"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule but to schedule your priorities" Stephen R. Covey
I know I've been guilty of this one. I plan, I even write down my intentions and goals every new year, but end up postponing them till the following semester. Then before I know it, the end of the year arrives and I haven't accomplished much. Something huge always gets in the way "“ life and everything in between.
A lot of us have a hectic lifestyle and schedule. If like me you're a single full time working mom with an active toddler at home, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Our work life and other responsibilities get in the way, emergencies and unexpected events, chores and errands, kids' endless demands, distractions, tiredness, and as much as we're reluctant to admit it, laziness.
Hey I'm not a robot! I get tired sometimes, laziness is just a side effect; my body needs to rest so I can recharge my batteries. Distractions and other entertainment help me to unwind and clear my mind. On my own free time I love sipping iced tea in my hammock watching an all-time favorite movie. Or just lounge on the beach – and think about nothing at all.
So you're talking to me about listing down my priorities? I only have time for one priority: to survive and meet my family's needs – trying to throw in a bit of light heartedness and fun here and there. If I had an assistant or a nanny, I would have plenty of time left to daydream about my many desires and set my priorities around them. But as far as I'm concerned, we only have 24 hours in a day, minus 7 hours of sleep to function properly (would love to prioritize nap time.)
To that I respond to you my dear: you are right but also wrong. Priorities may in fact simplify and improve your life. Hear me out.
Fast forward a couple decades from now. If you're 35, imagine yourself at 55. You're still at a job you that doesn't fulfill you, (even if you're making more money,) still wishing you had more time to relax and enjoy yourself, or doing the things that are important to you. Still following your ego's whims that don't contribute to your highest good, breaking harmony with your greater self and heart's desire. Still not seeing the bigger picture. Drifting through life, like in a foggy dream, days and years blending into one another. Going wherever the wind carries you, doing whatever your friends, family, or significant other want or expect you to do.
Personally, visualizing this kind of future makes me want to shake myself to wake up. I deserve better than to live my life just so that I can survive "“ work and pay bills – we all do. I want to live life now, not let it pass me by. I long to radiate positive vibrations that can only be achieved when in touch with my inner light. I want to learn and grow as a person, to contribute in a positive manner and make a difference in this world, while using my unique set of gifts and experience. I yearn to nourish my soul through creative endeavors or leisure time. To exemplify the right values to my daughter – not just hardworking values. Those are my goals that will serve as the foundation for my priorities.
Instead of allocating 90% of my time and energy around fulfilling my basic needs, going through the motion, I'll take control of my life (and myself) and try to incorporate my goals in everything that I do – even in the most mundane tasks like cleaning the bath tub: I can tap into my inner child and listen to my favorite tunes while scrubbing it. While commuting to work, I opt to listen to spiritual or self growth messages and later apply the teachings in my life. A new day will be viewed as another opportunity to learn, grow, laugh, connect with my inner self, or make a positive impact – these priorities of mine will influence everything that I do. And yes setbacks will be inevitable but won't throw me off track; I have my priorities in check.
Essentially setting priorities isn't about having enough time for them, but about deciding what you truly want and reserve your energy around those specific endeavors or goals that you choose for yourself. Because at the end of the day, we're always presented with choices. We thus control our fate by the choices we make.
So in lieu of watching TV every night after work, even when I am tempted to watch The Office, I tell myself that this isn't my priority. If I'm invited for drinks and I haven't finished a post on my blog that I needed to complete this week, I will decline the invitation. As I type away, I kill three birds with one stone; I help others as I help myself, while getting in touch with my true self. If my daughter wants to play and I have a pile of laundry and dishes calling my name, I will choose to play with her, clear my mind, and fully enjoy the moment. On the days I feel like frowning, I will lift my head up and smile at a stranger. Basically I vow to discard whatever does not support my purpose and my priorities – including negative thoughts.
