The previous two articles have been about making the decision and commitment to live intentionally and establishing a solid foundation, a framework, to build on. This article will build on the content of the last two weeks by providing you with some structure and strategic exercises to practically take some seriously helpful action steps for how to begin pursuing a more intentional life.
If you read, What Intentional Living Means & Why It Matters, you’ll remember the top 10 reasons I listed for why each of us at various times and in various ways have struggled with living distracted, unintentional, ineffective lives. I chose to address 3 of those reasons in this article. If intentional changes are implemented in these three areas, you’ll experience massive results in your life! Let’s get started.
Our purpose communicates why we exist. It’s what the Creator designed us for. If our vision communicates to us where we are going, then our purpose communicates why we are going there in the first place. Purpose makes sure that the vision is properly aligned with reality: or the world as it actually is from God’s perspective.
There are two key things to understand about purpose. 1) There’s two primary types of purpose, and 2) True purpose can only be discovered, not created.
1) Two types of purpose: ultimate purpose vs. personalized purpose
We all need to understand our purpose. You were made by the Creator and for the Creator, and until you understand your life in the context of why you were made and who you were made for, then your life will never make sense. There is one ultimate purpose for every life on earth but many contextualized and specific applications of how that purpose works itself out in each life.
For example, our overall purpose, to love, glorify and enjoy God forever is the same for all of us but it looks slightly different for each person as it’s applied to their specific cultural contexts, experiences, commitments and so on. This is where our God-given purpose get’s more specific and personalized.
This is often true of how truth works. Though it is absolute and the same for all people, in all places, at all times, it has many different applications. One interpretation but many applications.
In our case with this topic we have the truth of gifted and discovered purpose and identity to all humanity, but how that is applied to me individually as a married man with 3 kids will be slightly different then it is applied to you. Our core purpose and identity in Christ is the same but how that’s played out experientially everyday looks different for each of us.
2) True purpose can only be discovered not created
Beware of trying to shape and create your own purpose. Our purpose is gifted to us from the Creator and therefore discovered. If we do create our own purpose, then what we are living for is smaller than us, it is beneath us. But if our purpose is given to us from the Creator above us then our purpose will be something that is bigger than us, something that comes from outside of us and is beyond us.
We need this kind of purpose, a purpose that drives us to greater toil and triumph beyond mere human accolades and definitions of success. Something that inspires us and gives our soul a reason to exist and to conquer.
Discovering and owning this type of purpose and vision for ourselves is vital because it’s a purpose and vision for life that we receive and discover from God rather than something we create or achieve for ourselves.
If we are going to make any kind of real lasting impact in the world around us then it must start here: with our gifted and discovered purpose.
This is the first step of establishing a solid framework. Once this piece is well-set in the bedrock of our life then we can take this big picture purpose and vision and give it practical areas of applications. This is when we begin to see more clearly how and where we can be loving God and loving people most effectively. Definition and documentation always brings clarity. It helps us apply what we know to be true.
Take some time to think about your why and your core motivations. Define and document what you believe God created you for and Jesus is calling you to do.
Questions to get you started:
- What is my purpose? Why do I exist?
- At the end of my life, what do I want to have achieved?
- What kind of legacy do I want to leave?
My encouragement is to get out your journal or open up your notes app and write these questions down, reflect on them and write down what comes to your mind. Revisit them often and refine them as you grow and learn.
People lose their way, when they lose their why. ~ Gail Hyatt
“It is not what people see but what people don’t see that often matters most—meaning our beliefs and our character.” ~ Neal Samudre
Intentional living requires core beliefs. Outside of understanding your purpose, core beliefs are the most important part of your life framework.
Believe it or not, there’s always a belief behind your actions. Beliefs Drive Actions. In the business world, there is a lot of talk about core values. They are designed to clearly communicate what a company believes and considers important. Some examples might be; Collaboration, Innovation, Ownership, and Freedom.
These core values typically make up the company’s primary identity and culture. The same is true of an individual. I like to call these Core Beliefs. Why? Because what we value, or hold as important in life, comes from what we believe to be true about life. All actions are inspired first by beliefs and these beliefs shape our values. So, a core belief articulates what we value most and why we value it.
Value + Why = Core Belief
The combination of what we value most and why we value it formulates our core beliefs. These core beliefs construct the foundation of all our actions, they give us a reason for all our actions, a should/shouldn’t test.
For instance, we might have the belief that we’re created in God’s image to be creative and innovative. This would, therefore lead us to value creativity and innovation and drive us to spend our time working and innovating to make the world around us a better place.
