This is my personal journal where I document simple everyday moments or life-changing experiences.

I never want to forget what I felt (physically & emotionally), thought, heard, saw, and smelt in certain moments.

intently living.

intently living.

the following four words together make the truest statement: life is too short. 

and it's often said with an action attached of sorts:
life is too short to not see the world.
life is too short to not try something new because you're afraid of failure.
life is too short to hold a grudge.
life is too short to care about what people think of you.
life is too short to not eat that double chocolate fudge sprinkled sea salt caramel cake.
life is too short to not be happy.
life is too damn short.

A few days ago, i got to thinking... am i living the present day with intention and purpose? am i going to bed saying to myself, 'today was a damn good day because of x, y, and z'? 

This thought lead me to ask a group of people this question... "in what ways are you living intentionally and purposefully?" 

what i received back was more moving than i had expected. my heart swell and i had tears in my eyes.

13 individuals. 13 different lifestyles.
no word limit, no 'right' answers.

sigh, how beautifully different our lives are but we are all the same... we are living and leading with our heart.

My twenties have been a really interesting time for me. As a 27-year-old man, I thought I would have my sh*t together: married, house purchased, maybe a mini me or two running around, stable job, white picket fence, golden retriever prancing around (you get the idea.) But here I sit typing in my apartment that I have been renting for 5 years, dirty clothes sprawled, and hoping I have something to muster up for breakfast in the morning. And you know what? I feel perfectly content. Even though things haven’t panned out for me exactly how I thought they would, I feel satisfied with some of the personal decisions I have made in the past few months.

After losing a job last year, I quickly settled on the first thing that came up simply because it was a job and I needed a paycheck. Even though I had worked as a photographer since college, I always felt like I needed another job to support myself. I never thought that I could turn a passion and hobby into a career.

After not even a year into this new job one of my friends told me I wasn’t the same; he pointed out that I had become bitter, tired, unhappy, anxious, and unmotivated. That’s when I knew something had to change. I threw in the towel after seven months and never looked back on that job. Instead I looked forward and dove head first into being a fulltime freelance photographer. I made a promise to myself that I would never again work a job that made me not feel like my true self. I know that this was the best possible move for me at this point in life and am beyond ecstatic to see where I go from here, both artistically and personally.

Not only does this new sense of freedom with my career quench my thirst for life, but it’s the people I surround myself with that are the cherry on top of it all. I know it sounds cliché, but friendship is one of the most important things in life to me. Hands down. I’ve learned in the past 6 months or so that one of my love languages is quality time. I will literally drive an hour and a half to simply have breakfast with someone. (I say this because I did it last month.) Why? Because I love connection; I love eye contact and the physical act of a hug; I love listening and processing with anyone, be it a complete stranger or best friend; I love un-awkward silence- where you can just sit with someone and no one has to say a word and it’s totally ok; I love laughing until I cry. I love it all.

I truly feel the happiest when I bring others up. I love serving others and performing acts of kindness with no intention of receiving anything in return. This is why I feel I have been called to share my love through a camera lens; to constantly be bringing others up while simultaneously doing “work” that I fall more in love with every single day. -Gabe S. 

When it comes to living intentionally, there are 3 things that I try to do often in my daily life. The first thing I do is set goals for myself both physically and mentally. I believe settings goals allows me to challenge myself and discover all of life’s opportunities. Setting goals has allowed me to move outside my comfort zone. From trying new dishes to traveling to developing countries, I try to keep my ambitions high. With patience and hope, you can make any dream come true.

Another thing that I try to do often is take the time to be grateful for my friends and family. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really does make my life feel more purposeful. To me, having strong relationships with my friends and family adds more value to my life. Taking the time to appreciate my loved ones makes me feel like I’m living my life intentionally.

I would consider the last thing on my list as the most important: perserverence. This is definitely something I have developed a lot throughout my life. I always say that everything in life happens for a reason. Although it might not make sense at times, it’s important to appreciate all of life’s obstacles. They really do make you stronger if you take the time to reflect on how much you’ve grown. It’s okay to make mistakes or have things not work out right away. It just makes the end result much more rewarding. With that said, when it comes to living life intentionally, I make sure I take the time to appreciate the hard work and dedication that was put in for all of my achievements. To summarize, my advice for living intentionally includes: setting goals to challenge yourself, taking the time to be grateful for your loved ones, and climbing higher when life gives you obstacles. -Lisa B. 

It starts with knowing where you want to go. I set up goals that I want to achieve; which each step I take on a daily basis, it gets me closer to those goals. One of my personal goals is to make my husband a priority: taking care of him, loving him, and making it known that he is loved. When it comes to day-to-day, I can ask myself, 'how can I make my husband feel loved today?' Setting goals helps me make intentional decisions which gets me closer to achieving my goals. -Molly S.

AS: In what ways are you intentionally living?

ALM: A couple things come to mind. Most importantly, work and life balance. For me, what that looked like was setting an intentional that I could measure. As I attempted, that it gave me perspective on how I can achieve that balance. For me, the biggest “a-ha” moment was when I decided to leave corporate America. I had taken on a set of beliefs that weren’t true to me. 

AS: Beliefs like what?

ALM: The beliefs that I should do what felt like the responsible thing to do. And being responsible meant having a stable job, making decision based on health benefits, and future potential. I didn’t know that that was someone else’s narrative that had made me so unhappy. I had traded for someone’s else story and wasn’tlistening to my own. It took ten years of listening to that voice and to be able to trust. And really, the responsible thing for me to do is to listen wholeheartedly. 

AS: So many people I’ve spoken with all have different ways of living intentional but the similarity of everyone’s answer is listening to your heart and listening to that voice in your head.

ALM: Yes! And you have to learn what that voice sounds like. I can also feel it in my body.

AS: How so?

ALM: When things aligned or misaligned; tightening in my chest, or nervous butterflies. We’re also taught to override that versus listening to our body. 

ALM: I think this is especially true for women, we tend to try on people’s lives versus embracing our own unique version of life. I think it’s insecurities or a lack of confidence of who we are.

AS: I completely agree. It’s almost like we look onto/seek qualities in others when we feel like something in our life or from within is missing or lacking.

ALM: Absolutely. The easiest way to do it is to emulate someone else. But the quickest way is to look inside and find qualities that you love and make you feel good. 

AS: What is something you love about yourself?

ALM: I really love building and creating things. But didn’t know that about myself until I just tried. There was no one else to emulate and I looked onto myself create. 

ALM: My tendency is to grasp big things or make big shifts toward more wholehearted living. But iI hink it’s more like turning a tanker where doing little things everyday is a quicker path to happiness. 

AS: Like what?

ALM: Little things like, things under five minutes (laughs)- meditation… like Headspace the app. Now I’ve taken one minute to close my eyes and watch my thoughts. Breathing. And paying attention to my body and making sense of it. Also, savoring little moments like stirring the frothy top of a macchiato and writing handwritten letters. 

ALM: When I just had Amelia and we were leaving the hospital, this doctor said to me, “from this day forward as her mother, your job is learning to let go”. I think about that a lot and it’s so true. It applies to living intentionally… letting go of control and manipulating the outcome of what you think should be versus how it should be.

My mornings always start the same way. With coffee and eggs and the occasional get back into bed to snuggle with my pup. Knowing that each day is different in what it may bring, it is living and knowing that I get to make it what I want, that brings more intentionality. I will always have 'things' to do and places to be and will always strive to reach MY 'perfect' meaning of living with intention, but knowing that my heart is what leads me in all those decisions is what brings a bit more peace in my day to day living and loving.

Intention to me is listening to what serves me, trusting in the process, experiencing all the feels and getting back up, chasing the light, seeing new places and trusting that if I am
happy in what I am doing and those around me are happy, that to me feels like purpose and true intention.

My tips for leading a life with more intention and purpose:
Choose your heart
Play more
Get outside
Choose not to dwell on things
Keep being curious
Be you

-Rachel S.

