with your values, it might help to re-examine what these words, that we use so often, actually MEAN to us. Are you chasing what you value, or what is valued by someone else’s definition?
Trusting Your Journey towards Intentional Decision Making
I often have a hard time with this one. And I don’t mean that we need to just think that it’ll all work out and leave it up to the universe, although if that works for you, go for it!
What I mean is that at the end of the day, it’s your life. Not someone else’s. Which means that while you’re comparing yourself to them, or wishing you did something differently, the only one impacted by your feelings, your choices, your regrets .. is you. Well, that’s not entirely true of course – your family might be impacted too – but spending time in a negative spiral doesn’t help you get out of it.
It’s always challenging to forge your own path (and you will have to if you want to stay true to you). But if you’re guided by your values, your clarity of vision, it’ll help you stay on track.