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Intentional Living: 5 Lessons

Living intentionally is the key to a life that matters. That’s the core message of John Maxwell’s newest book, aptly titled Intentional Living. For those struggling to take the steps into a life of making a difference, this book inspires you in how to get there. Here are 5 lessons I took away from this book.

1. Stop Trying and Start Doing

Many of us know Yoda’s saying “Do or do not. There is no try.” But few of us recognize the deep wisdom behind these words. Maxwell makes clear how trying is filled with good intentions, whereas doing is the result of intentional living. Doing equals full commitment—which is also why it is so hard to get to that point.

2. Start with Your One Thing

“I believe everyone has one thing they do better than anything else. The right place to start is with your one thing,” Maxwell advises. He shares the example of his father, who excelled in encouraging people. This is a fascinating concept to me and I haven’t figured this out completely to be honest. Being aware of your strengths is crucially important into making a difference, that much is clear, but I don’t think I’ve narrowed it down to one thing yet. Have you?

soccer goal

3. Find Your Why

It’s not what you do, but why you do it that will keep you going: you purpose. To find that, Maxwell lists three questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you cry about?
  • What do you sing about?
  • What do you dream about?

I love these questions, as pondering these will help you lead to your deepest passion.

4. Put other People First

Servant leadership. A life of significance is all about putting other people first. As Maxwell says: significance and selfishness don’t go together. He shows how you can practically add value to others, especially from your ‘sweet spot’ (that’s the one thing you really excel at).

5. One is too Small a Number

In one of his previous books (The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork) Maxwell stated that “one is too small a number to achieve greatness”. He builds upon that statement here, by urging us to connect with like-minded and like-valued people. The key is the ‘like’ part—you can’t just partner with anybody. You need people who have similar goals and similar values—while at the same time have completely different strengths. Teamwork is definitely something I want to work on.

To be fair, Intentional Living is not Maxwell’s best book. First of all, it’s not an explicit Christian book, though he makes no secret of his faith and background. Some people may take issue with his views on the power of positive thinking—I have some doubts about it myself. But that doesn’t mean the book is not inspiring, because it is. It has certainly challenged and encouraged me to become more intentional in making a difference with my life.

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