Every new year, Chris and I sit down and sketch out some financial goals for the year. We look at our budget, check out our investments, and see where we can improve. Other than this assessment of our financial game, we don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions. This year, I decided I wanted to do something a little differently for my own personal development. I wanted to develop a theme for myself for 2017. This is meant to be my new pursuit as I go about my days and the standard against which I measure my activities and long-term goals to determine their appropriateness. The problem was, I hadn’t yet figured out what my theme was going to be until today.
The Story Behind the Theme
Last night, we started a new Bible Study with our small group. This semester, our focus is parenting. One of the topics that came up last night was quality versus quantity time with our children and which was more beneficial. We ultimately determined that quality is what’s important. We could quit our jobs and spend those extra hours at home, but if all we accomplished was marking more things off the to-do list while our kids entertained themselves with iPads, we gained nothing. We have to choose to be present with our children to develop relationships and to mold their little characters by loving example. Every waking moment is not enough if it’s not being used intentionally. This little discussion got the ball rolling.
This morning, I was trying to write and the words just weren’t flowing. I knew my topic and I had a rough outline, but the research and details were abnormally painful to write. Meanwhile, I had a to-do list that wasn’t completing itself, the baby just did not want to settle down, and the sunny 70 degrees in the middle of January was beckoning from outside. I finally decided to put the computer aside, slather some sunscreen on our pasty white arms, and go for a long stroller walk. I don’t know about you, but exercise really gets my ideas flowing. I do my best thinking while I work out. It helps me settle my thoughts, brainstorm new ideas, and overcome writer’s block. I’ve prayed some of my most powerful prayers while walking and running. Today was no exception. As we strolled a few miles, I pondered what was said last night and prayed about my daughter and other future children. I talked to my baby girl and watched her as she studied the passing scenery and I realized that this stroller walk was just as necessary for her as it was for me. We weren’t just checking exercise off the list. We were also clearing our heads, spending time together, appreciating the gift of warm, sunny weather, and burning out our mutual restlessness. We were both instantly more peaceful because I chose to take this much-needed break in the middle of the day and reset. That’s when the theme of Intentional Living occurred to me.
I need to be more intentional about taking time for the important things that often seem at first like inconveniences. For me, these things are sometimes mid-day breaks, long walks to cure writer’s block, and quality time with a teething baby who needs some extra attention. This does not come easily for me and this change is going to require diligent effort. I am very driven by measurable accomplishments. I live to check things off my list. I was the kid who made her bed every morning, did my homework on Friday night, and ate my vegetables first. Not much has changed since then. I make a list and check it off and if I do anything not on the list, I’ll add it just so I can check it off, too (otherwise it doesn’t “count,” obviously. Please don’t think I’m crazy). These intentional moments will likely seem to be taking my time from other things, but I know deep down that they are more important than the temporary inconvenience. Here are some specific areas of my life I hope to approach with new intention this year:
Isn’t it unfortunate that most of our family time comes at the end of the day when we’re stressed, exhausted, and spent? I hate that my husband and daughter get my wrung-out leftovers after a hard day. It’s usually not pretty. I drag myself and all my bags (why are there so many bags?) through the door, change out of my germy office clothes, kiss my people, and immediately start the dinner-fixing, next-day-prep, baby-bedtime grind. This year, I want to try to refresh my mind on my way home from work so I have more to offer. Normally, I spend this time very constructively rehashing things that happened at work and mumbling under my breath at stoplights and irresponsible drivers. As much as I hate to give that up, I think changing the focus to re-energizing thoughts might be better for my frame of mind. I want to come home with the plan to intentionally love my little family and spend quality, undistracted time with them.
Good friends are absolutely the best things on earth. We all know that our lives are nothing without meaningful relationships so why do we neglect them so much? Why do we ignore the phone calls because we’re in a hurry and send brief texts instead? Why do we let ourselves get so busy and tired that we don’t have the time or energy to invite dear friends into our homes to share life together? This year, I want to change that. I want to be intentional about bringing friends together. I want to get dates on the calendar to visit friends who live out of town. I want to be encouraging and uplifting. I want to have an open home where people know they can stop by uninvited at any time. I want to be known as a good, trustworthy friend, because what could be a better reputation? Those things will require nurturing the relationships that I too often leave on autopilot, but this year, I’m making it a priority.
Health is vital to a person’s well-being. It’s just not something we can ignore and expect to improve. Our family is very conscientious about exercise and healthy eating, but I want to be more intentional about a few things. I want to try to provide even more fresh foods than last year for my family and myself. I want to prioritize exercise a little higher because, as I mentioned above, it improves my mental clarity and makes me more productive. Those things have value beyond just the physical effects of exercise and I completely disregard those benefits when I skip my workouts. I want to intentionally pursue things that reduce stress because I’m an uptight person with a career that requires intense focus. This means more time for prayer and decompressing. I want to read more books because I enjoy it and I know it’s good for my mind, even if it cuts into my TV watching a little bit. These habits won’t be easy ones to establish, but they definitely aren’t going to develop if I don’t pursue them with purpose.
Obviously, I think it’s important to be intentional with your finances. Without a plan, money disappears. This year, I want to pursue knowledge. I want to focus my efforts on learning more about investment strategies that I can use myself and share with you. I’m always on the hunt for more ways to save money and life frugally to stretch our hard-earned dollars as far as possible. I have set some concrete goals for my blog and I am committed to putting in the work to reach them. I’m researching and writing intentionally to help you succeed as well. Here are some other ways you can start to intentionally improve your finances:
Pay off Debt
If you haven’t done this yet, start here. Debt will hold you hostage and it has to be tackled before you can move forward. Commit to break free of your debt this year, or at least to start the process.
Create a Budget
Nothing is more intentional in financial management than a budget. If you don’t have one, it’s time to start. Take control of your spending and you’ll be amazed at how much of your income you can reclaim.
About 80% of my blog is devoted to this. While I certainly believe there are ways to increase your income, most of us can make huge financial strides by cutting back our expenses. Be sure to check out my list of Money Saving Recommendations. These are all resources that I use and love myself. I’m a firm believer that saving money doesn’t have to feel like sacrifice and it will definitely help you get where you want to go faster.
How about you? Have you chosen any themes for the year? I’d love to wish you luck and help you succeed, friend. Feel free to leave a comment below.
You might also enjoy these posts. Click the pictures to keep reading: