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There Will Be Bruises

We are driving through Mississippi. The air is crisper than we expected, an abrupt cold spell in the American South. After wonderful events in Tampa, Miami, Orlando, and Jacksonville, the Sunshine State has now receded into our rearview, but a bag of Florida-grown oranges still sits perched in the back seat.

Every so often, one of us reaches into the bag and removes a plump orange from the hoard. So juicy, so delicious. Occasionally, though, the citrus fruit we extract is less than ideal: underripe, slightly bruised, or even green and fuzzy with mold. Bluck! Like Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.

You can, however, mitigate your risk. Like anything in life, you’re going to get at least a few bad oranges. This is true even when you scrutinize the bag: there’ll never be a perfect assemblage. So, whether we’re buying oranges or a new home, we have three choices:

We can close our eyes, select any bag, and hope for the best.

We can hold out until we find the perfect selection.

We can choose carefully: pay attention, closely examine our options, and then pick the best.

The first option relies on luck (and laziness) to guide the way: don’t be surprised if you end up with a bag of mold. The second option leads to discontent and starvation: there will never be a perfect bag. The third option is the intentional option: it optimizes the good, while understanding that no matter how hard you try, there will be bruises.

Intentionality requires more work, more deliberate action, but that’s where all the reward is—an intentional life always tastes best.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.