I recently heard a statistic that stated "the odds of becoming a human being, to simply exist at all, are 400 trillion to one." To live my fullest life, I find the greatest enjoyment in traveling, being the most true self I know how and surrounding myself with those that support and encourage my decisions. So much time is spent worrying about likes on images we share with the public, but I find the greatest comfort making choices that fulfill my heart and taking charge of my destiny. Be true to you and you will never go wrong. ❤ - Logan W.

When New Year’s Eve rolled around last year, I was not the person exclaiming, “Thanks for the memories, 2016!  You rocked!”  To be perfectly honest, 2016 kicked my ass.  Depression and anxiety ruled my life; the ambiguous loss of a family member left my heart feeling brittle and fractured; and the presidential election made me lose all hope in our nation and humanity – something my idealistic self refused to do when I was closer to twenty than thirty.  At midnight, I flipped 2016 the bird and said, “Thanks for nothing.”  I wanted 2017 to be different, so I chose a word to guide the next 365 days: intentional.  Here’s how I’ve been fumbling my way through that so far:

Boundaries: My Achilles Heel.  I manifest the emotions of people around me, which kind of feels like empathy on steroids (can anyone relate?).  In 2017, I wanted to practice using loving, intentional boundaries so that I didn’t feel so burnt out all the time.  I’ve found myself saying “no” more than ever before.  It didn't feel great at first, but it made me get honest with myself about what I truly cared about.

Connection:  I started 2017 by writing down a list of important people in my life, and set out to connect with these folks in a more meaningful way.  This has been one of the coolest things about the last few months: the more I’ve set boundaries and said “no,” the more time and energy I’ve had for the people I care about.

Self-Care: The struggle bus of all struggle buses.  When it comes to kindness and compassion, I am usually the last person on my list.  This year, I’ve been staying self-cared up by reading before work, cooking meals at home, and asking for the listening ear of a friend or loved one when I’m having a tough time.

Overall, trying to be more intentional has given me more questions than answers, but I’m definitely feeling more deliberate and purposeful on my path. 

There are just some things that are simply my truth. That I always need a creative outlet free of outside expectations. I need to surround myself in supportive communities of creative women.  I need spaces for communication, deep questions, and mystery.

To cultivate creativity, I continuously seek out new mediums to work in. I allow myself to be bad at things and do them just for the sake of creating. I keep things close to the chest. For example my pottery; I am not willing to quickly jump to mass producing the same things to make sales, but instead want to keep learning and growing and leaning into newness.

I truly believe women where meant to gather together and live in community with one another. In the last few years, I realized that my creative community of other female artists lived only on squares on a screen. I also noticed that I was only seeing artists finished products and highlight reels, as well as a weird trend of people offering up curated pieces of themselves as a brand.  For me, none of that nourishes genuine connection, or builds the community.

I find that the mess, the magic, and the beauty of creating is in the process. So I intentionally unfollowed anyone that I have no chance of meeting face to face and began asking female artists I did follow if I could photograph them in person, in the processes of their work. This practice helps me connect with female artists at a much more personal level than photographing their finished products.

It has also, in turn, became important to be to be intentional about what I share with the world.   To be consciously sharing the in-between and honest instead of the perfect, and to make sure I am honoring the people who get in front of my camera.

I also crave mystery. I feel as humans we so quickly want to state our stance so that we can form a bubble with other like-minded people where our views are validated. It brings us a sense of belonging. But I have found that I am more happy, more alive, when I can be vulnerable and live into unknowns. It is incredibly hard because it doesn't always feel good. There is a lot of risk and room for failure/embarrassment.  So I have to make it an intentional practice to lean into curiosity.

Right now I am curious about how the female artist experience relates to motherhood. Because I have no experience as a mother and have socially constructed biases, it has caused me to ask some pretty shallow questions. But instead of not asking out of fear, I am participating in the conversation, learning to ask better questions, and being open to the complexities of there never being just one simple answer. - Jess H.

