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The Intentional City

by Mike Whitehead

May 6,2007

This morning I took a good look at a place I would really like to live.

This city is crisscrossed with bike and walking paths; its sidewalks are full of young kids playing safely. The air is clean and the people are friendly. There are no cardboard villages – everyone has a place to call home. Neighborhoods are diverse and cared for. My teenage daughter would be safe walking through town with her friends, and my kids could go to school without fear.

The high school graduation rate is 90 percent. The crime rate – virtually nonexistent. Voter turnout is high, and it is common for adjacent neighborhoods to work together. This city has many cultures, many religions, many skin colors, many native tongues – but they all speak one language: the language of intention.

I visit this city every morning before I head off to work. It is Charlotte 2027 – a vision of the city that I purposely commit to creating every day. And I am not alone.

Pockets of us are waking up, no longer satisfied with just heading to work and hoping that someday we can afford to live somewhere safe, peaceful and beautiful. We are starting to realize that if we don't make sound decisions and take the right actions now – those places aren't going to be around much longer.

But here is the good news: if we do the right things now, in a couple of decades we won't have to move anywhere to find our ideal home. We can have it all right here.

Recently Crossroads Charlotte presented a group of scenarios that consider the city's character in 2015. Groups asking vital questions about our future have started to grow, multiply and take root all over the city, providing avenues for each of us to make a difference. Granted, our to-do list is long. The environment. Violence. Failing kids. Corruption. Racial and cultural tension. But these things don't take place in a vacuum. They are the cumulative effects of everyday choices made by everyday people; as a result we can change them by changing our choices.

At Whitehead Associates, we see transformations that demonstrate that people really want to wake up, and to be a part of a positive future. We witness dramatic proof that in each of us there is a will and a way to make our ideals real. This is no less true in Charlotte, but what we need to achieve it is a bold declaration of a new reality and the teamwork to put its systems in place. We must make intentional decisions with acute awareness. We create the world we live in; it is this moment that counts.

Look around you. Listen. Be aware of the words you are choosing, the people who surround you, what you spend your time doing. Are these choices reflecting who you want to be as an individual? Are they clearly demonstrating an effort to create a positive future for yourself and the people around you?

If not, you're not alone. Many of us go through periods of sleepwalking, believing our choices limited, our voices unimportant, or that the small, choreographed movements of our days too important for us to be bothered with big questions. As a result, we have been bumping into each other, awakening for brief periods to scratch our heads in a crisis, only to roll back over to sleep when the dust clears.

The decision to wake up, and the commitment to living in a state of 'awakeness' requires sacrifice. It costs time and effort, it can be complex and sometimes uncomfortable, but most potently, it involves an insistence upon shedding old habits, old beliefs, and old perspectives. It is asking every moment of every day, "What can I do?" It is the small but intentional choices like these that create dramatic change.

The most important decision we can make is the one to be intentional toward a positive future. Only then will the vision we are striving for attain the power and purpose to make the dream a reality.

My dream for Charlotte 2027 is 'An Intentional City.' I challenge you to consider your own vision. I intend to see you there.

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