Intentional Living

How to get to what matters most in life

Autumn background, colorful leaves, acorn, cup of coffee and knitted scarf on wooden table, top view

Our days often fall short.

We race around tending to children, jobs, and household tasks. The end of the day brings relief but also sadness. Because it’s really hard to show up for ourselves—nevermind others—amidst the chaos of everyday life.

And even harder still? Going to bed fully aware that we’re likely to repeat the same cycle over and over again.

Modern motherhood can prove exhausting and frustrating. We want to ensure our days are enjoyable now—not at some distant future point in the future.

In this post, you’ll learn how to identify what matters most—then take actionable steps towards a more intentional life.

Ready to get started?

Finding what matters most in life

We all have hopes and dreams for our lives. But this vision becomes buried under the layers of modern motherhood.

Before we can start living our best lives, we need to unearth what matters most.

It’s like panning for gold.

We start by sifting through the current of our lives—with intention and patience—to find what’s most meaningful. And while we may drudge up a lot of dirt in the process, there are tiny but valuable lessons scattered amidst the debris.

Here’s an exercise I’ve found helpful to pan my life for what matters most. It involves envisioning your best day.  

Let’s give it a go.

Describe your best day

Grab a piece of paper and a pen.

You’re going to write, in detail, about a day in the future—one that captures the activities, interactions, and feelings you’d most like to experience from dawn to dusk.

For now, don’t worry if your story is a far cry from your current life. Just write what comes up in your head. No censoring required!

To give you an example, here’s my version of an ideal day given in point form:

  • I wake up in the morning feeling refreshed.
  • The day starts early with a hot coffee (which I actually finish before it’s cold) and time to write.
  • My children play cooperatively, and independently get through the morning routine
  • The house remains clean and decluttered. as all family members pitch in with chores.
  • My day at work is productive and fulfilling,
  • I’ve left with enough energy for a quick walk and to give loved ones my best.
  • We eat supper together as a family. There is no mad dash to extracurriculars or fights over homework.
  • Bedtime is a breeze. Because my kids children are asleep in a timely manner, I’m able to fit in quality time with my husband and to read before falling asleep.

Before moving onto the next step, complete your story using whatever format suits you best.

Still life with a beautiful Cup and female hands. An intimate, homely atmosphere. decorative items.

Unpack your ideal day

If your perfect day story is anything like mine it may seem pretty unrealistic.

But rather than dwell on this, let’s unpack our stories. What gems lie within these ideal days? We’re looking for nuggets of wisdom that will help us align our current lives with what matters most.

Return to your ideal day story and look for themes.. You’re looking for ideas or values that best reflect what you want your life to be like and to feel like. Another way of thinking about it is guiding principles—what values do I most want to see integrated into my everyday existence.

For example, in my ideal day story the following values shine through:

  • Family
  • Connection
  • Learning
  • Making a difference
  • Self-care
  • Intentional living

When I review my list, I feel energized. I know that Incorporating one or more of these elements into my life will make for fulfilling rather than disappointing days.

But we don’t want to stop here.

The next step involves doing something with this information. More specifically, we need to identify small manageable actions that’ll start getting these identified nuggets into our everyday lives.

Let’s look at how this is done.

Bring your top values to life

The next step in this process is to ask yourself: What changes will move me towards my envisioned best life?

Is there a particular theme that stands out as most important? Something you’d like to work on first?

For example, from my list, I identify self-care as a top priority. In this busy season of life with four kids—including an infant—I’ve really let my own basic needs fall to the wayside. As a result, I’m finding myself easily irritated with myself and others.

Once, I’ve identified this value, I need to determine an associated behaviour. What actions can I take to improve my self-care? This could be making sure I find time to drink my coffee while it’s still hot, get in a much needed walk, and/or have time to read at night.

If I choose connection as a top value, an associated action could be having one-on-one time with each of my kids, partner, and/or friends at least once a week

Once I’ve generated possible action steps, I’ll need to figure out a way to make these a reality. For example, I may need to get up earlier to enjoy my coffee or ensure my partner is available to help out with the kids in the morning. For one-on-one time with a friend, I’ll need to arrange this meet-up and ensure I have someone to watch my kids.

Now it’s your turn to give this a process a go.

From your list of priority areas—extracted from your ideal day—what do you want to work on first? And what action step or steps can you take to start living your vision of a better life.

You’re one step closer to what matters most

With the right method, it’s easier to clearly define what matters most.

And that’s where the ideal day exercise comes in.

It’s a helpful way to sort through the mess of everyday life and find some valuable nuggets.

Importantly, this exercise isn’t about creating an impossible standard. Rather, it’s a way to move ourselves—with humility and self-compassion—towards a life that’s more meaningful.

Taking steps towards a better life isn’t easy. If you need more help realizing your vision of an ideal day, check out my post on setting SMART goals.

And please share any insights, challenges, and successes below!

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