It’s hard to hear that word (priorities) without it taking on a slightly harsh disciplinary tone that’s eerily similar to the one your parents used when you knew there was a lecture coming. Setting priorities for yourself and your life sounds about as much fun as eating plain salad for dinner or sticking to your budget. But, like eating vegetables and saving money, giving serious thought to what aspects of your life you want to devote your precious time, attention, and resources to is an incredibly healthy and important practice.
I once read an important piece of advice related to this practice that speaks to one of our inevitable complaints: “I don’t have time”. We’ve all said it, we’ve all felt it – we probably all agree that it’s true in many cases, because our lives leave us running crazier than an Olympic relay race. The piece of advice is simply to rephrase our thoughts when we think or say “I don’t have time to do (x, y, or z)”, and instead to think or say “(x, y, or z) is not a priority for me”.
Most of the time, this will feel unsettling for us. It’s easy to say that we don’t have time to cook and eat a healthy meal tonight with our family, but it gets much harder to say that staying healthy and spending time with our family are not priorities for us. The truth is that both of these messages are the same – because, in effect, our actions communicate our priorities nonverbally. Whether we consciously think about it or not, what we devote our time and resources to ends up being what gets prioritized in our lives. We may not want to believe that we’re prioritizing convenience over health, or prioritizing work over time with our loved ones, but most often – if we’re devoting our time and energy to those things – that’s what ends up happening.
I’m writing a blog on this topic because prioritizing plays such a huge role in the process of creating change in our lives. While the process of change is very complex, it is clear that in order for change to happen, actions need to be taken differently than they were in the past. Often, this is the step that is most difficult to take. Change is scary, and it requires us to be emotionally ready and invested in the vision that we have for what we want our lives to look like. I believe that revisiting our priorities can guide us and help us to feel more convicted in the choices that we make every day. If we want to lose weight, we must place a higher priority upon health than we do upon convenience. If our goal is to be more emotionally available to and spend more time with our significant other, or our friends, or family – we must give a trump card to opportunities to interact with our loved ones, even if it means cutting back on work or sacrificing sleep (but only once in a while). It’s all a give and take – and it’s all about finding the right balance for you.
In the end, your priorities are for you to decide. They may be influenced by many factors, but you have the power to set, live by, and change them as necessary. There will never be enough hours in a day, or days in a week / weekend, and that will never change. However, having a firm grasp on how you want to spend that precious time will help you to feel fulfilled and more in control, as well as allow you to make the changes that you’ve wanted to make become a reality.