The Value of the Intentional Life

It’s guest post Monday! Chris Peek blogs about living the intentional life and becoming fully alive at TrailReflections.com. In addition, he works as a director, producer, and editor in TV and video production. When he’s not working with multimedia, he can often be found exploring God’s creation through hiking, biking, kayaking, and traveling. You can connect with him on Twitter. If you would like to have a post featured on my site then click here.

My life hasn’t always gone the way as I would have scripted it. Probably much like yours, it’s been filled with many highs and quite a few lows. One of those low points came in late 2007, as my wife Karen and I began a long journey which neither of us saw coming. We had only been married a little over four years up to that point when she began experiencing random rapid heart rates, extreme fatigue, and heart palpitations, among other symptoms.

Over the next year-and-a-half, we traveled from specialist to specialist searching for answers. From Vanderbilt University to the Mayo Clinic, we saw some of the top cardiologists in the country. Both Mayo Clinic and Vanderbilt agreed: she was diagnosed with a chronic heart condition called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). It pretty much tossed our comfortable world on its head, and our marriage was in for a radical shift.

Life on Cruise Control

Up until the health issues, we had pretty much lived life on cruise control. I had never really considered the idea of being intentional about life. Like most people, I drifted along and floated toward whatever life was awaiting downstream. On a rare occasion, I would stick my oar down into the calm waters and give a slight direction change.

To be honest, though, we didn’t handle the circumstances of Karen’s condition well for the first two years. With only one job, our finances began to deteriorate. Tempers flared. The frustrations persisted. The word divorce was even thrown about. Neither of us knew who we were anymore. Being caught in the middle of a raging whitewater river, the ordeal awakened us to our need to slow down, pull over, and chart a new course.

Isn’t it interesting how pain often brings us to a point of making change in our lives? It was through the pain that I recognized the value and necessity of living intentionally, which is what we began to do.

What is an intentional life?

It is life lived on purpose, not dictated by circumstances or happenstance.

One of two things is going to happen in your life: you will get caught up in the currents at the complete mercy of the river, or you will navigate the treacherous currents in a raft with oars, guided by your strengths and the abilities of your allies.

What’s the value in pursuing the intentional life?

– We’re not defined by a job. While a job may be a component of our lives, we pursue in intention in all areas: faith, family, friends, work, and play.

– We’re not bound by circumstances (including health problems). If you haven’t experienced difficult times, they will find you. Trust me. We can either use struggles to derail or to propel. My wife used her health struggles to propel her to write a cookbook and speak to women’s groups.

– We follow our heart’s desire, not the world’s desire for us. So many people live out of other fear of disappointing someone else, but the intentional life is about offering what’s on our heart.

– We find value in the things that matter. Our relationships take priority when we’re pursuing life with intention.

– We trek up the mountain toward becoming fully alive. The intentional life shines a spotlight on our heart’s desires, as we pursue them with focused reflection and intentional action.

Questions: What are some additional reasons why you pursue the intentional life? Which struggles helped you become more intentional?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Ah, yes cruise control. Personally I refer to that as living life on auto-pilot. Thanks for the wonderful reminders, Chris.

    • Vincent, auto-pilot is another great analogy. Thanks for reading!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post:) Make sure to check out Chris’s blog. I know you would enjoy it.

  • Thanks Chris for sharing the examples of living an intentional life. SOmetimes, actually often, we may start life on purpose or intent but slowly things start unraveling and we find life to be out of control. It’s only when things start falling apart, our commitment to living an intentional life starts being tested. I’m glad you continued to live your life on purpose despite your wife’s illness and chose to live intentionally every day.

    • Vishnu, you’re right on. Circumstances can cause us to lose our focus and momentum. But tough times can also strengthen our resolve. It’s a choice we have to make in advance, knowing it’s not if, but when difficult times will come. Thanks for your comments!

  • God is so faithful. We may go through tough times, but he uses those to make us stronger.

    • Loren, no doubt. God has carried us through many tough times, but I wouldn’t trade them for an easy life because He’s made me so much stronger in the process.

    • Amen!

  • Micky Diaz

    WOW! This post speaks volumes to me. God has indeed been Faithful and True in spite of my financial and physical difficulties yet God has compelled me to start Christian Living at http://www.amircarmickydiaz.blogspot.com. Thank you so much for sharing this post with us! God bless you my friend!