We desire to do certain things because we believe in and value those things. In the end, we should be able to track every action back to a core belief. Because of this, it’s essential that we identify what these beliefs are and why we have them.
Identifying and writing down our beliefs will help us vocalize for ourselves and others why we do what we do and help us understand and communicate what’s important to us. Additionally, when we’re tempted to deviate from our core beliefs we will have a written reminder of what they are. The key is to extract those beliefs and values and clearly state what they are.
Make a list of what you believe and value most in life.
Take some time to think about and define the beliefs, motivations, and reasons behind your actions. Write down what you value most in life. Write down any beliefs that you can currently identify that are the “whys” behind your actions – you can do this by associating an action with a belief.
Questions to get you started:
- What beliefs shape your actions on a daily basis?
- What do you value most in life?
It is not what a man accumulates (possessions) or achieves (power), but what he believes and strives for through grace-driven effort and persevering grit that makes him noble and great.
Finally, once you’ve started to define your life framework, particularly your purpose and core beliefs, you can begin structuring and building your habits and routines around your purpose and core beliefs.
Intentional living requires habits and routines built within your life framework and around your purpose, beliefs, and values.
A habit is an activity that is repeatedly practiced and hard to give up.
A routine is a sequence of multiple habits regularly followed together as a system or program.
Now that you have freshly documented your purpose and what you believe and value, it’s time you start acting on those beliefs and values in the daily execution of your life. In this step of the process, you must ask yourself: are my everyday actions consistent with what I believe and value?
To get started on this step, note prominent activities and moments in your day. Ask yourself, are they consistent with my purpose, beliefs, and values?
Additionally, write down your morning routine and evening routine. Not what you’d like them to be but what they currently are.
- I got up at 7:35
- I showered and got dressed as fast as I could
- I scarfed a muffin down on my way out the door
- I was 3 minutes late for work
Or, a more positive example might be
- I got up at 6:15
- I made some coffee and breakfast with my wife
- I read my Bible as I ate breakfast and drank my coffee
- Helped get the kids up and dressed
- Showered and got ready for work
- Brushed my teeth
- Kissed the wife and kids goodbye as I headed out the door
- Arrived at work 10 minutes early
Whatever your routine and the habits included, write them down. What we need to realize up front is that we all have habits and routines, they just might not be the ones we want. The best place for change to begin is to recognize what is actually going on, own up to it. Then we can craft a plan to overcome and change the habits and routines that are already in place.
Once you note whether your purpose and core beliefs are consistent or not and once you write down your current morning and evening habits and routines it’s time for you to strategizing which habits and routines might help you live in alignment with your purpose and core beliefs more consistently.
For instance, a value of purposeful relationship with your family might include a routine of evening family time and family worship together. Habits included here might be family Bible reading and prayer or no-screen time while you’re at the dinner table or spending time together.
As you begin, remember that habits should be small single tasks that can be accomplish in a short amount of time. I’d suggest looking for ways to make the core beliefs and values that you’ve identified habitual before anything else. Also, consider making one of your primary habits waking up early!
Once you’ve decided on the habits you will begin with, build a daily routine that you will follow to implement these. Remember, a routine is a sequence of multiple habits regularly followed together as a system. With that in mind, the best way to structure a routine is to organize your habits into blocks of your day – morning, midday, evening – and decide where those habits will best fit. Once you’ve placed your habits properly into their routine, you’re now ready to begin.
It’s important to note that not every habit or routine needs to be daily. There are weekly and monthly habits and routines as well. This is why setting up an overall system is more helpful than just having goals or habits you’re working on; habits fit into routines, routines help to achieve goals, goals help to accomplish the mission, and the mission is in alignment with the overall vision and purpose. All these together fit into your life framework.
Define what actions need to be made habits, and commit to those actions for about 60 days or more.
Questions to help you get started:
- What are my current habits and routines?
- Are my daily and weekly habits and routines, actions and activities, consistent with my purpose and core beliefs?
- What Jesus-centric, grace-empowered, action can I take to align my behavior with my core beliefs.
Planning is absolutely key to effective execution but planning without execution is the worst kind of ineffectiveness.
Of course, there is more that could be covered; I’ve only touched on 3 of the obstacles to living an intentional life from the previous post. But these are 3 of the most important ones, vital to getting you started.
The great news about getting started is just that: you’re started. It’s way better than not being started. 🙂
Always remember that every investment into aligning your life with what matters according to Jesus will result in great gain. Habits that are aligned with your purpose and core beliefs will produce character and integrity (one-thing-ness). As those aligned habits solidify and start shaping your everyday life, your character will be more defined, visible, and impactful on the world around you. Always remember, character will produce a lasting impact and legacy.