The Power Of Living The Intentional Life

in·ten·tion [in-ten-shuhn]


  1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

  2. the end or object intended; purpose.


It is far too easy to coast through life without determined direction. Especially in today’s world of endless distractions (anyone ever try the random article feature of Wikipedia?), one can drift from action to action without giving so much as a thought as to a higher goal or purpose.

I fall prey to this from time to time (perhaps more often than I’d like to admit). Take this scenario: I’ll open an article to read, which links to another, then another, then another. I’m a very intense reader, such that I easily get lost in the sea of words without much sense of time passing. I look up, and before I know it, hours have passed and I have little to show for it except having increased my knowledge around some random area of interest, and a lingering feeling of guilt over having not been more productive.

I’d like to pause here, and let you consider your reaction to the above passage. What questions would you ask me? Would you say, “But what’s wrong with reading? Don’t you think reading is a wonderful way to increase one’s knowledge? Would you have us all be machines who simple churn out production every hour of the day?”

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Understand, I am not saying that spending time (even a lot of time) reading random wikipedia articles about the 2007 Asian women’s junior handball championship is, in and of itself, a bad thing. I love reading, and think that it is an absolutely crucial part of lifelong education. If you look at your goals and your lists, and you decide that the best use of your time is to learn about the history of a random Louisiana highway, then by all means, go forth and don’t feel an ounce of guilt.

What’s the difference, you might ask? Simple: in the second case the act was done in an intentional manner. There’s quite a difference between carefully choosing among various ways to spend your time (a most valuable and precious commodity), and letting whim take your by the leash and drag you wherever it chooses.

When I talk about “living the intentional life”, I mean to say that I strive to spend the limited hours of my life in a conscious and considered manner. I have goals that I want to achieve, and, whether it be to become a better father, publish a science fiction novel, or even have a clean set of clothes to wear come Monday morning, the only way to accomplish them is through calculated allocation of the one resource I control fully: my time.

“But where’s the fun,” you say. “Where’s the spontaneity in that?”

Let me be clear: living in an intentional manner in no way conflicts with embracing spontaneity.

Let me give an example. As I planned my day, I intended to spend several hours in the afternoon writing this post. When the time to begin came around, I sat down, closed all my browsers, shut the office door, and began writing. I was humming along nicely, when I noticed that it was snowing quite heavily outside my office window. At that moment, the goal of finishing this post became less important than spending some quality time playing in the snow with my young son. This was a conscious choice to deviate from my original intent for the sake of some impromptu fun, and I do not have one ounce of regret for making it. In fact, one of the reasons I was able to do this on a whim was because I had spent earlier time in the day wisely working on various tasks around the house. In this way, intention breeds spontaneity, instead of smothering it.

All you have to do in order to live with intent is to use your power of reason and will to direct your own activity. From time to time, stop whatever you are doing, and ask if this is really how you want to be spending what little time you have left on this Earth. If it be in pursuit of making an army of snow angels with your children, so be it. If it be working towards restoring that classic car you’ve always dreamed of, so be it. Even if it involves nothing more than sitting with a cup of tea and reading the tabloids, so be it. Free will is one of the most basic and powerful of all human abilities; use it wisely and there is nothing you cannot accomplish.

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