How Prioritizing What Matters Can Make A Big Difference In Your Life

Letting go of things that don't matter is an art I practice daily. Here are the big things I let go of:
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thoughtful young woman with glass of wine on pier in autumn
thoughtful young woman with glass of wine on pier in autumn


Are you up to your eyeballs in to-do lists and urgent and important things that other people need you to do? And I'm not talking about what 2 year old children need you to do for them. I'm talking about older teenagers or adults who've grown accustomed to your caretaking and people pleasing ways.

If this sounds like you, I bet your life feels overwhelming. I bet that you tell your best friend that you're exhausted all the time. I bet that you don't make you a priority.

I know. I've been there. But after a life changing diagnosis, I knew I had to stop what I was doing and reprioritize my life.

Letting go of things that don't matter is an art I practice daily. Here are the big things I let go of:

I stopped asking for permission

This was a big thing for me. Prior to my breast cancer diagnosis, I waited patiently on the sidelines of life. I wanted to be liked and approved of and that led me to seek permission to do this or that. Cancer taught me to ditch that nonsense.

I don't ask for permission to live my life the way I want to live it. Travel is as necessary as breathing for me. I am blessed to have a job (yes, a JOB) that does not require me to be in the office all. the. time. I can work from anywhere I have internet access.

When my daughter, who lives in Dublin, told me that she was pregnant and due in April, I told (not asked) my manager that I would be working from Dublin for a month. Prior to leaving I ensured that the bulk of the project I was working on was complete and if it wasn't complete, that what was left did not require my physical presence.

I stopped trying to be liked by everyone

Fear of not being liked ruled much of my life. I wanted everyone to like me. I wasted gobs of energy making sure I was liked...even by people I didn't like. I didn't want people thinking bad things about me or spreading ugly lies about me or criticizing my hair color. Cancer taught me to say "eff that."

I stopped taking on everyone's problems

And by everyone, I mean those in my realm. Once upon a time I was that overly responsible person. My responsibility meter was completely out of whack because I'd take on other people's problems as my own. Cancer taught me to stop taking on other people's problems. I learned to question whether it was my own problem or if the problem belonged to someone else. I learned that I can't fix your stuff. I can only fix mine.


I stopped caretaking

This goes along with taking on everyone's problems with a slight nuance. Cancer taught me that as long as I kept doing for others that which they could do for themselves, I sent a clear and silent message that they were incapable of doing that for themselves. Talk about a breeding ground for resentment. I quit that cold turkey.

I stopped blaming, complaining and making excuses

Let's face it - we have a culture of blame, complain, and the dog ate my homework. Taking responsibility for your own stuff is hard. Especially when you're so used to pointing the finger at someone else. Cancer taught me to quit that. If I was going to live my life on my terms, I realized that blaming, complaining and making excuses had to go. So I banished them.

Remember: when you point a finger in blame, three fingers point back at you.

I stopped putting myself last on my priority list

I'm not sure how we came to believe the lie that you can't be a priority in your life. Man oh man. I bought into that lie with my entire being. I remember doing this little exercise: make a list of your top ten priorities. I wrote them out. Then my teacher asked, where are you on your list?

Holy shazam bat fans. I wasn't on my list and you know what? If I had a top 20 list or a top 50 list, I know I wouldn't have put me on it.

Cancer taught me that I'm not just one priority on a list, I'm my first priority. If I don't take care of me, no one else will. If I don't prioritize me, no one else will either. If I don't value me, who will?

Not everyone was thrilled with the changes I made or that I began to place a priority on things that truly mattered to me. When I got rid of the excess baggage I carried round and allowed other people to take care of themselves and their priorities, my life got lighter - freer - and less stressful.

And so it goes for you as well. Don't wait for a life changing event or diagnosis to reprioritize your life.

What shifts in priorities can you make today so that you can live a happier life now? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

Read more great posts by Peggy Nolan on her website and don't forget to subscribe to her podcast, Let Go Move Forward.