Intentional is my Favorite Word

“Everybody ends up somewhere in life.  A few people end up somewhere on purpose.” 

-Andy Stanley


When I woke up, all I could feel was panic.  As the light poured into my room, I realized the unthinkable had just happened: I had overslept.


Normally oversleeping is only mildly stressful, like when I overslept my physics final (I swear there was a power outage), but it’s completely manageable.  This was different.  At the moment I woke up, I was supposed to be on a plane flying out of Spain, the country where I had spent the past six months studying abroad.  Instead the only thing that was “elevating” was my heart rate as I leaped out of bed like a bat out of hell, to do who knows what.  The mistake had been made and the odds were slim to none that they would turn the rig around and wait for me to rush to the tram and get to the airport (after all, it was a weekday).  After several unproductive phone calls filled with neither comprehensible English nor Spanish and a quick ride to the airport and back that accomplished nothing except an increased sense that I had just beaten the record for ‘Most Epic Fail’, the full reality of my situation had sunk in.  The only way I could get back now was by me, a broke-as-a-joke college student, buying another $1000 one-way ticket home, which was about $999 more than I had.


I had missed my shot and now it was going to cost me.


Have you ever had an experience like this?  It sucks.  Sometimes it takes a disaster such as missing your international flight to make you realize just how important it is to understand what it will take to arrive at your destination.


We all have a desired destination, and I’m not talking about Fiji or Paris.  We have all been hardwired with goals and dreams for our futures that describe the type of woman or man we want to be, the legacy we want to leave, or the adventures we want to experience.  Whether that looks like solving world hunger or loving your family well, each and every one of us knows to some degree or another where it is we want to go.


However, just as I made the mistake of not taking decisive action to ensure I made it to my destination, too many of us pass through life making the same mistake. “Good Enough” Land can sound mighty appealing in the moment.  It requires little to no effort to get there (after all, “there” is wherever you end up arriving), and minimal effort can appear quite attractive when all you want to do is live for the moment, and I quote: “YOLO”. 


Don’t get me wrong, I love the beauty that the carefree spirit creates!  I recently enjoyed a layover in Tokyo where I boarded a train from Narita, the town an hour outside of Tokyo, and then arbitrarily picked a city to stop at and explore.  While the nearly undetectable amount of Japanese in my foreign vocabulary stock pile made this decision somewhat unnerving (special “Domo Arigato” to the Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” for giving me half of this vocabulary), it was still exciting and enjoyable.  And why was it enjoyable?  Because after my previous epic travel fail, I had learned to set boundaries that protected me from missing the mark again.


I had learned to be more intentional.


I love that word ‘intentional’.  In fact it’s my favorite word in the English language.  I love it so much because I believe it best describes the essence of who I want to be in this life.  The very thought of ending up somewhere at the end of my life and wishing I had taken the initiative to end up somewhere else scares me to death, and I’ve decided not to let that happen.  After all, life is short and I want to make it count.


Am I starting to sound like a narcissistic control freak?  Don’t worry, I’m not… I don’t think…


Don’t get me wrong!  Yes, it’s true that by nature I tend to lean towards over-planning and over-controlling my environment.  I like to know what will happen and when so that I can help create my most ideal outcome in any situation.  However, I have learned that to be intentional and to be controlling are not inherently synonymous.  I equate it to a cruise ship.  Aboard the cruise ship are hundreds or perhaps thousands of people all milling about on multiple decks in countless rooms, all enjoying custom experiences that they are free to pick and participate in.  However, there is one thing that is not afforded such liberal freedom and that is the direction in which the boat is heading.  I believe being intentional is like being a cruise ship.  If we are studious and steadfast about which direction the ship heads, how fast, and what route it takes, we will eventually end up where we want to go (unless you’re the Titanic…sorry).  The beauty of this situation is that once your bearings are set, all systems are checked, and the green light is given, there is no need to control every action aboard the boat.  The boat’s inhabitants are free to roam and do as they please without fear of derailing their vessel!


"If we are studious and steadfast about which direction the ship heads, how fast it goes, and what route it takes, we will eventually end up where we want to go."


In the same way, I believe that living an intentional life is meant to be filled with a beautiful dichotomy of freedom and restraint.  If one is truly set on actually arriving somewhere in life, to omit intentional behaviors and characteristics from one’s life is akin to setting sail from America in your rowboat without a map and grabbing some shuteye as you dream about the vegemite sandwich you hope to find when you awake in the Land Down Under: let’s just say the odds aren’t in your favor.


"Living an intentional life is meant to be filled with a beautiful dichotomy of freedom and restraint."

Maybe it’s just me but wouldn’t you agree that living in a way that maximizes your impact on this world is preferable to leaving your legacy up to chance?  I’m no Martin Luther King Jr. but I have a deeply rooted dream inside of me, a dream that will take more than mere chance and fortune to turn into a reality.  Every day I see vehicles of talent and ability simply brimming with potential yet sadly stifled by distracted and unintentional operators.  At the end of the day, when the fat lady has sung, we will all arrive somewhere. 


Some people will have arrived on purpose.

Jacob DeNeui