Jane Heinrichs is an artist and illustrator who grew up in my hometown of Steinbach. I follow Jane on social media and on her blog because I love the beautiful daily sketches she does of her family’s life in London, England. Jane gave me permission to use this sketch of her and her mother out for coffee. They are talking about what it means to live intentionally. Jane asked her Facebook followers to share what living intentionally means to them. I decided to make that my first post of 2017.
During most of my teaching career I had Socrates’ words the unexamined life is not worth living displayed somewhere in my classroom. I wanted to remind myself and my students to take time to reflect on what we were learning together and to make connections between that learning and our lives.
I examine life through my writing. Keeping journals, maintaining this blog, creating stories for children, compiling family history vignettes, writing my newspaper column and completing free-lance writing assignments, helps me to try to live intentionally- to think about what I am doing and to reflect on whether the choices I make are in line with what I value and believe.
I know there are many other ways to examine life. My husband reflects on his life experiences by talking about them with his friends, with his clients, with his golf buddies and sometimes even with total strangers. My brother meditates and does yoga. A friend is part of a book club that discusses their personal connections to what they read. My daughter-in-law takes beautiful photographs and compiles them into books. My son composes music. My father gets up at dawn to read the newspaper and his Bible and think about how the two might connect. Jane Heinrichs does sketches.
Examination and reflection are the first step to living intentionally. But you can reflect and examine endlessly and still not live intentionally. What else needs to happen? Here are a few of my ideas.
- Set goals. These can be short-term goals like organizing your desk drawers or they can be long-term goals like attempting to get a book published.
- Expand your comfort zone. It can be doing something spontaneous like walking across a swinging suspension bridge you encounter on a hike or something bigger like applying for a job at an art gallery when you aren’t an artist and haven’t had any academic training in art history.
- Settle for imperfection. I knew when I decided to take my first sketching course I’d have to settle for imperfection and I still do every time I pick up a pencil to sketch. Cooking is not my forte and every time I try a new recipe I know I have to be willing to settle for imperfection. Don’t let imperfection stop you from trying new things.
- Simplify and organize. I have been trying to do this with my possessions much more intently in the last couple years but I know there are other areas of my life still crying out for organization and getting back to basics like getting more sleep and being more fit and focusing on simple healthy foods. In addressing these issues I would be living more intentionally.
- Be thankful. I have so much to be thankful for including health, love, friends, family and meaningful work and I need to turn my attention to that every single day. I need to intentionally list the things I am thankful for and name them and be sure to include them in my prayers along with my petitions.
- Try to make the world a better place. My Dad reminded us of this in his Christmas prayer at our family gathering. While recounting our family blessings he encouraged us to think about how many people in our world are suffering and to remember it is our responsibility to address their needs in a very intentional way.
I know that living intentionally means something different to every person. Hopefully in 2017 we can all get a little closer to figuring out what it means to us.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard