“What if my whole life has been wrong?” - Ivan Ilych
These words, spoken in the final moments by Ivan himself in Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel The Death of Ivan Ilych, have haunted me for many years.
I'll bet these words haunt you a little, too.
If so, I’m going to make a bold assumption: you've trusted conventional wisdom to guide certain aspects of your life.
I’ll bet you went to school in the hope it would provide you with everything you needed to be “successful” in the real world. You earned a high school or college degree so you could land a decent job or start a business. With some steady income, you bought a home. Maybe you settled down and started a family of your own. For as long as you can remember, you’ve always believed that working hard for several decades would earn you the right to one day enjoy a comfortable retirement.
The problem with blindly following conventional wisdom is one day may never come.
After some time, many of us wake up and take a hard look in the mirror. We begin to realize we’re not where we want to be. We wish we were further along. We thought we’d have better health, more wealth and deeper relationships at this stage in our lives. There’s this nagging feeling that something is missing.
We’ve been drifting for so many years, we’re now feeling a bit lost. Going through the motions no longer satisfies us. With a subtle sense of uncertainty, we come to the realization that there’s more to life than we’ve previously noted.
We have this longing to live more intentionally. We have this desire to make more of a difference in the lives of those we lead, love and serve. The problem, of course, is that the hourglass of life is now working against us. We’re afraid that if we don’t make a change soon, we may never reach our true potential as human and spiritual beings.
Some people call this a “quarter” or “mid-life” crisis. Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology, referred to this as the “afternoon” of our lives.1 In his book The Shift, Wayne Dyer describes this as a time in our lives when we move from a place of ambition to a place of meaning.
In the meantime, we’ve picked up an enormous amount of responsibility along the way. Some of us have soul-crushing jobs or businesses that demand our around-the-clock attention. Expenses are steadily increasing, the mortgage is due and there are numerous mouths to feed. Our loved ones aren’t getting any younger, and they will soon, if not already, require extra care.
Every day we’re being pulled in all sorts of directions. It feels like everything and everyone demands our attention. We’re spread thin and stress levels are shooting through the roof. Our lives become a never-ending state of imbalance, spiraling out of control. Despite our good intentions to live more intentionally, we’re not sure where we’ll find the time in our busy schedules to make that happen.
So how, then, do we approach this subject of intentional living?
No one ever taught us this. No one ever taught us how to live our lives based on our own unique definitions of success. We didn’t learn it from our parents, our society or our culture. Religious institutions don’t teach this, and the formal education system doesn’t either.
While all of these influential sources have certainly contributed in meaningful ways, we’re still left wondering how to start living intentionally based on all the unique circumstances with which we now find ourselves surrounded.
A Real-World Approach
In the following pages, you’ll find a real-world approach that helps you break free from conventional wisdom and pursue your own definition of success. It’s a practical approach that will meet you where you are and support you based on your unique circumstances. It will help you navigate this incredibly fun and rewarding journey into intentional living. No matter where you’re looking to go, this book will help you get there, even if you don’t know where there is just yet.
Best of all, this isn’t proprietary. In fact, I’ll bet you’re already familiar with every single element within this simple approach.
Before going into further detail, I’m going to ask you to use your imagination for a moment.
Imagine waking up one day in the not-so-distant future. You look in the mirror, and you have this internal knowing that you’re on the right path.
This new version of you has discovered what truly matters most. You’ve objectively assessed your entire life, and for once, you’re finally organized around your highest priorities.
You’ve made the shift from living reactively to living proactively. You’re more effective than ever before with your time, and you’re making the most of each day.
The people you love, lead and serve begin to notice your transformation.
You’re no longer distracted with the things that used to steal your attention away from the present. Instead, you’re laser-focused.
You’ve envisioned a compelling future for your life by defining clear and meaningful goals. With this new sense of clarity, procrastination is a thing of the past. You’re experiencing significant progress in every area of your life, and you’re finally advancing in the direction of your dreams.
You’re taking time out of your busy schedule to course-correct along the way. You’re succeeding faster than ever before, and you’ve taken your learning and growth to an entirely new level.
This might seem like a far-fetched fantasy, but I’m here to tell you it’s not.