Until my early 30s I had my priorities all wrong. As a result, I was stagnating, feeling trapped, not knowing exactly why – indeed something was missing in my life. So I reset my priorities around in order to carve a better future for myself and my daughter. To live more effectively, with meaning and purpose. A successful present is a successful future for sure.
Priorities are important because:
1. We have limited time and energy
Personally that motivates to not want to waste these two most important resources we have. Otherwise I will continue to focus on and do the things that don't serve me, and live life feeling depleted. My mind will be filled with worries that shouldn't concern me. As a result, I will not be able to enjoy my life the way I could and should. Incorrect priorities can rule and taint my entire life.
2. Everyone has unique gifts or talents, abilities and skills
No priorities or incorrect priorities mean that you are neglecting them, also forfeiting your purpose in life.
3. They will simplify your life
'First things first' mindset will give your life direction. Your decisions are protected as you know what you stand for – you will know what to eliminate and keep in your life by setting priorities, whether they be in your personal or career life. All this will help you to continue
about your journey most efficiently by setting clear intentions.
So how do you decide what your priorities are?
Write down a list of all the things you value such as: happiness, tranquility, respect, traveling, friendships, health and fitness, honesty and depth, kindness, God, family, helping others, entrepreneurship, adventure, freedom, good will, rest and relax, love and romantic relationships etc. In short, anything you stand for or are passionate about. Then do a bit of reflection:
Is your life at the moment aligned with your values and passions? What can you do, in practical terms, to live the life you really want according to your priorities?
For example if you prioritize:
Your kids – Postpone your chores for awhile or do less of them. Put your phone down. Play and interact with your children, giving them your full attention and love that they crave and need from you.
Fitness – Wake up an hour earlier to go for a run or work out in front of the television after work. Say no to junk food and sodas.
Traveling – Stop going to Starbucks for a few months or eating out as often. With your accumulated savings go on trips. If you're willing to invest in your abilities and time, find ways to put them to good use, and make your own money so that you can be your own boss and travel whenever you want.
Respect – Have zero tolerance for abuse, put downs, taking advantage of, or other disrespectful attitudes towards you.
Tranquility, peace of mind, and happiness – Practice gratitude. Regain access to your empathetic abilities. Focus outside of yourself. Be more considerate, spread the love and help others whenever you can (starting inside your home.) Enjoy more tranquility in your life by living in the moment, or by letting things slide i.e picking your battles
Make a positive difference in the world – Volunteer, smile at people or speak kind words, help out a neighbor, share freely, have positive thoughts.
Personal freedom – Reset your boundaries and say no to the people, engagements or activities you do not enjoy. Do it unapologetically! Also stop worrying about what strangers think of you to in order to increase your personal freedom. Take time off for yourself and do the things you love.
Setting the right priorities is crucial if you want to live a life of quality. I used to believe that taking life as it came and going with the flow, wherever my whims at the time took me, was the best way to live. Little did I know that I first have to steer my ship in the direction I truly want to go – become the captain of my life and mold myself into the person I want to be. Only then can I allow things to unfold naturally and take their course – going with the flow of my own life and not anyone else's.
Our life is the result of all the decisions that we've made. If we have our priorities all wrong, we will end up in situations we don't like. We will never progress in life.
With a bit of soul searching, defining your priorities will keep you focused on what matters, building yourself a brighter present and future.
Remember to be kind with yourself as you try to find your way. Experimenting, failing, and mistakes are part of the process of refining yourself and your priorities – of knowing yourself and what matters most to you in life. Sometimes it takes time to decide which priorities are truly aligned with your heart's desires (instead of your ego's.) Perhaps this is why your new year's resolutions never really stick. You didn't really think about what you needed to give up in order to keep them. You didn't efficiently organize your time and energy around them. You thought they would make you feel better or fulfill your life but didn't deliver such results. In short you didn't set the right priorities.
Create some time for what's most important to you – make room for the things that you truly value, the people you love. Because life is more than paying our bills and partying on the weekends. Ultimately, isn't your self worth more important than just getting by and satisfying your basic human or egoistic needs?