    • Micky, thanks for your comments! That’s awesome that you’ve taken the difficulties and turned them around into something meaningful to offer. I’ve found that writing has been a great outlet for me to make sense of the pain and how God would use me through it. Keep on fighting, even when it’s hard. God bless you in your own walk with God.

      • Micky Diaz

        Amen my brothers! God is doing great things in our midst. As iron sharpens iron.

    • Micky,

      Keep moving toward your God given purpose brother! I’m glad the post helped.

  • Great post. Tough times aren’t optional in this fallen world. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Interestingly enough, isn’t it during those times that we grow the most and gain the most wisdom? We just dread it. I like a quote from John Wooden,

    “The people who turn out best are those people who make the best out of the way things turn out.” Sounds like you got a head start on most people in the world at being a difference maker. Thanks.

    • Thanks so much Floyd! Excellent quote. I agree we dread those times, but we need them. We kick and fight and scream until they pass. Then we look back and think, “I hated going through the process, but I wouldn’t change it.”

      I like to tell people that I relate really well to those who are 10 years older than me because we’ve gone through many similar struggles..

  • Chris – Great work! The intentional life to me is about doing something remarkable to help others. I really enjoyed your 3rd bullet point, our heart’s desire. When we offer what’s on our heart, we can all make an impact living out the intentional life!

    • Thanks for dropping by Dan! You’ve already found the key – “doing something remarkable to help others.” You’re far ahead in the game. Keep on livin’ out of those desires!

  • Brandon Jones

    Chris,

    What a great post! Thank you for sharing this piece of your life. My heart goes out to you and your family for your challenges.

    In answer to your question, I pursue an intentional life because I want to do everything I can to control my own destiny. Ever since I was little my mom has always encouraged me to act rather than wait to react to others. By acting I have been able to gain much more fulfillment out of life.

    Thanks for sharing this great post!

    • Brandon, thank you for kind remarks. Sounds like your mom offered you some really wise advice early on! That’s so important for us to remember – act instead of react. I really appreciate you taking time to read and comment.

    • Great goal Brandon. It’s all about pursing our purpose/destiny. Thank you for reading and adding to the conversation.

  • As someone who blogs about work and career, I couldn’t agree with you more that we are NOT defined by our jobs. It is only a piece of who we are. Glad to see you on Dan’s blog, and to get to know more about you. All the best to your family.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting Tom. It’s a dangerous place to be at when we allow a job to define us. I highly recommend checking out Chris’s blog, I know you would enjoy his content.

    • Tom, glad we could connect here as well. It’s so easy to let ourselves be defined by our work, but you’re right – it’s only a small part. While many people are intentional about doing work (whether they love it or hate it), they completely lose sight of being intentional about the other areas of their lives.

  • DS

    We view the world as something that can be shaped and influenced. We want to show others, specifically orphans, that they’re important and precious which normally means we’re being stretched beyond our comfort zone. It has caused us to look beyond ourselves, and challenged us to learn more about trust and generosity.

    • DS, what an incredible way to be intentional! You’re certainly doing the Lord’s work. Great point – being intentional will stretch us beyond our comfort zone. Blessings to you and your family.

  • David

    Great post, Chris! As one who has lived the antithesis of your 5 points and is seeking change, your post puts some wind back in my sails.

    I have allowed myself to be defined by my job and be bound by my circumstances. I’ve been doing the “American dream” thing only to find that it is not an end in itself and this has only served to bind me further. As a result, I often lose sight of what really matters and many relationships have indeed suffered. And, further (at least in my case), I approach virtually all mountain treks, no matter how small, with fear, and in most cases, I don’t even make the attempt.

    Again, great post. Thank you.

    • David, I’m glad you could find value in my post. Thanks so much! I can relate to so much of your story here. It’s so easy to get swept up in the currents of culture. The American dream is so alluring. I regularly have to take a step back and reevaluate so that I don’t get caught up in it.

      Fear is a huge hindrance. They key is to step out and try something. I like to ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” For example, I was afraid to share my thoughts with the world until I started blogging. Hitting the publish button struck fear in me, but what’s the worst that could happen? Someone disagreeing with me? No one reading my content? When I put it in that context, it became easier. Then I wrote blogs again and again, month after month, until blogging became a natural part of my life.

      I wish you well on your journey, and please let me know how I can help!

