A habit is defined as a repeated action; something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it; like an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary. Intent is defined as; a determination to perform a particular act or to act in a particular manner for a specific reason; an aim or design; a resolution to use a certain means to reach an end. The key to living intentionally is mindfulness, and that’s something anyone can do. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Deep down, what does every person want most? To live a life that matters. We all want to feel like the time we spent on earth made a difference. How do we achieve that?
As Dr. Randy Carlson says, “Intentional living happens when you combine information, insight, and action.” We are each bombarded by information constantly, but few people take the time necessary to reflect on their experiences, develop insight, and then take action, I believe, this is the heart of intentional living!
Anyone is capable of living intentionally. More importantly, living an intentional life leads to a more deliberate and effective approach to life; a life with greater impact and greater satisfaction. We don’t have to drift though life fatalistically, we can choose to craft lives that positively impact our families, communities, nations and the world at large. I believe that living intentionally can help you be happier and have fewer regrets. As so aptly stated by Curt Kampmeier, “If you’re going to grow, you have to be intentional.”
John Maxwell, Author of Intentional Living states, “When you intentionally use your influence every day to bring about positive change in the lives of others, you achieve significance. There is a big difference between a life of good intentions and an intentional life. Almost everyone has good intentions. Living an intentional life, however, has thought and purpose to it. And the best thing about intentional living? It’s within everyone’s reach.” Maxwell contends that in order to matter we need to be intentional and that’s the difference between wanting to make a difference and actually making a difference. It’s hard to argue with that premise!
Many of us go through our days awake, but following patterns and habits we’ve developed over the years. We are going through the motions, doing things without much forethought. Contrast this with the idea of living intentionally, where everything you do is done with consciousness, fulfilling one of your core values (compassion, or kindness for example), then living intentionally becomes a conscious act!
It’s true that many things we do have some kind of intent, like washing the dishes because we don’t want a messy house or ants in my kitchen, driving to work because we need to make a living, driving the kids to school because they need to learn. However after repeating these actions every day, the intent kind of fades into the background so that we are barely aware of them. We think we have figured out the intent long ago, and don’t need to think about them anymore, but what if that changed? What if you were very aware of your intention for your actions? How would that transform the action, and your life?
What if you washed the dishes, but first said you are doing this as a service to your family, to make them happy, and as a form of meditation for yourself, to practice mindfulness? Doing the dishes would suddenly take on much more importance, and would cease to be boring. The only difference is intention!
What if driving to work was done after mentally declaring an intention to help others at work, to make people happy, to find satisfaction through your work? The drive might be much happier, and you might be less likely to get irate when someone inevitably cuts you off in traffic. This is the Intentional Life!
Intentional living is created by learning to pause for a moment, closing your eyes, and mentally stating your intention. Why are you doing this? Is it out of compassion for others, or yourself? Is it to make someone happier? To improve the world? Out of gratitude and kindness of others? And then, as you make a decision and take action, be mindful of your intention. This is a small step, but in those few moments, you will be living an Intentional Life!
The worst thing you could ever waste is living your life out habit. Instead, commit yourself to live intentionally, live boldly, by design and create the life you desire, because the only difference between who you are and who you want to be is in what you do consciously, daily!
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