I Didn’t Do it… On Purpose
Have you ever had a kid just messing around in the living room break something doing something dumb they knew they shouldn’t do? OK, or maybe it was your husband – let’s not focus on who actually did it. 🙂 What’s your child’s immediate response (excuse) when you run in to see what happened or you ask, “What was that?” The response is either, “He did it,” or “She did it.” But once blame is assigned, usually the followup response is “I didn’t do it… on purpose!” Well duh, because if you had done it on purpose then I would have taken you out back behind the woodshed and lit you up. I’m not sure if anyone has a woodshed any more, but that’s apparently where kids used to get their whoopings. We know they didn’t do it on purpose though, they were playing around and “it just happened.”
I feel like I live my life the same way sometimes. My life doesn’t happen on purpose – it just happens. Do we live our lives that way? Does life just happen to us and we don’t live it, purposefully or intentionally? Do we just react to life and let it lead us. Seems crazy to think of it that way, but isn’t that the way it happens a lot of the time? We’re just kicking the soccer ball around in the living room and BAM! – the vase breaks – it just happened – no one planned it or purposed it. Sounds like life… just going to work, picking up the kids, fixing dinner, doing laundry, going to bed, waking up, <repeat the cycle>. Life just happens – nothing purposeful about it and then BAM! – life happens; we lose our job, our kids leave the church, our spouse decides to leave us – we didn’t plan that, we didn’t purpose that – it just happened. Or even if nothing negative happens – a lot of the time we just live life, react to what life throws at us, and we really don’t purposefully accomplish anything of value like we wish we would have.
What does it mean to live a purposeful life? Being purposeful to me is taking life by the horns, it’s deciding what happens in life instead of life happening to you. Purposeful is intentional. I think many of us have been “victims of life circumstances” for far too long in our lives. I know that is true for me. I allow life to “just happen” instead of influencing life, and for some reason (said facetiously) life hasn’t turned out exactly like I had originally envisioned. Living a life of purpose though doesn’t always mean that everything will turn out the way we planned it, but there is a much better chance of it if we are intentional or purposeful with our living.
14,227 Days and Counting
Over time you will come to learn that I am a big fan of Andy Andrews’ books. They are generally simple stories with very inspirational messages. So, when his manager, “The Robert D. Smith” finally came out with a book of his own after “just managing” a New York Times Best-Selling Author for four decades, of course I was going to read it and I am so thankful I did. The book that has inspired me to be more intentional and to live a more purposeful life is 20,000 Days and Counting. I have bought copies for friends and I recommend it every chance I get. In fact I should probably apologize to all my friends that I have annoyed with constant references to it in pretty much every class I am in.
Robert tells how he literally counts his days based on Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. He lives an intense life or purpose every single day – life doesn’t just happen to him. He also explains how at about 20,000 days into this purposeful life – he went away for a few days and purposefully planned out the remainder of his days. In the book he challenges you with some thought-provoking questions like, “Are you spending life merely reacting to events as they happen, or are you moving forward each day with a clear objective?” He says we need to, “live with intense purpose, constant joy, and lasting influence.” It’s a very inspirational quick read – worth absolutely every penny you spend on it.
As of the time of writing this article I have lived 14,227 days. That is a humbling number when you look at it and think – ok, I have lived over 14,000 days – what have I done with them? Ouch, the reality is generally painful when we think about how little we have probably purposefully accomplished in that period of time – no matter how many days you have lived until this point.
Start Your Count Down
Another perspective to look at this from is – if I live to be 76 years old – I have 38 more Thanksgivings left. I have 5 years with my daughter before she goes away to college. I have 38 more wedding anniversaries with my wife. How do I want to spend these? If I know I have 5 more years to influence my daughter before she goes away to college – how will I spend those 5 precious years? Would I be more purposeful? Would I spend more time talking to her about important life topics? Would I focus more attention on guiding her spiritual walk with Christ? I like to think so, but what normally happens to us? Even when time seems short – like 5 years (that’s short), we still put off being intentional until it is more like 1 year left – then we wonder where all the time went.
If today were really my last day – how would I live? We always think about the question, we read books about it, we listen to songs about it, but never act like we care about it until it really happens to us… The question makes sense – we should focus on it and really live our lives to some degree based on the presumption that today might be our last. But, generally we don’t. If tomorrow I was diagnosed with late-stage cancer and had one year to live – what changes would I make in my daily life? Would I keep working 60 hours per week? Would I let anything get in the way of seeing my kids play soccer? Would I ever reschedule a date with my wife? Would I spend more time studying my Bible? How would I spend my money? What changes would I make? Would I live a life of purpose?
Robert D. Smith, in his book makes this same point when he says, “Do not wait for impending death to light the fire of action inside yourself.” If I knew I only had 5 more weeks with my family – how would I spend those 5 weeks? What would be important to me? Why don’t we live like our time is short, because it is. James 4:14 says, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
State Your Purpose
One thing I have learned is that if you don’t say it – it won’t happen. In goal setting exercises, in writing a mission statement – they always say that you should say it – you should share it – because then it becomes a little more real and then you have others that can hold you or keep you accountable. The reason I started this blog was because I voiced my desire (goal) of writing for a living and I have given myself a certain amount of time to just start writing, practicing, before committing to quit my job and do this full-time for a year or so. I voiced this to a few friends, one of them being my wife of course and then just started recently on the practicing part. I voiced this to a few people enough times that I knew it was time to either “put up or shut up.” I stated one of my purposes and am now starting to live more intentionally in that area of my life.
Back to the 20,000 Days and Counting, Robert encourages some exercises in writing down your purpose – I have used some of that as a basis for my About page on this website. I would encourage you to do the same. Create a life statement. State your purpose in life, state your goals, your dreams, and start living them intentionally.
Live a Life of Purpose
We need to live a life of purpose. God wants us to live a life of purpose. Robert D. Smith also says that if you want things to change in your life, you have to be open to change, to new possibilities. Prioritize daily lists with what is truly important and rewarding. Purposefully find ways to spend more time each day on the important.
Be intentional! Live a life of purpose!