How to live with more intention

Try design thinking, see the possibilities, overcome your fear, and more.

As a new year gets underway, you might be wondering about how to find more purpose in your life. What might it mean to live more intentionally?

Here are three strategies from the literature on career development, as well as alumni UBC’s career development resources, that can help:


Design thinking is a step-by-step process that has been adopted by many sectors as an innovative approach to problem-solving. It consists of five steps:

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

As broad as they 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). You might also raise your concern with your supervisor or colleagues and brainstorm how best to approach the problem. Then, you prototype the most promising solutions with a small group and iterate along the way. Finally, you launch your refined idea(s) and see what the uptake is like. 

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


Perhaps you currently find yourself out of work or wishing to make a career move. While this may prove to be a stressful and uncertain period, this time can also allow you to define and pursue your true intentions. (Often we may not be aware of what our intentions really are at the outset, and that is okay.)

Paying attention to possibilities requires us to be curious and open to any situation that we are in — whether that’s learning more about how to fight climate change from a social justice framework, or what it means to practice equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. When you encounter topics or issues that are new to you, don’t be afraid to be curious and ask yourself important questions. You may not have the answers, but cultivating a mindset of curiosity is key. UBC alum Kari Marken (PhD’19) shares insights and strategies on paying attention to possibilities in this episode of alumni UBC’s Your Next Career Step podcast.²


Finally, living an intentional life will often require us to confront fear, particularly the fear of failure.

In this alumni UBC career webinar, UBC alum Nikola Girke (BHK’99) outlines three steps for overcoming fear:³

  1. Celebrate who you are. Reflect back on your experiences, good and bad, and try to identify key learnings. 
  2. Acknowledge where you are. Appreciate what you can bring to the table by assessing your transferable skills. 
  3. 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 can help each of us find more intention in our careers and our lives.

By drawing from several areas of career development, we hope we have given you some helpful strategies for living with more purpose and intention. Be sure to dive further into this topic by engaging with the resources provided below.

Do you have any advice for living an intentional life? Let us know your thoughts by connecting with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


  1. For more information on design thinking, watch this Stanford webinar.

  2. For tips on how to pay attention to possibilities, listen to this podcast episode from Your Next Career Step.

  3. To watch Nikola Girke's webinar “Overcoming fear in the second act of your career,” visit this page.