  • We find time for what we value most. often we think we show how much we value our families by how hard we work, but really it’s showing just the opposite. It shows that a pay check matters more than quality time with the family. It shows we don’t trust God to provide.

    • TC, good points. Time is a fantastic indicator of our priorities. Thanks for your input.

    • I agree TC Avey! Good thoughts girl.

  • Chris, it’s funny reading your thoughts today on Intentional life cos over at my blog, I am talking about the intentional marriage :) I believe that being intentional helps me reach levels I wouldn’t otherwise reach. God’s promises are mine, but they are achieved through being deliberate, purposeful, disciplined. i think all great achievers are intentional. Great thoughts!

    • Ngina, great minds think alike! :) Marriage is certainly an area which requires being intentional. Isn’t it so easy to get comfortable in marriage and put it on cruise control? I like how you say “being deliberate, purposeful, disciplined.” Some people spend their whole lives waiting on God when He’s already given up the ability to be purposeful acting on His promises!

    • Your post today fits perfectly! It was a great read. Here is the link if anyone else wants to read it http://intentionaltoday.com/great-couples-pursue-each-other-intentionally/ I highly recommend checking it out.

  • Chris,

    Loved reading this even though I’m familiar with your story. I really like how you point out how we’re not bound by circumstances. I see you and Karen living this out and it’s an inspiration.

    Keep on the journey!

    • Thanks Michael! I’m thankful for your encouragement. We’ve found a way to not be bound by our circumstances (as hard as that has been), and I hope others can take away encouragement in the midst of whatever they may be going through. Glad to be with you on this journey.

    • They are truly inspiring people! Thank you for stopping by and sharing:)

  • Many here know my story Chris but for 12 years I lived this kind of life until about three years ago. After going through many ups and downs I can tell you I’m truly living, I even wrote a book about it :) The thing people fail to truly grasp is how short life is and we’re not guaranteed a tomorrow. We have to live each day to the fullest because not only the day but the seconds even count. Time is something we’ll never get back!

    • Kimanzi, thanks for sharing a bit about your own story. I agree – “Life is short” isn’t just a saying, but a reality. We waste so much of that one thing we can never get back unless we’re intentional and focused. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

  • Those 5 ‘benefits’ if you will ring true with me, especially the first one. The same wind blows on everybody, whether it be a raging storm of adversity or the sweet breeze of success, we all get hit by it. The difference is how we set our sail and steer the boat.

    Nice post, Chris!

    • Thanks Nick. I never thought about a “sweet breeze of success,” but that can bring us down too if we start thinking how awesome we are. Love the analogy – “how we set our sail and steer the boat.”

    • I totally agree Nick. Thank you for sharing:)

  • Being intentional is being accountable. I use intentionality to keep my self accountable for my realm of responsibility. Awesome post, Chris.

    • Thank you Juan. Accountability is huge when it comes to intentionality, now that you mention it. If we don’t have intention, there’s nothing to be held accountable for. I never thought of it that way before.

  • We have more control over our situations than we think. I know way too many Christians who blame God for their lot in life. I was like that for a while. But being intentional is about moving forward in the direction you feel God has for you. Ideally, I would be in college ministry full time, but I’m not. Instead of sitting around whining about it, I’m intentional about speaking into the lives of college students no matter where I get my paycheck from. Great post!

    • Jason, thanks. Wow, it’s sad how many Christians do exactly as you said – blame God. It’s such an easy way out when things don’t go our way. You’re providing an excellent example for being intentional about what God has called you to do. Many people would sit around and say they are waiting on God, but you’re living it out even though you may not be quite where you want to be. I can definitely relate!

  • An intentional life is the ultimate goal. It’s a life that’s self-determined. That’s what living is truly about, but we’ve long since forgotten that simple fact of human nature. We forgot it so long ago most of us don’t even know it ever existed . . . or that’s it’s still possible to this day. But for those who seek it out, it should be one grand adventure.

    Cheers!

    • Trevor, thanks for your comments. What you say is sad, but true. America was founded on people seeking self-determination, but we’ve gotten so far away from it. It is indeed a grand adventure to pursue life, and hopefully we can transform our culture in the process.

