Purposeful living, or living intentionally, has been on my mind. The idea is that we can live a better life if we purposefully plan how to deal with stressors and setbacks, intentionally choosing the path we want to follow. We can purposefully choose to back away from the fast spin of the world, and plan our actions (or at least our intentions) while we settle and control our thoughts.

It seems ethereal and sounds hard. But in pondering over the gift of using our agency to build a more solid life, there are simple shifts in our day-to-day thoughts, desires and activities that improve our life’s quality. We can shed unneeded pain, tension, or trouble. And come to better appreciate the blessing of the mortal journey. At least, that’s what I’m planning on as I better understand this rewarding plan.

This is how I broke down part of the “Living Intentionally” concept for myself:

  1. Sometimes we have to throw in the towel. Persistence is awesome. But sometimes it’s better to back off, forget the goal of “winning,” or leave it be. We can’t win all of the time. Our agenda might not be the best one for our mortal journey. And throwing in the towel might save a lot of stress and exhaustion, while it grants us a better measure of peace. After all, the peace that the Lord gives is “not as the world giveth” [John 14:27]. Backing off from the pace or cycle we’ve gotten caught up in may give us more pondering time, so that the Spirit can whisper.
  2. Trust in the Lord. Not in ourselves, when the thinking is not clear and the plan is out of focus. Proverbs 3:5-6 lends us great counsel, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” He sees the end from the beginning and the ill-conceived from the good. It’s nice to know that we are able to receive help from One who “gets it” when we don’t!
  3. Find that place of peace. It might be found in unexpected places, and in unusual ways. Because the God’s ways are not our ways, we simply need to turn things over to Him so He can help us make sense of seemingly senseless times. Okay — so it’s not that simple to do. But we can work at it. Following His plan (which necessitates us praying often and sincerely in order to know that plan) is a way of more peaceful living.
  4. Fake it till you make it. That’s always seemed an interesting sentence. It sounds less than genuine, doesn’t it? But we have a basic need to be accepted. We would like to be esteemed and appreciated. We most often think we aren’t good enough as we are. So we set out to be someone better, whatever that is. That disingenuousness can be tricky because we get sidetracked in our public persona, instead of sharing our true selves. Here’s the thing: Our real self is better than the plastic one. We would do better to fake the self-worth and self-appreciation until it becomes a real part of us. Meanwhile, we’re more authentic and feeling better about ourselves.
  5. Gripe and complain. This has to be a typo, right? Not really. There is a place where we can dump all our concerns and bothers. When kneeling in prayer, we can tell everything to our Father in heaven. He already knows it anyway, and we don’t fool Him. So when we’re in prayer, we can share those things for which we’re grateful, and then — why not bellyache a bit and then request real ways to deal with our circumstances? I think it will grant us more purposeful living. And more strength to move forward.
  6. Give up the lead. As opposed to many positive living gurus, who tell us the joys of staying in the lead, we may find more purpose in slowing down and hanging behind. Those who are better than we, have been at it longer, and are better prepared, may teach us a thing or two while we watch and learn from behind. At the end of the day, does it really matter what position we’re in, as long as we’re still making the journey? If life is for learning, education (and wisdom) can often be gained by being in the pack, instead of leading the way. It will allow us to breathe more deeply, more reasonably make our goals, and enjoy the progress we’re making.
  7. Stop thinking, already. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I over-think. That gets me going in every which direction, which brings my ability to choose to a screeching halt. In the 13th chapter of Corinthians, we read about being a child — thinking and acting as a child — and then becoming a man, and putting away childish things. There is wisdom in taking a mental break. When we come back, we’re more refreshed. And able to, with clarity (without childish mental whiplash) make a more informed and righteous decision.
  8. Pretend to be in a great mood. This one is self-explanatory. And it can be quite funny. I know, because I’ve done this a number of times when I was not in a good mood. Interestingly enough, on most occasions there has been a sincere shift in mood. What a simple fix!

So, this is part of how I conceive of the “intentional living” idea. It seems to be helping me better appreciate the gifts of the Spirit. I’m enjoying the self-given assignment of seeking to see the good in every single little thing/person/situation that I can. I do this, by the way, by working on number 8, above.

In my own way (number 4, above), I’m having a good time as I learn and incorporate a “more excellent way” (Matthew 5) through small and simple measures. It brings a greater measure of peace and seems to color the whole world softer and lovelier to look at. I’d love to know how you’re incorporating this concept in your life — and would love for you to send me an email with your ideas and experiences!

Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, and grandmother who joined the LDS Church as a teenager. It has been her blessing to teach and share her testimony with many good folks. Her propensity for being the queen of embarrassing moments notwithstanding, she sums up her journey thus far like this: “It’s a Wonderful Life.” She has taught Church youth & family programs for 25 years, and has written books, hundreds of columns, & created hundreds of songs all with the intent of growing goodness and pointing people to Christ. Her latest venture is to create a website to focus on, bring attention to, and grow the goodness in this world. Visit her website at www.goodnessmatters.com