We all, on occasion, have to make tough choices in life. We may have to choose whether to stay in a relationship. Or we may have to choose whether to relocate or change our job. Whenever we make such choices, not only do we have to think about ourselves, but we also have to consider […]
Many of us live our lives on auto-pilot. We follow the same schedule each day. We respond to crises as they occur. And we sort of putter along, year after year, with no goals or grand purpose.
The problem is that at a certain point, the years have slipped by, and we wonder where the time has gone. We’ve met our responsibilities, but we haven’t done much more. There is nothing wrong with living life on auto-pilot, but most people want much more than that from life.
The key to having a meaningful life is to live life intentionally. That means thoughtfully choosing how you are going to spend every hour of every day. Now you may say, “Well, I really can’t choose how I spend each hour of my day. I am a single mom. I work, and then I have child care responsibilities. My day is decided for me!”
My response is this: You are deciding how to spend your time. You are making the choice to work to support yourself and your children. You are also making the choice to care for them responsibly. You may think of those activities as things that you have to do. They aren’t. There are plenty of folks out there who blow off their parental responsibilities and solely satisfy their own interests. Choosing to take care of your kids is indeed a choice – a good one.
We all make choices every hour of every day. We choose how we are going to spend our time. We choose how we are going to treat other people. We choose to live responsibly or irresponsibly. Those are all choices.
When we live intentionally, we choose to spend our time in ways that reflect our values. For instance, I value being a parent. It is my most important job. So, I get up a little bit earlier each day to take my daughter to school so that she and I can have extra time together in the morning. I drive her to various lessons, and help her in a myriad of other ways. I certainly don’t have to do any of that. She could take the bus, and no child needs to have extra-curricular activities. But I choose to do it. I want to spend my time taking good care of her because I value being a parent.
That is what intentionality is all about. It is about making choices as to how we spend our time. I choose to work at a fulltime job because I want to contribute to our household’s income. I choose to write for Beliefnet because I want to make a positive contribution to the world through my writing. These are both choices that I make each day.
Once you think of your day as a series of intentional choices, you will look at your life completely differently. For instance, I don’t have to spend as much time as I do parenting my child. I choose to do so, because spending time with my child is important to me. I don’t have to cook dinner, either. We could easily get take out, or eat frozen dinners. But I choose to cook nice meals because it is important to me for our family to have a wholesome lifestyle.
Once you start being more intentional with how you spend your time, it becomes more difficult to waste time. For example, it is hard to sit and watch two hours of television every night, when you start looking at every hour as a choice. How will I spend this hour? Will I do something valuable with my time?
Of course, you can choose to spend an hour watching television. But if you do, then be intentional about it. Choose to watch that hour of television because you need to give your body and brain an hour of rest. Don’t watch an hour of television because you can’t think of anything else worthwhile to do!
The more that you think about why you are doing certain things throughout the day, the better you will feel about how you are spending your time. For instance, cleaning your house isn’t just housework when you do it with a specific intention in mind. If your goal is to have an elegant home, then house cleaning is about creating beauty. It isn’t simply about mopping the floor.
Similarly, if your goal is to create a great lifestyle for your family, eating well-prepared meals is part of achieving that. Once you have the goal of a great lifestyle, then cooking isn’t just drudgery. Rather, it is part of creating a home life that is enjoyable.
This week, consider how you are spending your time. Can you clearly state the purpose behind everything that you do? Ask yourself the “why” question for every activity: Why am I doing this? What value is it bringing to my life? An intentional life is truly a life worth living.
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