  • Intentionality is a powerful word. Living, Being, Praying, Laughing, Working, Teaching, Preaching, Hiking we need to do them all intentionally. Chris I love how you and your wife used your struggles to propel you into what truly matters for not only you but for God. She is blessing people by doing something that she loves and is also makes her happy. I love the fact that we are not bound by Circumstances, with God’s guidance we make them.

    • Lincoln, thank you for your encouraging words. You’ve offered many excellent action words that require our intentionality. I love how you’ve even included hiking (one of my favorites). And you’ve hit on a key point – our intentional walk can’t be for self-gratification, but for God’s glory. Otherwise, it’s in vain.

    • You missed an important one Lincoln, which is having fun!!! Thank you for adding to the conversation:)

  • Intentional living is one key to being balanced, not matter the issue. I call my blog “intentional rhythms” because I believe we need to stop and reevaluate our life regularly and change our rhythm when needed.

    • “Intentional rhythms” – love it! Evaluation is definitely a component because we can intentionally take the wrong actions. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of rhythm, but at least I can sing on key.

    • I really like the name of your blog Dan! I encourage you to check out Chris’s blog, I think you would really enjoy his content!

  • I lived the first part of my life like many not knowing I could live with intentional direction. It is the only way or we are all over the place. It is often a situation like Chris has descried that takes us to a better way. Thanks Chris and Dan

    • Sue, thanks for taking time to read and comment. Our lives sound similar in that way. Sometimes it does take a painful event or moment to awaken us, but looking back, we’re thankful that something jarred us out of mediocrity.

  • Hi Chris,

    It’s great to meet you and read your guest post over at Dan’s blog. Dan, thank you for connecting us with Chris.

    Chris, I really appreciated the points you made about living an intentional life. There is definitely a strong distinction between living a life that is intentional to one where we’re just drifting along and feeling out of control. Living with intention has a different feel to it. I know I feel alive when I’m living with intention and doing activities that I know I really value.

    I really enjoyed your post.

    Thank you.

    • Hey Hiten, likewise, it’s great to connect with you. Thanks for taking a moment to read and comment. I completely agree – when we’re involved in activities in which we feel fully alive, the time just seems to fly by. It’s energizing like nothing else.

    • Hiten,

      Your welcome. You should connect with and check out Chris’s blog. He writes great content.

      It’s all about living a intentional life. Thank you for reading and adding to the conversation.

  • Hi Chris and Dan,

    Great post – reminds me of the old saying that life’s what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. It’s not what happens to us that makes us or breaks us – it’s how we react to those events – we have a choice about that. I’ve let ‘events’ sink me in the past but I’ve reached the stage where I realise life’s just too short – I’m determined to make the most of it, so when stuff happens these days, I treat it as a challenge and try to learn from it, rather than raging about it or sinking into despair. We’re a long time dead – got to make the most of what we have while we’re here.

    • Hi Sue, thanks for taking a few minutes to read and comment. It is very true that life can just happen to us if we’re not paying attention. And life just seems to get faster and faster as I’ve gotten older. You’ve found a key to success – learning from difficulties and failure rather than staying stuck in depression about it. Keep on living!

    • It’s all about how we react, great point Sue! Our reaction really has an impact on what will happen and who we will become after the situation. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  • Theodore Nwangene

    Hello Chris,
    I’m really glad to meet you on Dan’s blog, and i really enjoyed this post as it reminded me of my past. I’ve also had a problem that nearly tore my life apart if i had allowed it. I wouldn’t want to talk about that yet until on a very good day.

    Its quite very important to leave an intentional life as you said here, not just leaving leaving life just for formality because you have to. A life that is based and lived on an intention is always very much better and more successful than when you’re just leaving your life anyhow.

    Its really a motivational post Chris, thanks for sharing.

    @ Dan, I’m happy you’re also accepting guest posts maybe sooner or later, i will submit mine.

    • Hey Theodore, thanks for your comments. Great to connect with you as well. It can be hard to talk about difficulties in your life, so I can understand. I had a hard time opening up about my life for a long time to. You will know when you are ready, and I know others will connect with you through your transparency. I’m glad my post was an encouragement to you!

    • I’m looking forward to hearing more of your story when the time comes for you to share it. We all have different experiences that have shaped us.

