In the current issue of Success magazine, publisher Darren Hardy (www.success.com) describes how his wife approaches interior design. First, she takes everything out of the room. Then she adds back only what is necessary and what fits, and what is needed becomes evident in the process. The analogy is made by the publisher that this process works not only in interior design, but in business, and in our personal lives. When redesigning your life: take everything out, and then put back only what you actually need and want. (This is best done on paper first.)
Why is it that when we are blindsided by crisis, our dreams and visions seem to grow exponentially? I think it’s because of the space the crisis provides: it wipes the slate clean, and as long as there is a good foundation, a whole new life can be rebuilt. When things fall apart, take the opportunity to examine your life, and what you were doing. Was there anything of value? What elements do you want to keep? What do you never want to do again? Unless you are living an intentional life, you will unintentionally recreate the same mess you were in before.
In the same issue of the magazine, John C. Maxwell discusses how he decided years ago to implement two qualities, being intentional, and being consistent, and how this has led to success in his own life. We tend to keep adding to our lives in a frenzied attempt to look for what is missing; what we don’t do is take out what isn’t working, or isn’t necessary so we can get a better look at what we actually have. We have untapped resources and opportunities already built into our daily lives that we don’t take advantage of because we can’t see them. We are emotional hoarders of relationships and activities that no longer serve a purpose.
This is what it looks like in practice: We go to church and hear the Pastor speak on how we as a church are not ready. We leave the church parking lot blessed and highly motivated, and full of good intentions. On the way home, we stop to get the Sunday paper, put gas in the car, go to Wegman’s to buy food for lunch, or go out to eat with friends and/or family; maybe run to the mall, or throw in some laundry, do the dishes, and watch television. The next morning, we wake up late, get ready, run out the door, and get sucked back into another day of mindless, unfruitful activity.
Unless we intentionally put our bottoms in a chair, and sit down with a Bible, a notebook, a pen, and at the very least a dictionary, it is just not going to happen. I happen to like to study; I listen to motivational teaching, or messages from church in the car; I have stacks of books by my bed, and I’m always studying or researching some topic, even when I’m not in school. I carry notebooks, pens, highlighters, because it’s fun for me. I realize it’s not for everybody, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be intentional in your own way about studying the Word.
At some point over the next twenty-four hours, take out a blank sheet of paper. Draw a circle in the middle; this represents you. Now draw lines extending from the circle to smaller circles, and label them with the parts of your life that are necessary; these will be specific and different for different people. Most people will have circles labeled with family, work, friends, church, school, or whatever pertains to their own lives. Those are the circles you need to examine; the work you do, the classes you are taking (or not taking) the church you attend; the friends and associates you claim as your own. What you are basically doing is taking inventory. Now get another sheet of blank paper. Put you in the middle. Now, only put the circles back that are necessary, or that you actually want in your life. And each smaller circle will have only the people, or activities you actually want and need for you own health and well-being. What gets left out? Or who? I recently got a new cell phone; the only names I put in immediately were my parents and my daughters. I am gradually adding other family members, and have added a couple of close friends, but when I looked at the contact list on the old phone, I realized I don’t want to add all those numbers. Too much stress, too much noise; too many distractions. So I will be very careful about what I add. Same thing with work; being out of a job is like having a clean slate. I’m still a counselor; still a writer; still an educator, but in terms of a paycheck, my options are open. Intentional living means we create space for growth in our lives; sometimes life does it for us, whether we intended to or not. Either way, it’s an opportunity.
“Now is the time to develop new habits, new goals, and new perspectives that will give your life a quality that will bring honor to the God who loved you so much that He gave His life for you.” ~ Ted W. Engstrom The Pursuit of Excellence (Zondervan, 1982)