I'm a full-time, fairly new stepmom of three and completely took for granted self-care because I was so busy trying to be the perfect wife and stepmom. Once I realized that I became intentional about taking care of me-- relaxation, better eating, alone time, and doing the things that filled my spirit, it brought joy to my heart. I need those things to thrive. And part of what fills my spirit and brings me joy is smiling.  You cannot believe how much joy I get from smiling at people and surprising strangers with a smile and a 'hello'. And when they smile back it brings me joy knowing that for at least one day that person will know somebody really saw them. I love how I've discovered that self-care for me includes being good to each other without expectations of something-- just being good because we are humans. -Angie

Saying “no” is so simple as a toddler. Anything you didn’t want to do was easy to confront with a simple “no” or “nuh uh.” There was little need for explanation. You didn’t need to say, “mom, I’m not really interested in bedtime because I have this dress up game I am playing and it is really important for me to focus on that right now.” I must say that as I have gotten older and further into my adulthood, this word has been more and more difficult for me to use. And instead of negotiating priorities with my mom, I am constantly negotiating them with myself. And if playing a game of dress up was still the one thing that brought me fulfillment, it would be taking a back seat to all the other things I spend time doing.

Now, I know that life is full of compromise. I realize that we all spend our days doing a juggling act of task after task; triaging what needs to be done first. And the one ball that we seem to drop is the one that best serves us; it’s exercise, eating well, going to a movie, enjoying the outdoors, GETTING A FULL NIGHT’S SLEEP, seeing loved ones, meditation, or other forms of our self care. I know you have heard this before; self care is essential to happiness. We should not be putting our happiness at the bottom of our task list, it should be absolutely first. But there is another variable to practicing self-care and keeping ones’ task list manageable. Because you can’t practice intentional and present self care if all you can think about is your mile long task list. You have to channel the toddler inside and practice saying “no.”

For example, the very first design job I held paid $100 and cost me more to do than what they paid. It was an hour drive to get to there and I spent hundreds of hours working and sourcing materials. The $100 was an honorary thing really. BUT, it enabled me to get other design jobs. I worked for this company for two more projects, each feeling more compromised than the last. Being paid a little more each time but not near what my skills and time were worth. Finally, they asked me on for a fourth project and I was finally ready to say “no.” But, I wrestled with this decision for much longer than I should have. I had strong feelings of guilt because I felt like I owed the them my continued allegiance. 

Over the course of working low paying jobs, not only did I miss out on opportunities for professional growth, I missed out on my own personal growth. I spent less and less time doing the things I loved, aside from working. I stopped exercising, cooking for myself, seeing friends, and spending time not thinking about work. It took me a very long time to notice how absent I was from my life when I wasn’t working. My mind was anxious and never present when I was with friends or family. I got really good at listening and engaging with people while still having my mind reaching for my long task list. 

Defining my goals for my company has helped me make more intentional decisions for how I am able to spend my time. I would recommend any creative business owner do the same to help them build their task lists and decide what’s the most important task for them personally and for their business. -Anonymous

This year, I started using a planner a lot because before, something I wanted to do would enter my mind but then gets pushed out by a responsibility. So I've been scheduling time into my week, during my work hours, to do personal things that help me keep myself from stressing about work like go to the library. Also, I even go as far as putting in dates when store coupons expire so that I set time to online shop. Super weird but it allows me to do little things now that I used to think I didn't have time for and would push to the side. -Courtney G.

Within the past two years, I have slowly started easing toward a more intentional life—one that is based around my values and the things I believe. I'm not one to make New Years resolutions anymore as I put way too much pressure on myself to achieve those goals. When there was an off day, I got frustrated and found it hard to start back up again. So! No more of that. Any progress is good progress in my book, no matter how small. Here are the ways I've started living a more intentional life that I am proud of.

Minimalism is all the rage these days and you bet after I watched the documentary Minimalism on Netflix, I went through my closest, drawers and shoes and got rid of six garbage bags full of shit. It was honestly a breath of fresh air. I was confident I could close my eyes while standing in front of my closet, pull any piece of clothing and actually wear it. Woah.

