I find that as we enter a new year, we all have good intentions about the future. The problem is that good intentions often are inconsistent with our behavior. They are good thoughts that are not backed with actions. As John Maxwell says, there is a major difference between good intentions and intentional living.
Over the years one of the greatest truths I have learned is that if you really want to grow and develop any area of your life, you have to be intentional about it. You have to plan for growth or it will never happen, and this is true in every area of your life.
Most people really don’t get this and it explains why there is such a gap between the life we dream of and aspire to and the life we actually end up living. This seems to be a reality of life.
The Bible gives us a simple explanation of effective living. We are told life is about going down certain pathways. Every path leads to a certain destination.
In Isaiah 2:3 we are told God desires us to “walk in His paths.” He uses the exact same language in Micah 4:2. In Proverbs 4:26 we are instructed to “watch the paths of your feet, and all your pathways will be established.” We are then told in Psalm 36:4 that a person often “sets himself on a pathway that is not good.”
Intentional living requires us to get on paths that leads to our ultimate well-being. That leads us to the life that God has planned for us.
Everyone is on a path right now, whether we realize it or not. And this path is taking each of us to a certain destination. The path we are on is not a respecter of person; it does not care who you are or where you are from. It leads where it leads regardless of one’s talent, wealth, physical appearance, or social status.
When you meet someone who is leading a truly extraordinary life in all areas, how do you think this person’s life has come to pass? Do you believe that it was an accident or a stroke of good fortune? What we always discover is that people are where they are in life as a result of a series of decisions which together have formed the path leading to their present circumstances.
On the other hand, when you see people floundering in their personal lives, quite often their stories reveal a pattern or path as well. It is amazing how we can deceive ourselves into thinking that life is simply a series of unrelated decisions and that somehow we will just end up with all of our hopes and dreams.
Think about the various paths you are going down. Right now, for example, you are on a physical health path and it is taking you in a specific direction. In all likelihood, this path will impact the length of your life and the quality of your life in old age.
Likewise, your marriage is on a certain path at this very moment. It will determine the kind of life you will experience with your spouse as the years go by. If you have children at home, you are on a child-rearing path that will determine the type of adults your children will become. We are each on a financial path, a moral path, an intellectual path, a career path, and a spiritual path. The paths we are on always determine our end results. Always!
As I said earlier, I have concluded that one of the primary reasons we have such great discrepancies between what we actually desire in our hearts and what we end up doing with our lives is because we live with great intentions. We have somehow been deceived into thinking that great intentions will get us where we want to go in life.
In the July 2010 Harvard Business Review, there is an article written by Clayton Christiansen, a Rhodes Scholar who attended Harvard Business School and who later taught there. Christiansen writes,
“Over the years I have watched the fates of my Harvard Business School classmates from 1979 unfold. I have seen more and more of them come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I can guarantee that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would be estranged from them.”
Yet, they went down a path that led to this consequence.
Every couple enters into marriage with great intentions for their future together, but without realizing it, so many get on a path that leads to divorce.
We all have good intentions for our lives, but at the end of the day, it is the direction of the path, not good intentions, which will ultimately determine our destination in life.
So as we enter a new year, I challenge you to examine some of the most important areas of your life and come up with a plan for growth, and then begin to execute the plan.
As I said in the beginning, if you really want to grow and develop any area of your life, you have to be intentional. You have to plan for growth, or it will never happen.
If you would like to read more about living intentionally and seeking growth, we suggest you read Richard’s book, A Life of Excellence. Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.