Good Intentions or Intentional Living?

Several years ago, I had the outstanding opportunity to be one of the speakers at the Willow Creek Association Leadership Summit. I wasn’t nervous until I realized I’d be sharing that stage with world-class motivational speakers including Bill Hybels, John Ortberg and John Maxwell.

The entire conference marked a highpoint in my career, but it’s the kindness, authentic appreciation and personal encouragement of John Maxwell that I will never forget.

I left that conference far better than I’d arrived, having been truly motivated and inspired by all of the speakers, but mostly by the simple wisdom of John Maxwell. What an amazing communicator!

You can imagine how happy I was to learn that our book reviewer, Jeff Tompkins, chose John Maxwell’s latest book for this month’s review.


Book Review: Intentional Living by John C. Maxwell

Reviewer: Jeff Tompkins, Jr.

Welcome to 2017 my fellow readers! I hope this finds you having enjoyed your holiday, and ready to tackle a new year. Following my review of Smarter Faster Better last month, which focused on simple ways to up our game in terms of productivity, I found that Intentional Living by John Maxwell provides the perfect complement to helping us start the year off right.

If you haven’t heard of John Maxwell, he is a prolific leadership and management guru (writer and speaker) who started as a pastor and has now written over 50 books on leadership, worked with over 80 nations on leadership skills, and helps Fortune 500 companies with their leadership and management needs (including groups like the NFL, West Point and the CDC).  In 2014, Inc. Magazine named him the number one leadership and management expert. Needless to say, Maxwell knows what he is talking about when he wades into a topic like living intentionally.

Intentional Living focuses on the difference between simply living with good intentions (defined as the desire to do something; wishful thinking, thinking “someday”, living passively or in fantasy) as opposed to intentional living (defined as taking action, living with purpose, thinking “today”, strategizing, and applying discipline to our daily lives). While Duhigg’s book last month gave us the tools to be more productive, in Intentional Living Maxwell gives us more of the how—how do we use those tools intentionally to get the most out of our lives?

In Intentional Living Maxwell tells a good bit of his own story; where he started, how he got to where he is, and the triumphs and pitfalls along the way. This style resonates with me, as I am a big believer in the fact that stories are how we relate to one another. One of the most effective ways in which we learn and remember things.

Maxwell’s story is not for the sake of entertainment—it’s to show that when we jump in and actually live our stories, we can make a difference.

The book focuses on a number of ways to live intentionally, with a focus on relationships, equipping (yourself and others), attitude and leadership. It all starts, says Maxwell, with simply choosing to start and choosing to live a significant life.

In a quote from the book that I love, Maxwell states, “No one is impressed with the win/loss record of the referee.”  Why?  Because the referee isn’t playing the game. His or her job is to watch the game (and of course make calls we don’t agree with, and take jabs from the crowd about his or her lack of visual acuity).

Intentional Living is written simply; the concepts are not rocket science—which can make them all the more impactful since we typically still don’t choose to live by them.

Maxwell really seeks to move us from good intentions to putting those intentions into action starting where we are with what we have; figuring out our passions and our why; living with a sense of urgency, seizing the opportunities we are given, pushing forward through trials, and following through. The book is part primer in how to live a significant and intentional life and part pep talk to get us moving forward towards the purposes that have been placed on our hearts and lives.

For me, the book has also caused introspection, something that is is good for all of us, especially as we race through life with jobs, homes, families and friends. Do I even know my purpose, what my passions are? What do I value and find significant? Do I know what success looks like to me and how to start? Maxwell deftly and compassionately leads us through the exercise of asking ourselves these questions, while sharing the answers he found in his own life and guiding us towards doing the same in our own.

Intentional Living was the perfect, practical next step to help me start my new year with renewed focus— to get me off the couch so to speak and to not procrastinate on the dreams or goals I have had and long put off or put aside as too difficult to start.

My hope is that it will accomplish the same for you as we jump into 2017 together! This is a book that cannot help but teach or remind you of something that you will want to rekindle or start. I highly recommend you give it a read.

While Maxwell doesn’t close by actually stating that reading more good books (and book reviews) will help you to live intentionally, I think we can all agree he probably just ran out of space. Turning the page on the next great read, Jeff

Jeff’s Rating: ★★★★  A lot of good information, a great resource!


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  • Karen Urban

    Just one more confirmation for me for 2017. I heard a discussion on a radio station one morning as I drove to work, and the question was, “If you could choose one word as a goal for your year, what would it be?” Very thought-provoking. They threw several words out…and then one of them hit me…and that word was INTENTIONAL. I actually wrote the word on a piece of small paper and taped it to my computer screen at work…so I could see it and be reminded of it on a regular basis. I have pondered the same word as I do my morning quiet devotional times…as I set spiritual, physical, relational, and financial goals for this year. I, too, am a fan of John Maxwell, so when I saw your blog today, I smiled and laughed at the same time. Will be adding this to my “intentional” book list. And, another goal of my year is to continue to purge from my Large-to-me library books that are outdated, do not bring me joy, or continue to just take up room on my shelves. I can say my collection of books by Mary Hunt will remain. Blessings on all you do, and for walking the path before us, and opening the painful, but productive lessons you have learned and share with us.

  • Sandra

    Around me, my house is partially destroyed, due to heating pipes frozen, burst, thawed, and this post is much welcome. My goals for this year have been re-arranged to accommodate the necessity of re-construction, renovation, and keeping the house warm for the remainder of winter. Again, thank you for this post.