Intentional Living

Intentional Living

I recently had a conversation with a Prepography reader about the concept of intentional living.  The concept was new to that particular reader and he encouraged me to introduce it to my other readers with a short article.  I’m certainly not an expert on intentional living and it’s still more a goal than a habit but every month I get a little better at living with intention.  Here’s that brief introduction:

  • Like many workers I can easily find myself a slave to my need to fulfill my financial obligations…
  • Like many business owners I can easily find myself a slave to my business instead of its master…
  • Like many military reservists I find myself spending increasing amounts of off-duty time meeting the certification and training requirements that increase every year…
  • Like many parents I can easily find myself a slave to my children’s needs and whims…
  • Like many husbands…well you get the picture.

Intentional Living

LifestyleMany of us have so many financial obligations, time obligations and passive habits that there is little time or money left for the people and activities we value and enjoy.  By passive habits I mean those things we do out of habit that are lazy and don’t truly enrich our lives…things like sitting down in front of the television and flipping channels until you find the best thing on at the time versus the intentional act of sitting down, maybe with the family, to specifically watch that comedy that everyone enjoys and makes time to watch together.

I’m a fan of Stephen R. Covey and his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.  In the book and subsequent writings, Covey provides a framework that encourages moving towards a life of intention (although I don’t recall him using those precise terms).  Covey’s approach was holistic and encouraged taking a unified approach to living and managing your professional, personal and spiritual lives.  The habits I find most applicable in moving towards a life of intention are:

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive:  Take initiative in life.  Take the steps necessary to achieve your goals (which should be in line with your guiding principals).  Don’t just do what you have to do, do what you need to do to accomplish the goals that you want to accomplish.  For example, I recently signed up for and took the National Rifle Association (NRA’s) Metal Carbide Reloading class because one of the goals I set for myself this year (after failing miserably to accomplish it last year) was learning how to reload for my centerfire rifles and pistols
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind:  Make a plan before you start.  Work smartly towards a goal not just hard…in an unfocused direction.  In Covey’s model the ‘end’ is ultimately a life lived that embodies your values and helps you achieve the goals you might clarify in a personal mission statement.  For example, My NRA reloading class mentioned above helps me support one of my guiding principals of being able to protect my family by making my ammunition more affordable…which will increase the amount of ammunition I can expend in practicing with my firearms.
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First:  Now that you have clarified your goals and a vision for the life you want you to achieve, you prioritize your actions (and interim goals) based on what is important, and not just what is urgent.  It’s way too easy to let the urgent transcend the important when spending our time.  In my reloading class example I would have failed to Put First Things First if I’d decided to mow my lawn due to an unflattering comment from a neighbor instead of attending that class.  I prioritize my family’s security much higher than the look of my landscaping or the approval of a neighbor.  Covey recommends that keeping Habit 3 in the forefront of your mind as you plan how to spend your time for the coming week or month.  Schedule time for the important before you schedule time for the urgent.  Covey expanded on this principal in a time management program called, Quadrant Four Time Management (looks like it’s out of print).
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw:  ‘Sharpen the Saw’ encourages continuous improvement.  This habit involve making the time to enhance your those skills that help you achieve your goals (and support your values).  For example, regular range practice with my rifles and pistols keeps those skills that help me protect my family ‘sharp.’

Intentional Living is nothing more than proactively living within and taking the actions necessary to live the precepts of your values.  Often, living a life of intention will be seen as strange or nutty by those who have too little imagination to discover their own way or hold values that differ radically from from yours.

Whether you chose to live intentionally or not, remember that how you spend your time says a lot about what you value so if you plan your time without considering your values… you are putting the cart before the horse and will be unlikely to reach your goals or truly live within your values… even if those values are preparedness related.

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