The End Goal

Published by Thriving Erin on

 

What is an intentionally lived life? What does it look like? Does it mean we have achieved great things in our career, or that we’ve seen the world, or that we’ve spent lots of time with our family? In our online world today we are exposed to dozens of stories daily about people who have started their own businesses, travelled to every continent, fed thousands of homeless people, and invented world-changing apps.

I got an email from my Grandma the other day about my blog. She loved it of course (that’s what Grandma’s are there for!), but in talking about the blog she said:

 

At our stage in life I don’t live that intentionally.  Things that are important to us are the Lord, each other, family, friends & the Church.  We are so thankful for every day the Lord has given us. We are so very, very blessed.

 

It was surprising to me that she thinks she doesn’t live very intentionally, she’s one of the most intentional people I know and anyone who spends five minutes with her will easily be able to identify what is important to her. It made me realize that even my Grandma has become a victim of modern media. The media shows us that someone living intentionally is leading dozens of people in a world-changing enterprise, working out two hours a day, creating Instagram-worthy meals that stick to the ketogenic diet, volunteering with underprivileged youth, and travelling the world in their spare time. To me, that sounds ridiculously overwhelming (and if that’s you, you amaze me!). Though this super-person may be living intentionally, living intentionally doesn’t necessarily need to look like this.

 

Living intentionally starts with an internal awareness, it needs to be a personal thing. You won’t know how to make intentional decisions if you won’t have a baseline for where you’re going. How many of us could so quickly and succinctly define exactly what is important to us as easily as my Grandma did in her email? To take it even further, how many of us live lives where others could easily define exactly what is important to us?

 

Living and thriving intentionally is not about having more success in your career, it’s not about travelling the world, it’s not even about spending more time with your family. Living and thriving intentionally is knowing what’s important to you, and focusing on those things, choosing to better yourself and improve your life in those areas. For the last 70+ years, my Grandma has lived her life, intentionally prioritizing and investing herself into the Lord, her marriage, her family, her friends, and the Church. She is now living in the result of that. The decisions are now natural, her lifestyle has developed around the things she has decided are important and anyone who spends time with her can tell you exactly what’s important to her.

 

It doesn’t mean that the things she values are the definition of an intentional life, it’s her clarity, her focus, and her unwavering confidence that she’s not missing out on “better” things by valuing what she does. Intentionality implies a goal, but the goal shouldn’t be a thing, the goal should be a direction. When a goal is a specific thing we will either succeed or fail, but either way, there is a finish. When the goal is a direction, we can intentionally pursue it continually. There is no “end goal.” The goal is life, its assurance, enjoyment, peace, and purpose. It never ends, never stays the same, and it isn’t always easy, but the journey is always worth it.

 

Categories: Musings

2 Comments

Ted Lemon · September 11, 2019 at 3:59 am

It’s funny, Andrea and I were talking about this same question the other day, and I made a pretty similar pitch. I’m curious why we call this “living intentionally,” though. It feels like if it’s done right, it just flows. It’s almost as if the intentional part of “living intentionally” is the pruning process, where you notice all the things that don’t belong, and stop emphasizing them, stop taking refuge in them.

One thing that Andrea said about it that really resonated for me is that the kind of “intentional living” that you describe at the beginning—the kind your grandmother is not doing—has some major downsides. First, if you are able to sustain it for some period of time, does it bring satisfaction? I don’t think so. Second, though, usually we don’t manage to sustain it, but we hold it out as an ideal, and then we beat ourselves up for not managing to actually do it. So this fiction of “intentional living” becomes a bludgeon that we use to make ourselves suffer.

I prefer your grandmother’s approach.

Steven Thompson · September 10, 2019 at 2:11 am

Thanks for sharing a personal piece with us . I enjoyed how you used your grandmother’s email to make a point about how we are often influenced by external accomplishments and the pivot to focusing on thins that are valuable. I was curious about one sentence, why did you draw the conclusion that your grandmother had been influenced by the culture into not thinking she was living intentionally? I enjoyed reading your work!

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