In his new book, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters,†released on Tuesday, leadership expert John Maxwell describes a journey into a life of significance that will gut you, overwhelm you and inspire you all at the same time through truths that are so intentional, they could also possibly hurt you if you have been stuck in a rut with your life for a while.
And when I say hurt, I mean that in a good way.
It’s the kind of hurt that you might feel after looking at the results from taking stock of your life, which the book asks you to do. If you discover that your life hasn’t been very significant up to this point, chances are that might hurt.
The good news, though, is that Intentional Living†inspires you to do something about it by starting where you are with whatever it is that you are good at and then trusting God to do the rest if you are a believer.
“Living intentionally will motivate you to start asking questions and begin prioritizing whatever is important to you. That’s what it did for me. I began by asking how I could be successful. When I had begun to achieve some success, I realized that I needed to be asking questions about significance. Can I make a difference? Whom should I help? How can I help them? How can I add value to them?” writes Maxwell.
The 271-page book is like a spellbinding Joel Osteen pep talk (maybe Maxwell would prefer a Rick Warren comparison since he quotes him in the book) in tone with a little bit more panache, which hits you so hard in the heart it eventually forces you from your feet to shout mental amens ever so often. My amens came in the form of highlighted text on almost every other page.
And he is so invested in spreading the gospel of Intentional Living, Maxwell, the leadership guru fueled by his faith in Jesus who has written more than 75 books and sold 25 million-plus of those titles globally, has for the first time made his narrative deeply personal, warts and all.
“It’s the most personal I’ve been in any book. And the reason I was inspired to do that is I think people are inspired not by perfection. I think they are inspired by somebody who overcame,” says Maxwell during an interview with The Christian Post in Manhattan’s Flatiron District in New York on Wednesday.
In Intentional Living, Maxwell discusses his struggles with personal flaws such as selfishness and opens up about the role his faith plays in his life of significance.
“My life is flawed, yet I believe I need to share it with you in a way I never have before because I don’t know of any better way to teach you how to embark upon intentional living,” Maxwell declares early on in the book. “I believe that if you know my story and how it unfolded, it will help you to write your own story of significance. It will empower you to lead yourself to a life that matters.”
He also apologizes early on to anyone he may offend by his discussion of his faith.
“I talk pretty openly about my faith in this book. I do that because it has been an important part of my personal journey. It may also be a part of yours. But I also know that it may not be. Rest assured, I will not try to force my faith on you. If you’re indifferent to faith, or even if you have a negative disposition toward faith or God, I sincerely believe you’ll benefit from hearing my story,” he writes. “Having said that, I want you to know that I’ll let you know when I’m going to talk about my faith, and you can skip that section if you want to. I won’t be offended.”
I was still absorbing Maxwell’s message from the book when we sat down to discuss it only hours after I had finished reading it on Wednesday. I told him I found the book “stunning.” He listened as I fumbled around in my head to find the right words to say the book struck a chord in me. Perhaps I didn’t want to admit that his book made me question whether I was living a life of significance.
“I believe we all have a longing to be significant, to make a contribution, to be a part of something noble and purposeful,” he writes in the book.
I had ticked that statement off as true for me.
Then this one hit me:
Significance is messy. It’s inconvenient. It’s overwhelming. At times I’ve been disappointed in myself. I’ve also been disappointed by others. All the couldn’ts, didn’ts, and wouldn’ts in my life have shown me my shortcomings. The story I wanted to write and the one being written are different. But that’s OK. My strikeouts have developed my character, and my hits have been unforgettable. When your story of significance moves from ideal to real, it will begin to remake you.
I ticked that one off as another truth too. Read it again and let it sink in if you missed it.
Maxwell uses a powerful blend of stories from his own life and others throughout the book to explain how you can only live a life of significance by being intentional about it. And being intentional involves taking action.
“The goal of the book is not to have a passive reader say it was a great book. The goal of the book is to get a person to say, I can be intentional and be significant right now and I’m gonna do it, and by the way John, I’m gonna tell you what I did,” he says.
His references to faith are authentic and inspiring.
It is always my desire to do my best. I have adopted Coach Wooden’s motto “Make every day your masterpiece, “so it’s a given that I will give my best every day. But God helps to make my best, as flawed as it is, even better. I have always believed that God will be there for me and help me. In fact, my belief in myself grows out of my faith. I totally embrace the words in Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
“My faith influences my message because it is the message. Everything I know about leadership is out of the Bible,” Maxwell tells me when I ask him to explain the difference between Intentional Living and his other work.
“If I’m in the business community I don’t quote Scripture, I don’t talk about that. But the principles, the leadership principles, they’re all in the Bible. So what I try to do, I don’t try to convert anybody, I try to add value to people,” he explains.
As Christians he says, we can reach more people when we lead lives of significance that add value to others through our actions.
“What we need to do is to exceed expectations and add value to people until they look at us and say, ‘this person has added value to me.’ The moment a person feels that, then you can really influence them with your faith. But I disagree with people who say in the marketplace faith comes first. I don’t think so, I think excellence comes first. I think you go out and add value to people,” he says. “I think servanthood comes first. I can give you half a dozen things that come before faith. They are almost like the John the Baptist for faith.”
After that he says, you get to do faith at the end of the day, “but you don’t get to do faith first.”
He continues: “People of faith have got to do the right thing for other people before they share their faith. And I think that we have taught people to ignore all the things we need to do that are right and just immediately jump in with the faith. And I think we muddy the message real quickly because we do that.”
Once they find their significance, Maxwell hopes a million people will join him over the next two years in a worldwide movement by sharing their stories.
“If you join me in my dream of making a difference, together maybe we can start a movementó a movement toward a world of intentional living where people think of others before themselves, where adding value to others is a priority, where financial gain is second to future potential, and where people’s self-worth is strengthened by acts of significance every day. If we each live a life that truly matters, we can change the world,” Maxwell declares near the end of the book.
To get people started on their stories of significance and intentional living, Maxwell wants them to try the “7-day experiment” at www.7DayExperiment.com†or www.getintentionalnow.com.
It’s a completely free tool designed to empower people to begin the journey toward intentional living.