Intentionality is a word that isn’t used very often in our society. Most likely, the word intentionality doesn’t even cross our minds in the day-to-day, let alone is something we feel we need to consider or cultivate. In a culture of binging on Netflix shows, spending every spare moment on social media and hustling from one activity and commitment to another, intentionality is disappearing in the way of flip phones and leg warmers.
The definition of intentionality is, “the fact of being deliberate or purposive; the quality of mental state that consists in being directed toward some object or state of affairs.” Simply put, intentionality is being purposed in a certain direction and deliberately getting yourself there. Living life with intentionality has the potential to change it completely. Just a bit of intention every day is where the power lies to change your circumstances, yourself and, in the end, your life as a whole.
With all of the hustle in our lives, intentionality is a dying art, and it is a hard one to practice. When all we have time to do is survive, just make it through our mass loads of work and commitments and social expectations and basic human needs, all of our margins are filled with just trying to breathe and chill out for the few extra seconds we were given. Our addiction to social media comes in here; in all our spare 15 minutes, we want to check out and mindlessly scroll, feel like we are experiencing a life we feel like we can’t live or connecting with people who aren’t actually present to salve the need for community that we don’t actually have time for. Our minutes drain on and, at the end of the day, we wonder if we actually moved forward, if we even accomplished anything but surviving our to-do list. Our lives become dull, and we become unfulfilled and dissatisfied. What are we even here for? Is there any point in all this madness?
Intentionality speaks to something different. Intentionality isn’t about another life hack to accomplish more stuff that doesn’t actually matter and shove more hustle into your already over scheduled life. It isn’t some get-successful-quick scheme on how to be more productive. Instead, intentionality is a beautiful practice that allows you to begin to put life into your soul again, and some purpose into your schedule, into your life.
Though it has to be cultivated, intentionality can change your relationships, your perspective on the world and your path in life. To practice intentionality is to be purposed in your steps, in what you think about, in what you do. It’s about being intentional about noticing the beauty of life around you, the small things that make you smile. Be intentional about noticing the sky; it didn’t have to be blue, and there didn’t have to be a glorious sunset every single night. Be intentional about hearing other people’s laughter, about smiling at people you pass in the hallway or on the street. Notice the way the light looks spilling into the window and casting a shadow on someone’s face. Or notice the way that couple is holding hands, the feeling of the breeze when you walk out the door, or the birds singing outside your window when you wake up. Intentionality in this way is wrapped up in gratefulness; we can be intentional about being grateful for the life we are getting to experience, even in its not-so-glorious moments or mundane hours. It allows your soul to be enriched with joy, noticing all of the things around us that make life beautiful.
Be intentional in your relationships. When you’re with someone, be attentive, and notice who they are. Don’t spend half of the time checking messages from your other friends who aren’t there, thinking about what you have to do in an hour or that fight you got in last night. Simply be there with that person. All you have is that moment with them, use it, treasure it, hold it. Think of how much deeper of friendships we could have with others, how much more we could touch each other’s souls, if we were really there with each other, fully present and fully alive. Often when we are with others, most of us is being used up by other life commitments; we are thinking about everything else except the person we are with and what they are saying. Be intentional about enjoying others, and you’ll quickly see how much more fulfilling spending time with others truly is.
Be intentional with your time. When you sit down to study or work, it’s so tempting to spend half of the time scrolling through your phone, because you’re longing for connection or simply don’t want to do the tasks at hand. But if you are intentional about knowing exactly what you need to accomplish, you could get it done in half of the time and much less hassle. Although you’d be working harder in the moment, being completely engrossed on the task at hand, you have the possibility of getting twice as much done in half of the time. In life, all we truly have is time; it is our greatest, and should be most treasured, possession. When you are somewhere, be there; when you are doing something, do that. That is being intentional with your time; multi-tasking is a lie we believe to make ourselves feel more productive. When we are intentional, we are treating time with the importance it should have; we are using it wisely and giving ourselves the ability to use that extra time we get when we are intentional for things that matter. Our lives have the opportunity to have more purpose, more satisfaction, when we can have margins in our lives to take care of our souls and participate in things that we care about.
Be intentional about yourself. Notice your emotions, your desires, your body, and then listen. The other day when I was upset about some things going on in my life, my friend made me take my hand and just look at it; he made me notice all of the lines, that are completely unique, the individual pores, the symmetry, the cuticles that somehow know exactly where to stop. Although it sounds silly to be intentional about noticing your hands, it is a practice that makes you realize once again just how valuable you are. How incredible it is that even your most basic self is more magnificent that any of humanity’s inventions. Nothing in all of the world comes close to touching the masterpiece that is humanity, and you are a part of that. Being intentional about realizing how valuable you are will enable you to realize just how important your life is. It allows you to realize how valuable other people are too, when you can treasure yourself as well. Putting intention where you want to grow is also important. If you don’t like something about yourself, maybe how you handle certain situations or a negative personality trait, put your intention there. Just a little bit of intention every day will turn you into who you want to be. You have the power to be the person you long to be; it just will take a little bit of intentionality to get there.
Paul Tillich once said, “Vitality in man is proportional to intentionality.” Intentionality is a beautiful practice that allows your soul more space to grow and breathe. It allows you to begin to notice the wonder of life around you, the hearts of other people, and the value in yourself. It keeps your time from being wasted, and in doing so, keeps you from wasting your life. You mean too much to the world to allow your life to be filled with apathy and dissatisfaction. Be purposed, be intentional about living the life you desire. Your life is worth it.