      Yes every Monday I feature a guest post and would really love for you too write one here. Just check the guest post guidelines (A tab on the top of my page). I’m looking forward for you to share your wisdom and insights with my readers. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • It’s great to meet you both here. I saw the blog title on another blog you commented on and hopped right over. I am a firm believer in living an intentional life. Sometimes we can have a detour thrown our way like your wife’s health problem, but we can still choose to smell the roses along the way. One time I had a coach tell me to divide my life into 8 sectors and to choose how much time I was spending in each one. Then she said to ask myself “is that how I want to spend my life?” whoa – that was a wake up call for me. I am much more intentional about investing time in my adult children now. Thanks again, Amy

    • Amy, thank you for dropping by. Great to connect! I’m with you – “smelling the roses” is the only attitude that will help us push through the pain. Your coach’s idea is revealing. Most of us would probably be afraid to show where we spend the majority of our time. Way to invest in the things that matter! God bless.

    • That’s great Amy! I’m glad you found my blog and hope you enjoy it.

      Great advice from that coach. God wake up call for anyone us. Hope you connect more:)

  • Gladys

    Hello Dan and Chris
    What an interesting post. Intentional Living, but not everyone understands what it means, Very simply put, it’s the opposite from living on auto-pilot. Chris you are so right…. When circumstances and situations that are out of our control (Except God’s) a learning curve is ahead of us to learn and experience life lessons.
    I am in pursuit of Living on Purpose, because it is the best way to live. We all can Command our day with an attitude of gratitude.
    Thank you for your excellent points.
    Gladys recently posted Awareness and Living your life consciously

    • Hey Gladys, thank you for taking time to read and comment. I’m glad we’re on the intentional life journey together! You’ve hit on some key points, especially living with an “attitude of gratitude.” Without it, we get mired in self-pity, which prevents us from living intentionally. Blessings to you.

    • Great goal Glady! Living on purpose is so essential. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts:)

  • Chris, thanks for sharing. A few years ago we went through cancer with our son who was just 20 months old at the time. That experience really helped my wife and me to reevaluate our lives an make some intentional changes. I wouldn’t want to repeat the experience but I’m glad for the lessons we learned.

    • Caleb, I can’t even imagine what you all have gone through. How is he doing now? This kind of experience could have left you bitter with God, but instead you used to be more intentional. It’s quite a testimony. Thanks for sharing and encouraging us all.

      • He’s a healthy 10 yr old now!

    • I’m sure that time really stretched you and moved you toward a higher level of faith. It would be great to hear the entire story at some point.

      Caleb I highly recommend checking out Chris’s blog because I think you would enjoy each others writing.

      • Dan, I already checked out Chris’ blog. Good stuff there!

        I’ve been thinking about doing some blog posts about our experience going through cancer with a child. I need to get my wife to write about it too. She is a much better story teller than I am.

  • I pursue an intentional life because of wanting to “make the most out of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). I also pursue an intentional life because I have lived the other way and only met with depression and despair. The intentional life gives me hope. Struggles that have helped me become more intentional include relationship failures, chronic health problems and struggling to find hope. The intentional life gives direction and focus, especially when driven by Truth.

    • Kari, thanks for sharing. Eph. 5:16 is a perfect verse for this topic, as the passage also mentions the days being evil. I believe you’re the first to point out living with intention as a means to living with hope. Excellent observation! I’m sorry to hear about your chronic health problems as well. It seems like we hear more and more of young women going through these issues. So it’s always inspiring to see someone like yourself finding hope, just as my wife has.

      • Hope is all that kept me going so many times, and it led me to having an intentional life. My chronic health issues have drawn me closer to God and have contributed so much to who I am. All part of the mosaic of my life. (Thanks for calling me young, too, by the way.) So much I could say about this topic. I’m actually planning something on a larger scale that covers this, but it’s really beginning stages. Anyway, being intentional really means seeking out God’s will. I am encouraged to know your wife is finding hope too, even if I don’t know the details.

        • I know many people will be touched by whatever you have planned. Transparency has a way of drawing people in. My wife Karen shares her story about dealing with her condition and allowing God to mold her into the person she is today at http://www.inspiredartofcooking.com . It sounds like you’ve have a similar story that you’re walking through. I wish you well on your endeavors and hope to hear about your progress!

          • Kari Scare

            Your wife’s story is definitely inspirational. I look forward to reading her posts. I am learing that no matter the health condition or disease or challenge or whatever it gets labelled, God can use it amazing ways, and you can be an inspiration. Thank you for sharing her blog with me.