Do you know you are meant to have a meaningful life and to bring meaning to the lives of others? Every word you say and every action you take has meaning to either yourself or someone else. With every heartbeat, you have another moment to accomplish something special in the world, in the life of someone you meet, in the life of someone who is close to you, or in your own life. When you view your life this way, you will begin to live your life intentionally and with meaning.
Living your life intentionally doesn’t mean you set goals for your life; though that can be part of it. A goal is something that may or may not be achieved because there may be variables involved in reaching the goal. For example, you may decide you want to run a successful business and reach a certain revenue goal by the end of 2014. However, there are numerous variables out of your control that can prevent that from happening such as the economy, illness, and lack of response from your target market to name a few. But to live intentionally or deliberately is completely up to you and something you are able to control. It’s you who decides what you think about or what you say. It‘s you who determines what TV programs you watch or what books you read. You get to choose whether or not you want to be someone who doesn’t connect with others or someone who reaches out to people.
When I think of making deliberate choices, my inspiration was my husband, who while suffering with the pain of bone cancer, would always smile and encourage the nurses if they were having a bad day. He chose to live his life as an encourager. And while weak and helpless he still thought enough to have one of the nurses call the florist to make sure I had the traditional red roses for our 17th wedding anniversary. Sadly, it was our last anniversary together…you can read the story here.
If you’re young, this is a great time to begin thinking about your life in this way. If you’re older or even aged, it’s never too late to make an impact in your circle of family, friends, community or even the world. One simple act of kindness can change your life and someone else’s life in a moment. We all want to be valued. We all want to do something meaningful. We’re not all able to lead a civil rights march or cure cancer; but there are multitudes of ways you can leave the world or at least your area of the world better than when you came into it.
- Strike up a conversation with a cashier and ask her how her day is going
- Give your elderly neighbor a ride to get groceries so she doesn’t have to catch a bus.
- Put a thank you card in your mailbox for the mail person to let them know you appreciate that no matter how bad the weather is, they still deliver your mail.
- Bring your co-worker a latte for no reason (if they like lattes).
- Be in charge of a community fundraising event for a non-profit
- Do the laundry for a stressed out family caregiver
- Bring dinner every other night to someone who broke their arm and is alone
- Offer to shovel snow for a widow or single woman
- Offer to babysit for a weekend for your pastor and his wife
- Teach someone how to create a budget to better enable them to make ends meet
- Create a photobook of family memories for your mother or grandfather who is in a nursing home and leave it with them when you leave.
- Teach someone to read so they can get their G.E.D.
- Offer to take a chemo patient to their treatments
- Pay for funeral services for someone who doesn’t have a funeral plan
- Buy a used car for a family who doesn’t have a car nor the money to purchase a car
- Invest time to help someone through a challenge or a devastating time in their life
- Become a mentor
- Be the “strength” for someone who lost a loved one until they can find the strength to stand on their own again
- Do a home repair for an elderly person
What all these suggestions have in common is investing; investing in the life of someone. Sometimes a smile is enough to change someone’s day completely. People will remember the little kindnesses (or big kindnesses) that someone does for them. I know from experience because of the suggestions on this list are things people did for me and I will treasure those kindnesses forever.
Why Is This Important?
It’s important because people need love. Love is a universal language and hearts respond to loving kindness. Think about this:
- How do you think the world would be a better place if each day we all did something kind or loving for someone else?
- What if our default mind set could be being kind instead of impatient or being positive instead of negative?
- What if we could get into the habit of encouraging those we are around every day instead of criticizing them?
- What if we could give a present of telling someone in person or in a letter how much they mean to us instead of thinking each gift needs to be of monetary value?
It Starts With Us
It’s hard to reach out to others if our own needs for love and encouragement haven’t been met. People generally follow a pattern of how they grew up. If you grow up unloved, chances are you’ll be unloving because you won’t know how to show love. If you grow up in a critical environment you’ll learn to be critical. If we can begin to internalize how valuable we are as a human being, it would be more natural to want to tell others how valuable they are. A place to start is to begin to change your thinking patterns. How do we change our mind set? I’m not a psychologist but I have a few practical ideas that I incorporate into my own life. Here are my thoughts on some ways to renew your mind.
- Learn to be grateful and acknowledge what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
- Keep track of good things that happen in your life rather than focusing on the negative (a blessings journal).
- Choose to live your life deliberately and choose, if it’s under your control, to create the life you want for yourself rather than settling for an unfulfilled life.
- Focus on thoughts that are good and positive rather than focusing on those negative, intrusive thoughts.
- Find a friend who would like to join you in the journey of living life with intentionality and hold each other accountable for your collective thinking patterns.
I know…it’s easier said than done but I think it can be done with some training. Start by keeping a simple journal listing the blessings that you recognize each day. You don’t have to be a writer. Just keep a simple list of the good things that happened each day. Don’t take anything for granted because good things can happen just as often as bad things; we just learn to focus on the good things.
If we look for them we will find them. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. When you begin to recognize your blessings, you’ll want to bless others. And one day you’ll realize that you made a huge difference in your area of influence and that will be your legacy.