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On the Intentional Life

August 22nd, 2006 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

“I may not have done everything right, but I did everything intentionally.”

The statement startled me when I heard it. Its simplicity and power grabbed me–it was as if I had been woken from a nice, long dream. Like so many times before, my former boss had managed to remind me of a truth so important and difficult. Intentionality–it’s essential to any worthwhile success, since the only other option is to succeed by accident, but immensely difficult to maintain.
During the last eight months, I have lost any sense of intentionality in my life. I awoke recently to discover myself in the middle of August. I’m not sure what I’ve done the last eight months, but maintaining any sense of time hasn’t been part of it.

I’ve often heard people say that time only moves faster as we get older. What isn’t said is why we feel that way. My hunch is that it has more to do with being busy than being old. Intentionality takes time for solitude, silence and reflection–immensely elusive experiences for adults. But without the broadened perspective and renewed sense of focus and purpose that they provide, we can slip into slumber and allow the days to pass without attempting to change them or us. “I woke to find myself in a dark wood,” opens the Commedia. Sleepwalking is a dangerous way to travel.
It was Socrates who taught the world that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. My boss has reminded me that the unintenional life isn’t any better. Will the lesson last? Who knows. But the fight must be fought. Shedding drowsiness is painful, but purifying. It is what we all must do in order to thrive.