Published on December 21, 2020

9 Ways to Be Intentional Every Day to Change Your Life

9 Ways to Be Intentional Every Day to Change Your Life

I always find it interesting when adults tell kids that they are living their best lives…that they are lucky because they are carefree and don’t have to worry about a mortgage. However, kids have always ached to be grown-ups because they inherently value something most of us take for granted: agency. Agency to pick their own bedtimes, design their own careers, and be intentional in taking the steps necessary to make their dreams come true.

While they sit in their car seats and go along for the ride, we have the opportunity to set our destination, chart our course, and take off with a full tank.

Yet, in our hurry to do all of life’s doing, many of us forget that we are in the driver’s seat. We slide into the passenger seat of someone else’s car, and before we know it we aren’t even sure how we got to our destination.

How did we end up with this life, this career, this family? Did you choose or did it just happen? In our flurry to check the milestone boxes (degree, promotion, marriage, kids, home), we lose sight of purpose, vision, passion, and intention.

To be intentional is to be present. When you are present in the moment, you are not thinking about what went wrong yesterday or all the ways things can go wrong tomorrow. When you are present, you are thinking about this moment and what you can do with it.

Here are 10 ways to be intentional every day and create a life you love.

1. Give up the Passive Excursion

Wake up with a commitment to being in the driver’s seat of your own life. You are not living to make your others’ dreams come true today. You are responsible for you. If you have been letting one of them drive, it’s time to take back the wheel.

Stop with all of the stories you have been telling yourself about why you have to come last. This is a false narrative and serves no one.

When you decide to be intentional in how you live, you will have more energy to go around, and everyone will benefit!


Set your sights on what you want to do immediately, what you can do soon, and what is on the horizon to chart the course toward what you want to see and do for yourself.

Whether this is about deciding to take action on the personal front, professional front, or both, you will need to have a clear vision for what you want.

2. Start With Your Body

Listen to your heartbeat, your temperature, your stomach; what does your body need to feel good? A big glass of water? A nutritious breakfast and a stretch to start your day?

Forget about the diet you have been trying to keep and the tight pants that have made you feel restricted while sitting on Zoom calls. Invite the possibility that your body already knows what is good for you.

Start to get mindful.

Mindful eating, drinking, sleeping, and resting is all about being in the driver’s seat. Pay attention to the messages your body is sending you about what it needs to live in the present moment. When we challenge it, disregard it, and push our own agenda, we are actively resisting intention.

3. Optimize Your Space

We happen to our space, it doesn’t happen to us. As a self-admitted mess maker, I sometimes wonder how the clothes are still not folded and how “I will do it tomorrow” turned into “I will do it next week.” Regardless, chaos breeds chaos.

According to Marie Condo, “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life-transforming.”

When we are being intentional, we are taking control of our immediate environment and designing a space that meets our functional needs and showcases our personality. Try surrounding yourself with your favorite inspirational quotes, an accent pillow in your favorite color, and an attractive clock to help hold you accountable throughout your day. You will thank yourself, and your Zoom background will, too!


4. Energy Map Your Day

CEOs wake up at 6 a.m. they say…so what? Stop chasing other peoples’ productivity solutions and design what works best for you. Start by noticing the times of day you feel peak energy. Do you work best when you start early and end early, or do you prefer to start late and end late?

When you are able to isolate the time of day you feel the greatest focus, create a personalized energy map to schedule the most detail-oriented and/or robust tasks accordingly[1].

Conversely, save the simple, automated, or flexible tasks for the hours when you are running on low steam or reviving yourself after a sprint of heavy focus.

5. Narrate Your Progress

Don’t wait for the day to be over to check in with yourself about your progress. Do a brief audit:

  • Have I worked on the things that relate to my most pressing goals?
  • Have I allowed myself to leverage workable solutions before perfect solutions to maintain momentum?
  • Are there things that I could or should do differently to maximize my progress today?

If there are opportunities to improve strategy, intervene early, and benefit from a quick recalibration, do it.

6. Don’t Push Too Hard, Too Fast

Strategy is really about working smarter, not harder. When you are truly intentional, you are thinking about ways to maximize your impact without overdoing it.

Notice where there may be shortcuts, automations or additional support available to achieve your designated action steps quicker or more efficiently.

The goal is to avoid burnout. Even when the steps we are taking bring us joy and we are excited to make a change or improvement, sustainability is key.

Notice where it is worth your time to invest some time upfront to get time back later.


Think e-mail labels, pre-scheduled posts, Calendly, or other work-flow tactics that take a little extra time to establish but buy you back tons of hours and endless frustration on the back end.

If you are a “do it the way I have always done it” kind of person, it’s time to change—and it’s okay to ask for help. Technology offers us a ton of time-saving, strategy-supporting solutions that we don’t want to miss out on. Don’t let fear be your barrier to entry.

Reach out to a tech savvy friend, colleague or acquaintance, and seek the information you need to break through this barrier.

7. Check Those Distractions

Confront the time sucks in your life. Whether you have been doom scrolling on the gram, texting all day about the latest in reality TV, or taking too many trips to the pantry to interrupt your Zoom fatigue, it is time to distinguish between the useless and the useful.

Constant and ongoing distraction has limited benefit. Whether it is incessant Slacks running in the foreground or the TV blaring while you attempt to do your work, we know that multitasking is virtually useless. Commit to being all in when you are, and then make the decision to fully opt into well-spaced breaks.

Regular breaks are not only useful; they are pivotal. Take time to schedule them, take them, and meaningfully benefit from a stretch, nap, or short walk.

You want the time that you take away from the activities that move you in the direction of your hopes and dreams to be well spent. Don’t waste it on Facebook or Tic Tok—unless it’s your break indulgence of choice.

8. Fail Forward

Mess up intentionally. It sounds like an oxymoron, but I mean it. When we are intentional about succeeding, we also have to be willing to fail. We have to be willing to take a stab at something we could totally botch, and waste no time in getting to a second attempt.

If the fear of failure paralyzes us from trying at all, it is a direct blocker to living intentionally.


It’s not to say that we will fail every time, but we need to normalize the experience for ourselves so that if it happens often, we use it to learn, adjust, iterate, and keep moving.

9. Invite People Into Your Plans

You don’t have to keep your dreams a secret. When you wake up to live with intention, you know what you want, and you can’t be afraid to tell others about it. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the final product is ready to tell friends, family, or even strangers about it.

Invite the possibility that people may be excited to help you get there. Very few of us make our dreams happen alone. Prepare yourself to talk about what you are aiming to do, your personal “why” motivating you, and and what you need to get it done.

When you are willing to narrate your needs, there is a chance that someone is ready and willing to share the missing piece.

For those of us who hate asking for help, this is a mountain worth climbing. Give it a try, process the discomfort you feel, and remember that if it was someone else telling you about their dreams and you were in a position to help, wouldn’t you jump at the chance?

Final Thoughts

Choosing to be intentional takes commitment, and it is really about playing the long game. You will wake up and choose this day in and day out, and it may still take time to see the fruits of your labor.

Remember a purpose worth pursuing is never easy, and others will gladly celebrate beside you when it all comes together. That moment will be no accident. You will know in your heart of hearts that you chose the hard road of consistency, sacrifice, and focus. Things don’t just happen. You make it happen.

The choice is yours. Open the car door, slide into the driver’s seat, secure your seatbelt, and take the wheel. This is the ride where you call all the shots.

More on Living Intentionally

Featured photo credit: Bohdan Pyryn via



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Staci Taustine

Founder & CEO, Stubborn Heart Consulting LLC.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

The Four Quadrants of Change

There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

The four quadrants are:

  1. Internal individual – mindset
  2. External individual – behavior
  3. Internal collective – culture/support system
  4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

First Quadrant — Internal Individual

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.


Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

“Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
I want to swim = I am a swimmer

This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

Second Quadrant — External Individual

This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]


Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

Negative Environmental Design

This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

Positive Environmental Design

This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.


The Inner Ring

These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

The Outer Ring

The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

The same rules apply to companies.

One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).


Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.


You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.


This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.


This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.


This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

Putting It All Together

When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

  1. Internal individual — mindset
  2. External individual — behavior
  3. Internal collective — culture/support system
  4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.


Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via


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