“I didn’t do it on purpose!” “How did I end up in this mess?” “Will I ever lose this weight?” “Why do I always hate my job after a short time?“ “Should I go out with this guy?” “All my friends are retiring, why can’t I afford to?” “Why does my spiritual life feel so empty?”
Be honest. Unless you’re a psychopath it’s likely these sort of statements have either crossed your mind or come out your mouth. When you live your life with intention—another way of saying on purpose—you will know the answer to these questions. Better yet, you’ll rarely need to ask them. And rarely need to apologize for something you didn’t mean to say or do.
To live intentionally you need to consciously make decisions with your goals in mind.
That’s it! Easy peasy, right?
Not so fast!
Your life is made up of millions, probably billions of decisions. Some decisions are conscious, like when you ask, “Do I really want this muffin?” Some decisions you make by default, like when you turn on the television and surf stations out of habit or waste two hours on Facebook rabbit trails. Even when you postpone or neglect to make a decision you’ve made a decision.
In one day, you make thousands of decisions. In one minute, you often make several: to order a latte, remove your gloves, and check your texts. I want to help you learn to make the best decisions, whether those decisions are big or small. Big decisions include the influences you surround yourself with and small decisions are what flavor ice cream to order. Some small decisions are not really small at all, because they can lead to major life shifts (like texting while driving).
Over time, many small decisions shape your character. The philandering spouse can say, “It just happened,” but the truth is, she put herself in a compromising situation emotionally and spiritually long before she physically cheated. A flirt. A text to an old friend. Allowing your marriage to become less important than other interests. A series of small decisions usually precede the life-altering ones. For good or for bad.
I want you to live a purposeful, meaningful life. And if you’re with me so far, you probably want the same.
Our decisions have spiritual consequences.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus was asked, “‘Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?’
“He replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The currency of the Kingdom of Heaven is love. Likewise, love is the currency of good decisions. Even our small decisions have implications both for this life and the next. Scripture is full of ways to love God and others. Feed the hungry. Clothe the needy. Forgive your enemy. Love your neighbor. Some decisions come under the larger category because they change your life forever. Adopt an orphan. Befriend and help a widow. “For whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Life is best lived moment by moment. By deciding to be mindful or cognizant of where we are and what we’re doing in the present moment, as opposed to stewing over regrets (self-inflicted) or grievances (other-inflicted) from the past or worries (unwanted) or desires (wanted) for the future, we experience life as God meant for us to experience it. We take away the judgments, strivings, and desires we were never meant to hold close. We marvel at the contrast of jade leaves under a cobalt sky, we savor the aroma and crackle of the fire-pit, we taste the subtle sweetness of an apple, and we cherish the warmth of a friend’s hug. Studies show living in the now will make us happier. It makes sense. When we choose to savor the every day delights God has blessed us with, we’re not regretting or worrying, but grateful.
Gratitude is an important key to happiness.
I know there are times when life buries you in sorrow and pain, making it nearly impossible to glimpse a blessing. On the dark days where you struggle for gratitude, be present and real with your suffering. Go to our Lord. Allow the realization of your Father’s unconditional love to replace the fear surrounding your suffering with loving trust. Trusting God may not make your situation any different, but an eternal perspective as the son or daughter of the Creator is sure to lesson the severity and allow you to shine His light to others buried with you.
With few exceptions, your life will be shaped by what you think about yourself. About God. About others.Your beliefs will influence the collection of decisions you make.
As important as living in the moment and striving to make everyday decisions with intent rather than by default is, it is far more crucial to be intentional about the big decisions you are faced with because unless your larger goals are worthwhile and in alignment with God’s purposes, the little ones won’t matter nearly as much. Your life will be off-course. Less than your Father’s wishes for your life. And while God is great at transforming our broken lives into His masterpiece, things almost always go smoother when you align your life with His purpose for you, using the gifts He gave you.
Big decisions impact your life’s trajectory in big ways.
That’s why making important decisions are stressful. Naturally you don’t want to make a mistake. Mistakes cost you time and/or money. Mistakes may hurt someone. Too often making the right decision may hurt someone.
Sometimes in an effort to lessen the stress you wait to the last minute, or completely deny the need to make a decision. Not making a timely important decision because you’re afraid of making the wrong decision or you don’t want to hurt another person, may work for less important things, but disregarding a big decision or waiting until the last minute usually works against you. Not making a decision, whether consciously or unconsciously, is still a decision.
The good news is that you can learn how to take some or all of the stress out of stressful decisions and goal setting using proven methods to intentionally decide.
Before exploring important decision making, you’ll need to uncover your life’s purpose. At least your life’s purpose for the season of life you’re currently in or moving toward.
You’ll learn how to strategically set goals and create plans that, when followed, will insure you succeed in living your life’s purpose. Whether you goal is to get a great job out of college, find the best spouse for you, or be the best parent you can be, you will start with the big picture goals, develop strategies for reaching them, and decide which concrete actions to take in the present to move you toward those goals, with confidence that comes from knowing how daily decisions move you either closer or further from success.
And at the end of your life you’ll be able to say you’ve lived your life on purpose. You won’t have regrets. Like Paul, you’ll be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 And in the next life, you might hear a “Well done!” at the judgment seat.
Your Best Guess Summary Questions:
- What was the last big decision you made?
- What process did you use to make this decision?
- In the past twenty-four hours, what % of the time did you make conscious decisions?
- In the past week, what % of your waking time consisted of conscious action steps toward a specific goal?
- What % of your time did you do things that pulled you away from your goal?
- How much of your time is spent in the past (regret, grievance) or the future (anxiety, desire)?
- How would living your life on purpose feel?