When thinking about our lives, it can be helpful to think about what “intentional” means. For me, leading an intentional life is about choice—making our own decisions about what we do, think, and feel. It means charting a path for ourselves and navigating that path effectively.
Many people go through their lives engaging in only those experiences that pop up. Something comes across their path—a job, an experience, a friend—and those things become their life. They aren’t proactive in creating their lives—their lives just happen. Others only live the life that is expected of them. Expected by their parents, their teachers, or their circumstances. They do what is expected of them, not what would give them a sense of happiness or meaning according to their values and passions.
It is important to make some time for reflection in our lives.
If we can make the time to think deeply about what we do, how we interact with others, and what direction our lives are heading, we can make each of these aspects of our lives more meaningful and give ourselves the peace of mind that comes from living intentionally.
It is important to understand not just what is happening in our lives but why it is happening and what the consequences will be. Sometimes it may feel like we’re going through life like a pinball—being bounced around with little control over our direction. Why does it feel this way? Are we not taking charge of our direction? Are we trying to take charge but can’t for some reason? Are our lives really out of control, or does it just seem that way? If we reflect on our direction in life and gain a better understanding of the forces that influence that direction, we will be much more likely to move in the direction that we want and will feel more confident in our path.
The notion of balance is an old one but is as important now as it has ever been. Modern life tends to move at a frenetic pace. Our professional and personal lives are equally demanding, and we are getting information, both helpful and unhelpful, at the speed of light.
We each start our day with a bottle full of mental and emotional energy—our energy juice—and it can go fast.
We use up a significant amount during our workday. For many, that’s where most of the bottle is poured. Then when we come home, we pour a bit more out—maybe while coaching our kids or engaging in their school functions. We pour a bit more out while interacting with our spouse and working through marital issues. Then we see if there’s any more left in the bottle to address day-to-day problems and issues, such as bills, doctor appointments, household maintenance, and the never-ending stream of minutiae we all have to deal with. After all this, we turn to those things that we do for ourselves. But when we pick up the bottle, there’s nothing left.
Being called an animal is often meant as an insult—a suggestion that we’re not “civilized,” that we don’t have control over our impulses. But there are other ways we can interpret our animal nature. We can take it to mean that we’re in tune with the world around us, that we pay attention to our senses and what they’re telling us, that we’re aware of and comfortable with nature.
Of course, the thing that sets us apart from “other animals” is our brain, which gives us the ability to reason and our sense of self. While it does set us apart, it doesn’t have to draw a hard line between us and other animals. We have lived for so long without the need to pay attention to the world around us that many of us have lost the inclination. We only see the natural elements of our world when we make a concerted effort or in extreme circumstances.
When you think about the word “graceful,” what comes to mind? Maybe a dancer like Fred Astaire, or an athlete like Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio’s playing was described as “elegant,” and it was said he “glided” around the outfield with the “grace” of a cat. These are not words that you often find in the sports page, but when people saw DiMaggio play, those were the words that fit.
Where does grace come from? Are people born with it? When you see someone who is clumsy or awkward, do you think they are just like that, or they just aren’t paying attention? For the body, there is two-way communication. Listen to your body and compel your body to listen to you. This comes down to awareness. A simple idea, but one on which few really act.