Minimalism is different for everyone because, well, everyone has different beliefs, values and choices. For me, my biggest intentional change was wanting to live more simply. I'm trying not to let "stuff" to keep me fulfilled and happy. I am constantly researching, reading blogs, finding the best makeup tutorials, buying the new organic this or that, trying to find the perfect decor piece for my wall, and the list goes on. Of course I'm constantly coming across amazing products so the temptation is real. But as silly as it sounds, it gets exhausting. Just because I like it and can afford, doesn't mean I need it. This is a game changer for me because I actually have to think before I buy something. Now, whenever I want something, I add it to a list I created in a Google Doc. This really helps because I won't forget whatever it is I wanted, and it gives me time to think if I actually want it or if I was just in the moment and think I needed it. It's also served as my go-to birthday and Christmas list whenever I get asked.

I have certainly found that the less you have, the more grateful you are for the things you do have.

About a year ago, I decided to take a social media break for a month. Of course I had to set rules and limitations for myself because what did this exactly mean? I didn't go on any app except Pinterest, because you know, recipes. I checked my apps only every couple of days to see if there was a notification from someone. This may seem small to some, but it was incredibly liberating for me. The biggest difference I noticed was that I was more mindful about how I spent my time. I didn't realize how much of my time was truly being consumed by my mindless scrolling day after day. I also didn't feel as anxious as I normally did, instead I felt relaxed and over all happier. I had more time to do little projects around the house that have been on my to-do list, more time to read, more time to do a little self care, more time to make dinners from scratch, more time to chat and relax with the husband; I honestly felt like I had all the time in the world. 

I now take these little breaks when I feel the need to and of course each time I am reminded at how much I need to do them more often. 

Oh, the constant health battle. I'm sure everyone has this on their mind at some point or another throughout the week. I'm going to share how I approach this topic and what has worked for me. The biggest point I'm constantly reminding myself is to not get frustrated if I have an unhealthy meal or if I go a while without a workout. It's okay. I'm not trying to reach a dream weight goal or to look a certain way, I just want to be healthy. First step for me starts with the grocery store—if it's not in the house, you're not tempted. I keep breakfasts simple, it's either an apple & banana with peanut butter, a smoothie, or yogurt with fruit and granola. I try not to eat meat during the week and typically only drink water. I don't have a gym membership so I either walk on my treadmill at home, or do simple workout videos online. Even if I just move for 30 minutes at home, that's enough for me and better than nothing at all. I've found that when I do intense workouts, I'm not motivated enough to do them consistently and go even longer without doing anything. All of these "tips" are a part of my lifestyle and I think that is a big key as well. It doesn't feel like work yet I am still being mindful and intentional about the choices I make.

Slowly but surely I am making changes in most areas of my life to support brands whose values and beliefs line up with my own—more natural, eco-friendly, sustainable, cruelty-free, vegan products. The more research I do on this topic, the more I become passionate about it, because yikes, it's a scary one and I couldn't believe the things I've been reading.

This topic aligns with minimalism because I want to buy less, but also invest my money in products that are better but obviously have a bigger price tag than the big name brands out there. I just recently switched over all of my makeup/beauty favorites and household cleaners. I am trying to be intentional about buying things with minimal packaging, but this is a tough one. I am all about supporting local whenever I can, especially at the grocery store.

Everyday better products are becoming more accessible and I hope those brands continue to thrive. -Erica N.

I am what is called a 'renaissance soul': a person who thrives on a variety of interests and redefines the accepted meaning of success (The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine). My interests lie between history, photography, interior design, thrifting, trying new foods, learning about one's culture- I really could go on. All of these interests are exhausting because when I pick up a new 'thing', I go all in. I buy all the necessary tools for said craft and I just start. A couple winters ago, my mother-in-law taught me how to knit. I decided that I wanted to make a blanket so we found a pattern on, bought all the tools and yarn for this blanket and I knitted 3-4 hours a day, for about 2.5 months... yup, I go ALL in. But I absolutely love my drive. After I was finished the blanket, I stopped knitting. Like, literally stopped because I did what I wanted to do and was on to the next project... ugh, i'm so exhausting.

