Learning to Live Intentionally

When I was a young wife and mother, I hadn’t really thought about intentional living. If you had asked me what it meant to live intentionally, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about what that meant. But I began to hear those words from wiser and more experienced wives and mothers, and then I came across a book that really made me think about the concept. As I’ve become one of those more experienced- and hopefully wiser- moms, I’ve realized the value of living intentionally.

The value of living intentionally

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So what does it mean to live intentionally?

Everything you do, everything I do is either an action or a reaction. When you live your life without a plan, without a focus, then you are often a reactionary person. Life comes your way, and you are constantly reacting to it. When you have a focus for your life, you can choose your actions. This doesn’t mean that unexpected things won’t happen. It doesn’t mean that everything will always go according to your plan. But it does mean that on a day to basis, you can have a peace and calmness because you have focus.

Here’s an example. Picture these two different shopping trips with young children.

Trip One

You head out the door with kids in tow knowing you need some things from the grocery store. You didn’t have time to make a list, so you’re planning to wing it. You don’t really look at the time, so you don’t realize that it’s almost noon as you’re heading out. Breakfast wasn’t a planned event either, so who knows what they ate or when each kid ate breakfast. You make it to the store without incident and head in with the kids. Immediately whining begins. Kids are hungry. It’s lunch time, and being in the grocery store surrounded by food drives home how hungry they are. You head down the aisles, snapping at kids all along the way. You can’t think with all the whining, so you snap at the kids to be quiet. Your snapping is partially successful, but the preschooler begins to cry because you snapped. Now you’re walking down the aisle with one kid in the cart crying and three kids walking along muttering under their breath. You end up grabbing whatever you can think of, adding ice cream, sugary cereal, and pop tarts to the buggy even though you really didn’t plan on any of that. You’re just giving in to avoid more arguments. When you finally return home, you are exhausted; the kids are whiny and starving; and you realize that you forgot at least five things that you really, really needed.

Trip Two

Knowing you need to go to the grocery store, you spend Saturday morning making a list based on what you’d like to cook this week. You know the kids will have to come with you, so you feed them lunch before having them get ready to go. In the parking lot you remind kids of behavior expected of them in the store. You let them know that you will be getting ice cream and that they can help pick out the flavor. You inform them that they don’t need to ask for anything else because you aren’t getting what’s not on the list. Because they’ve had lunch, you let them know that they can get a cookie from the store’s free cookie display. You head into the store, stop for cookies, and then head down the aisles. There is some regular bickering that needs to be addressed, but thankfully your shopping list keeps you on track. Kids ask for a few treats occasionally, but you show them the list and remind them of what you said in the car. You make it home without any major incidents and everyone has ice cream as snack.

I would rather have trip two. There are times I’ve had trip one. It isn’t very fun.

I can hear what you’re thinking. “I’m just not a planner. I like to be spontaneous.” I know that I happen to like order and planning more than some people. But I think everyone can benefit from a little planning and order. I think that choosing to live intentionally can bring peace to a frazzled life. I think it can make our families more calm and happy. I think it can benefit relationships.

Learning to live intentionally

Here are a few ways to start to live intentionally.

Have a vision statement.

Yes, I’m recommending you actually sit down and write a formal vision statement. Even if you think it may sound crazy and a little over the top, having a vision statement can guide every decision you make for your family. Discuss with your spouse the things that you both think are most important in your marriage and family and then let your decisions reflect those priorities. (This post has more information and a guide for writing a family/homeschool vision statement.)

Think before you answer.

When you lead a reactionary life, you’re constantly having to make decisions on the fly. If you develop the habit of thinking before you say yes to a request to lead the school bake sale, say yes to your kids playing in the sprinkler, say yes to a play date, then you won’t get into so many situations that you’d rather not be in.

Plan your day.

I know that we all have different personalities. And you may not like planning. If you don’t, I’m not saying you need to have a minute by minute plan. But, if you will take the time to have a basic plan of what’s going on in your day, you will be able to make decisions thoughtfully and not on the spur of the moment. If you know what your days hold, you’ll be able to keep yourself from being spread too thin.

Prepare your children.

When you prepare your children for things in advance, things can go much more smoothly. If your children know what they are going to get in the grocery store, they won’t constantly ask for more. If they know exactly what the result is going to be if they are disobedient, their behavior will be better. If they know what things are going on for the week, they can feel less stressed when the week is busy.

Be consistent.

This goes along with the previous tip of preparing your children. Children will respond better when there is consistency. Make sure that you follow through just the way you prepared them. But this tip is also for your personal life. Be consistent in the good habits that you need. Be consistent in reading your Bible, in spending time with your spouse, in exercising, in making time to plan your days and weeks. If you are consistent, you will develop these things as habits. And this consistency can help things to run more smoothly.

Take time to think about Intentional Living. It can simplify your life and can help you live more peacefully. It can keep you from being a reactionary person and help you to be a more deliberate person.

This post was originally linked with  Blogging Through the Alphabet at Ben and Me.

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