John Maxwell on Leadership

2016: Your Year of Living Intentionally


We’re officially one week into 2016, and I love this time of year. I’ve noticed that it’s the most productive time for many people: gyms are packed, motivational quotes are tacked to office walls, and people are constantly talking about their new diet or their new pledge to becoming a better person. As someone committed to a life of personal growth, it’s amazing to be surrounded by so many people on a journey towards improvement.

It makes me a little sad to know that next week, the gym won’t be as crowded.

Two weeks from now, those motivational quotes will be covered up by more pressing things.

A month from now, the only thing left of some of those diets will be the label on the Diet Coke bottle.

All because good intentions aren’t enough.

See, a good intention is a great idea without consistent action. A person with good intentions looks at a new year and says, “This year I will do something about my problem.” A person with good intentions might take a first step, like joining a gym, or maybe even a few steps after that, like working out a few days for the first couple of weeks in January. But inevitably, good intentions don’t last.

By February 1, people with good intentions might already be thinking about their resolutions for next year and crediting themselves for thinking ahead.

I wrote about this in my book, Intentional Living. In fact, I dedicated an entire chapter to the subject. We live in a culture that encourages good intentions, but is less excited about being intentional – and there’s a big difference.

Good Intentions vs. Being Intentional

Here are some of the words that describe a life of good intentions: desire, wish, hopefully, someday. Notice anything familiar about them? Do you see a connection? All of those words are about unfulfilled longing. They’re passive.

Now take a look at some words that describe a life of intentionality: action, purpose, definitely, today. What do they have in common? They are all active, in the now, committed. They are the words of people who get things done, people who live intentionally.

I learned about intentionality through my father’s example. When he was younger, he noticed that successful people think differently than unsuccessful people, so he read books to change his thinking. When I was a kid, he turned our house into the place for my friends and me to hang out so he could influence my choice in friends. When he moved into his retirement community, he wanted to be the first resident there so he could greet everyone else.

Even though he’s in his 90s now, my father still accomplishes more than many people much younger than him, all because he’s always been intentional about his life.

The Key to an Intentional Life

Do you know why most people quit going to the gym so soon after the new year begins? Do you know why so many people give up on their diets, or lose their motivation at work? The answer is simple: they’re only motivated to improve themselves. And because they’re only in it for themselves, they let themselves off the hook too easily. We grade ourselves on a curve; everyone else is pass/fail.

But what if your actions weren’t motivated by just your own success? What if your diet had more to do with being healthy for your kids? What if your motivation for work was to make the office a better place for everyone else? What if the purpose of the gym was to encourage others as they worked towards their goals?

That’s the key to intentional living: daily actions focused on making a difference, large or small, in someone else’s life.

What about your goals for 2016? Whether it’s to lose weight, work smarter, or otherwise improve in some way, how can you shift the focus from yourself to someone else? I promise you, just that one small change can be the difference between not meeting your goals and succeeding beyond your wildest dreams.

In fact, I believe in the power of that shift so much, my team and I created the 7-Day Experiment to help you unlock its potential. This free one-week resource is designed to help you make the shift from good intentions to intentional living through daily actions that focus on others. It takes less than ten minutes a day, but it has the potential to change your life. You can start today by visiting 7DayExperiment.com.

This is the year you change your life by changing the lives of the people around you. Let 2016 be your year of living intentionally.


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