The True Me, Part 3: Living with intentionJun 12, 2019
This is part three of a series called The True Me: A new approach to goal setting. While each piece can be enjoyed individually, please check out parts 1 and 2 for a more complete picture!
Intentional, not busy
A few years ago, I was chatting with a woman I greatly admire who had just retired. As she shared with me the speaking engagements she had scheduled, the bible studies she was leading or participating in, and her upcoming travel plans, I remarked, “Wow! It sounds like you’re really keeping busy!”
She smiled. “No, not busy. Intentional.” She explained that she carefully weighed every commitment, every decision. This woman didn’t want to just fill her time in her retirement. She wanted to use her time wisely, ensuring that it was going toward things that were important to her.
My friend had no idea the impact that one comment would make on me. She doesn’t know that my word for the following year was “intentional,” that I still hear her voice in my head five years later, or that it is now part of my personal mission statement.
Many of us live busy lives. Commitments overwhelm our calendars–for ourselves, our kids, our families. Often the deciding factor is not “Is this something I really want?” but “Can I possibly cram this into my schedule?” As long as we can answer with a resounding “eh… maybe,” we toss it onto the pile. Before you know it, we are buried.
What if, instead of letting our schedule drive our direction, we chose our direction and let it drive our schedule? What if, instead of watching our lives fly by, we chose to live on purpose?
This is the intentional life. It is not necessarily full of Big Important Things, but of things that are important to you.
Living with Purpose
Being intentional begins with setting your priorities. The world is full of good ideas, causes, and people. But sometimes good is the enemy of great—in other words, we might need to cut some “good” things out of our lives to make space for the “great” things. This might mean cutting out commitments to make room in your schedule, donations to free up your budget a bit, or even certain relationships to maintain space for others.
Of course, this means using a hard but powerful word: “no.” Try it once. Say it out loud. Go ahead, I’ll wait. “No.” Say it again, with meaning. Just keep practicing. Because saying “no” well makes your “yes” even more powerful. You see, every “yes” that you give is a “no” to something else. (If you struggle with this, I highly recommend the book The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst. So much wisdom!)
Once our priorities are established and boundaries in place, we move on to the next step: Purposeful investment. Once I declare my priorities, how do I start to live them out? This happens in two ways, planned and spontaneous.
A planned investment would include setting a goal and working toward it. It also means specifically setting aside time for that priority. For instance, I determined that my writing and speaking ministry is an area of importance to me. So I set specific goals for my writing this year, such as releasing an ebook. (Yep, it’s coming! Stay tuned!) I also sit down each week and schedule hours for writing, improving my skills, and building my platform. Because if I say that writing and speaking are important to me but don’t intentionally build them into my life, that ministry will lie stagnant—or worse, wither up and die—as the urgent cries of life chip away at them.
Spontaneous investment is just what it sounds like. If one of your priorities is to pour into your friendships and a friend calls to ask if you’re free for coffee, go. Don’t say no because you’re already in your pajamas. If you have little kids at home and can’t get away, invite her over. Don’t let the mess keep you from what’s really important. Keep your eyes open for those opportunities.
This sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But of course, simple doesn’t always mean easy. Sometimes you have to fight for those things you declare to be your priorities, even with yourself. This is why I strongly encourage you to write them down. We can so easily talk ourselves into (or out of) just about anything, but if we can come back and compare it to our own black-and-white list, it helps us to make better choices.
The last step in intentional living is one we often miss: assess and adjust. Our priorities change over time. We shouldn’t be strapped to something forever just because it was a part of our lives at one time—or be burdened with guilt over letting it go.
For years I sang or played the piano in my church(es). Music held a central position in my ministry, and I loved it. Over time it got pushed to the background (because I did not intentionally make space for it), though year after year I would whine to Jon that I wanted to join again. Finally this year, I reassessed my priorities and involvements, and I realized it’s time to just let go. I still enjoy sitting at the piano when I need a break or singing in church from my seat (and in the car and the shower and at the kitchen sink and, well, you get the idea), but in this season of life, it is not my priority. And that’s OK. Because seeing the things that are on my priority list brings me so much joy. Knowing that my time is being spent investing in areas and people important to me makes it easier to let go of things whose time has passed.
Friends, this is such an important topic that later this year, we will be walking through a whole series on intentional living. Today’s post is just an overview, the tip of the iceberg. But I hope it has given you a jumping off point, a way to begin living your life on purpose.
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