Yesterday as I was driving into work, I realized about half way to my school that I had been driving in silence. Normally, I have the radio blasting, pumping me up for a long day of dealing with the deep woes and immediate highs that tend to follow adolescent boys and girls.
The fact that I wasn’t listening to the radio didn’t bother me-I don’t mind driving in silence, and in fact it sometimes gives some much needed time for reflection. What bothered me was that I had not CHOSEN to drive to work in silence. I had simply continued the silence from when I turned off the radio yesterday to answer a phone call.
In other words, I was just going with the flow.
Now, I am aware that this is hardly a mid-life crisis moment. OH MY GOD, I didn’t choose my station today, now my life is in shambles! *cue dramatic music* However, I feel like it highlights a bigger problem: we rarely live with intention.
What I mean by living with intention is actively making choices about your daily direction. What do you want to do and why? Are you sitting on the couch watching TV because you WANT to sit on the couch and watch TV? Or are you simply falling into that decision because you sat down and your spouse/roommate/kids had the TV on and it took less effort to just settle in rather than take a moment to stop and analyze what you really wanted/needed to do?
I am not disparaging the occasional night of leisure. I ended my night yesterday with several episodes of a show that my roommate and I watch together. The difference is I actively chose this mode of relaxation: I turned the TV on. I chose the show. I made sure my work was completed before indulging. All of those factors made it an experience that I fully engaged in, rather than one that I just let happen to me.
Living with intention and taking control of all of our decisions is actually really tiring, which is why most people simply don’t do it. Everyone is faced with so many choices throughout the day that we simply have to go with the flow for some things simply to keep our sanity.
The one thing we should not allow to be dictated by everyone else’s current, though, is how we spend our time. Are you actively arranging your days in order to maximize how YOU want to live? Or are you acquiescing to the whims of the others in your life and finding your minutes being dedicated to things that you had no part in planning?
Every minute of time that is not dictated by some necessity (i.e. your job, errands, etc) should be spent on something that furthers you. If you have not mindfully chosen a life path, it is going to be very difficult to cultivate your time wisely. Not having a definite destination in mind leaves you very susceptible to the currents created by others.
One way to make this easier is to eliminate decisions in other areas of your life. For example, I eat the same thing for every meal Monday-Friday. There is exactly zero time spent wondering on what I’m going to eat for dinner, because it’s already made and in my bag. Additionally, there is no energy spent arguing with myself about whether or not to exercise that day; if it is a weekday, I head straight to the gym after work. It isn’t even a question.
Those choices weren’t made ‘just because’. Part of the path that I have chosen includes being physically fit and mentally healthy. These pre-decided actions move me along that path without the mental struggle of hyping myself up for them each and every day.
If the majority of your steps are decided in advance, you can focus your energy on making advanced strides towards your bigger goals every day.
Living with intention is the only way to actively attain your innermost purpose. It is paradoxically the most exhausting yet most energizing way to live. Case in point: if you are a runner, you are used to spending bursts of time with intensity which ultimately leaves you exhausted for a second burst of time. However, running towards a finish line is infinitely more rewarding than running around the block an unspecified number of times. Reaching that benchmark ultimately fuels the will to run again.
Our energy is our most precious resource, and if you don’t intentionally use it, it diminishes. This is why ‘conserving energy’ by sitting on the couch all day does not culminate in an explosion of productivity at the end of the 12 hour binge-watching session. Instead, you feel like you got hit by a truck. Conversely, if you spend your time racking up accomplishments, whether they are simple life duties or the foundation of bigger dreams, you end your day feeling invigorated.
Our life happens, and there is no rewind button. Each day comes and then it is gone. Forever.
In the end, we will either be lamenting everything that happened to us, or exalting in what we made happen. And at that point, our path will have already been taken, and our choices will have already been made (or not).
Choose with care. Invest your time wisely. And most of all, live like you mean it.