We live most of our days on autopilot. The movement for living more intentionally has been surging in recent years to fight back against our default autopilot mode. What threads through the spectrum of wisdom to come from this movement is the idea of approaching our decision-making through first principles.
First principles can cover many things, but for clarity, I will refer to two main areas, our fundamental beliefs and our base priorities. The former serves as a personal up-to-date model of the world. Naturally, with new experiences and information, these models can transform. Our fundamental beliefs act, in that sense, as our first principles, the things that we would continue to believe irrespective of what happens. The latter, our base priorities, are the rankings of our higher-order needs including relationships, work, health, family, etc. These dictate how you should spend your scarce resources e.g. time & money.
It is not enough to think to ourselves that we want to, for example, do an online course; we need to convince ourselves that our motivation can be traced back to our fundamental beliefs or base priorities. Do we want to do the course because it will look good? Perhaps it will boost our CV? Maybe the content is inherently interesting, and the motivation comes from place of curiosity. The first question to ask is whether it is in alignment with your base priorities? If the priority is to achieve financial stability, and the course will help to teach the skills needed to do so, then it would make sense. The second question would be to question whether it aligns with your fundamental beliefs. If you are taking the course just because a prestigious institution is delivering it, then maybe you should reconsider. If, however, you are taking it because the instructor is the best in their field, then that would be more palatable.
To live intentionally is impossible without adopting a first principles approach to decision-making.