Because of my renaissance soul, I need my day-to-day to be different because I would start hating life if i did the same thing everyday. 

Every year, I find myself in a rut - one of those creative ruts that suck the energy out of me to the point where i have no motivation for anything. These were my thoughts everyday, over and over, "am I happy? am I doing what I love? am I living intentionally everyday? if I died tomorrow, would I have been satisfied with what I have accomplished in my life?" I even worked with a life coach because i didn't know what i wanted to do with my life/is what i'm doing with my life really what i want/how to reach these goals that seem unattainable.

All i knew was that i wanted to be physically active, dedicate time for coffee dates, thrifting, friends and family, traveling, exploring different creative outlets, and collaborating/meeting other creatives. Those aspects are the core of my existence. My time with my life coach was eye-opening because she helped me create a plan to ensure i achieve the most happiest and fulfilling life. 

My first intention was to get my ass to the gym. You may have previously read that I found my new love, kickboxing. I joined when it was slow season because I could better commit... January 7th was when I started Farrell's Extreme Bodyshaping and have never looked back. I go 5-6 days a week and I miss my gym and people if I miss even one day. Because of this new lifestyle, I had to switch up my daily routine. I went from 8-5 to 11-5 at my job so that I could get to the gym everyday at 9:30am. Cutting my hours was a hard decision but it was the best decision for me. Another schedule change was taking of Fridays to focus on my photography career and dedicate time to the things and people that help me maintain a wholesome life.

Because I crave new experiences, I try and travel every year. Travel to me includes short/long road trips, flying to a few states or across the world. In order to feed my travel appetite, I have to block off certain weekends/weeks in advance - even if i don't have any plans yet because in doing so, i set time for myself and/or husband to travel or to just be together. I started doing this because I was burnt out after my first year as a self-employed photographer. Traveling means $$$ of course... so i keep my spendings at a minimum during slow season and save as much as I can during busy season. I never let money become an issue for me... no, i'm not raking in dough but i'm not broke. A friend told me something that will always stick with me, "money will always come". It's true. So if i want to book flight tickets or a staycation in downtown MPLS, then I will. I don't dwell about not having enough for X because if I want it badly enough, I'll work for it. 

And while I'm pretty timid and quiet, i needed a social life and enjoyed meeting new people. So being that i do not put myself out there, ever, it was very hard for me to reach out to the community - I had a fear of rejection. And though I have been rejected more times than I can count, I can now easily brush it off because i don't need to be wasting time wallowing. Instead, I spend time creating and strengthening relationships with those who are worth my time and appreciate my friendship.

If you are finding that you are at a plateau with life, sit down and write down what makes you truly happy, light up with joy, and make you beam. Start small... If it's hard to come up with something, keep in mind your feelings the next time when you're out and about and notice:

1) How the fresh blooms warms your heart = buy a bouquet for yourself.
2) Wearing that shade of lipstick on occasion makes you feel invincible = start wearing it during the week. 
3) How you enjoy reading or hearing about random acts of kindness = R
andomly leave sweet post-it notes at your workplace/home/public.
4) You're feeling sad because you haven't spoken to a friend in awhile = send a "thinking about you" card.

5) You love making home-cooked meals = light a candle during dinner.
6) Physical touch is one of your love languages =
 add a few more seconds to a hug.

The simplest pleasures can really make your everyday a little sweeter. -Amy Smith

You made it! I hope you enjoyed reading through all the different ways people approach intentional living and possibly inspire you to put some intention in your life. 

Many, many thanks and big hugs to all who shared their words. It's not easy to be publicly vulnerable and I am incredibly humble to have been an outlet for your thoughts.

And many thanks to YOU for reading.

Are you in a rut or getting out of a rut? I would love to hear what steps or actions you're taking or want to take to create a more wholesome lifestyle. Comment below or privately reach out if you need someone to talk to <3

3rd place

3rd place

Paris, Brussels, and Brugge

Paris, Brussels, and Brugge