“I meant to [do the right thing.]“
Have you ever said anything like that? Fill in the brackets with your own good intentions. Where did good intentions get you? Probably nowhere.
To truly be successful in all areas of life – relationships, career, learning a new language, marriage, finances, and your relationship with Jesus – you have to live your life intentionally. There is a distinct difference between being intentional and having good intentions, and it’s such a stark contrast that the words really shouldn’t be so similar. Good intentions are when you say “I’m going to the store to get milk,” and you spend $100. Being intentional about grocery shopping is making a menu for the week, making a list from that menu, taking the list with you to the grocery store, and buying only what’s on the list. See the difference? Being intentional means you know what you want to do AND how you are going to accomplish it.
For example, prompted by a high blood pressure reading and the heart health issues in my family I wanted to eat healthier and get in better shape in order to lessen the chances that I would need to be on blood pressure medicine at age 26. I LOVE food. I don’t mean I really, really enjoy food. I love it. Especially junk food. You know, the stuff with so much sodium in it that you’d be better off just eating salt. (Sodium aka salt plays a huge role in heart health – most of us eat too much.) I used to go to the movie theater and get a large popcorn, a box of Milk Duds, and an Icee. I was in Heaven. I would sit at home playing video games and go through a box of Fudge Rounds and six Dr. Peppers per day. . . yes I said PER DAY. . . Without even thinking about it. To this day, if there’s a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the kitchen counter, I’m eating one every time I walk by it. If I sit on the couch to watch a movie and have one of these bad boys beside me, I will kill it. There will be none left in 90 minutes or less. And I can’t even pass by these in the store. Willpower was basically mythology to me. There was only one solution – get that stuff out of the house. My good intentions were to NOT eat junk food, but I couldn’t stick to it. By intentionally removing all of it from our house, I was able to eat way less.
One of my favorite hobbies is geocaching. Think of a scavenger hunt. . . And now that you are picturing a scavenger hunt, think of it more like a treasure hunt. That’s geocaching. (Click the link for a much better description. Video included!) Anyway, about 3 years ago, a friend and I decided to go find some really tough ones that required a boat of some sort to get to, because they are located on islands in Lake Hartwell, which is part of the Savannah River that is the border between South Carolina & Georgia. We borrowed my parents’ jet ski, hooked it up to his Jeep and set off on an adventure. We put in the water at Lake Hartwell just fine and after a short ride on the jet ski and walk on the first island, we easily had our first find of the day. The next one proved to be just as easy. The third island was a bit bigger and more densely wooded, so when we got to where the geocache was supposed to be hidden (following our handheld GPS), we had to look around a little. We finally found it lying on the ground about 50 feet away. Once we had signed our names and put it back, we looked up and realized we had no idea which way we came. Have you ever been hiking and gone off the trail? You can wander into the woods but you cannot wander out. You need to have a plan. You need to be intentional.
“We’re on an island, and it’s not THAT big. Might as well start walking.”
That was our general consensus. We walked and walked and finally reached an unfamiliar shore. No jet ski in sight. “Time to walk around [the perimeter of] the island.” That took even longer. Eventually we found the jet ski. We loaded up and headed on to the next island, but we had learned our lesson. This time we had a plan. Our handheld GPS had the ability to save new locations, so we marked the GPS coordinates where we parked the jet ski, and THEN set off into the woods. This time, once we had found the cache and were ready to leave, it was much easier to get back to the right shore, because we had a plan. We were intentional about where we wanted to go, and had a plan to get us there without as much stress (and without all the walking).
Think about your job. Or your career. Your job and your career are two different things that might end up being one and the same if you aren’t intentional. If you just show up at work every day with no plan on where you want to go in the future then you’ll stay right where you are. Your job will become your career. To advance your career – get promoted, make more money, have more influence, etc. – you have to have a plan. Plan to take some classes or plan to volunteer to do every single extra thing that comes up that nobody wants to do. Whatever it is, if you’re not doing it, you can bet that someone else is. And while we’re on the subject of career and money – if you want to really get a handle on your finances and quit living paycheck to paycheck, you have to intentionally tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NLT)
To remain in Jesus, you must be intentional about it. Husbands: think about it like your relationship with your wife. Can you just spend an hour one day a week with her and have a great marriage? Let me help you with that: NO. You have to tell her every day that you love her. Surprise with flowers (or ice cream) every now and then. Take her out to dinner (McDonald’s does not count, go somewhere that has a waiter) from time to time. You have to spend your life serving her to have a great marriage. Ladies, that doesn’t mean you get to be the Queen ruling over your slaves. The best marriages are between two people who are obsessed with serving each other. The best relationships are based on mutual servitude.
So you are ready to change things. You’re ready to try something new. You’re ready to “do better.” What now? If you’re like me, then you’re saying to yourself: “Ok, I’m going to read my bible more.” & “I’m going to get in shape.” & “I’m going to spend more time in prayer.” & “I’m going to serve my wife.” & “I’m going to ‘remain in Jesus.’” That won’t work. You’ll stick to that for about 3 days max. You need to have a plan, and then act on it. Plan to read your bible for 10 minutes every morning from 6:37-6:47 AM. Ok, you don’t have to be quite that strict but when you have a precise plan of action, it’s easier to stick to. Now that you’re convinced that you need a detailed plan, I’m going to completely flip your paradigm . . . because I just love confusing people.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Don’t over-plan. You do need a plan but don’t spend all your time planning and forget to act on that plan. Even the greatest plans fail. Make a plan that’s good enough and act. If it doesn’t work, try something else.
“An inch of action is worth a mile of good intentions.”
Don’t just intend to do the right thing, make a plan to do it. And don’t just plan to do the right thing, DO IT! ACT!
P.S. I ‘intended’ on posting this Friday, but I didn’t take steps to make sure I would follow through. How ironic is that? I need to read this post again and learn from it!