Most of us tend to spend our days scrambling from one event to the next, be it work, meetings, or extracurricular events. We live in a time of slotting activities in and striving to accomplish our daily tasks. Although I attempt to let daily situations dictate my priories, whether it’s work, family, or play, often, the lines blur—is it more important to complete a work presentation, or to make time to see an old friend who’s in town for a night? In my attempt to fulfill my responsibilities, which largely fuel my priories, I often am faced with the fact that I am falling short, which is usually aligned with midnight approaching and the realization that I have a big day ahead of me—which leads to my rethinking my priorities. Then something like frustration creeps in, because although I had the best intentions, it becomes clear that it’s not going to work out according to my plan. Sound familiar?
What are priorities all about and how can they help us to realign our lives?
The word priority means a thing that is regarded as more important than another. Its etymology stems back to Latin, 14th century, when it meant “precedence in right or rank.” Figuring out our priorities has possibly always posed a challenge, for what we choose to tackle on any given day—let alone a lifetime—implies importance, whereas the tasks we choose to cast aside for a later time or date may be written off as unimportant. Without a doubt, the ranking of priorities is the cause for many work or family-related misapprehensions.
Beyond the day-to-day ranking, priories can get complicated—most of us possess our own short term and long-term goals and objectives. Then there are family priorities, relationship-based priorities, work priorities. If you tend to feel sucked under each day trying to meet your goals, it is no wonder. In all our doing, it is often hard to figure out what matters to us, let alone to discern the reasons steering us. This is the facet of being human that intrigues me most: the extent to which we live and carve our lives and yet we are often strangers to what motivates us.
Curiously, when we are in dire situations, our priorities loom clear—we don’t have to think about them; rather, we act. If a wild fire is ravaging outside of our homes, our only priority is to get our families and ourselves out of harm’s way and to a safe destination. When crisis strikes, we tend to forget all the stuff that clogs our minds and get focused and clear on what we need to do. So why is it that in our day to day, we lose our way and get pulled in various directions?
One possibility is that we are in always-on mode. We don’t have much time to reflect, as decisions need to get made and tasks need to be executed and accomplished to sustain the daily flow. Maybe this is how we are wired—to be doing and thinking and experiencing all the time and to figure out our priorities on the fly. Or maybe our being on 24/7 is why we often falter when it comes to setting our priorities. Perhaps we are meant to create pauses in our daily lives so that we can be more thoughtful and consider our responsibilities in conjunction with our passions and make daily decisions—as well as long term ones—that reflect who and what we are made up of versus simply carrying out tasks. Maybe setting priorities is not so much about accomplishing things on our to-do lists as it is knowing ourselves and asking what’s best for us and those involved at various twists and turns and chapters of our lives, and allowing ourselves to continually adapt and find our way as our situations evolve.
How do we set daily priorities that are impactful and help us to meet our daily responsibilities? I ascribe to the early-morning review—a deliberate pause before I get out of bed each morning in which I consider what I want to accomplish each day, and how I can add value in my daily interactions. Sometimes, I set meetings with myself on my phone’s calendar, noting my daily priorities so that I can be sure to check in with myself and assess where I am at as the day progresses. Then, I get up and get going before I can lose my momentum!
One of my daily priorities is exercise—a morning run and evening yoga. I’ve gotten creative over the years—runs occur at 5 a.m. or earlier, depending on my work schedule, and yoga often occurs at 9 or 10 p.m. on week days. I am amazed at how often people share, “I don’t have time to exercise,” implying that I must have some magical time in my days. I do not. But I have learned that exercise enables me to be a better version of myself. It awakens my spirit, enriches my mental capacity, and makes me a more confident, balanced, and thoughtful version of myself, not to mention that it enhances my ability to focus, strategize, and execute throughout the day. I contend that there is truly something magical to daily sweating and earning one’s day in the physical realm. So, for me, exercise is a priority, and somehow, someway, I include it in my daily scramble
For most of us, there comes a span when our life stops making sense; we find ourselves doing, but not necessarily thinking or feeling, let alone aligning with our priorities in life. It is so easy to fall into this always-on mode in which we execute but don’t feel. Sure, we get things accomplished, but only to make room for us to accomplish more. We lose our way and subsequently ourselves. But if we are lucky, we hear the warning bell in our hearts and minds reminding us that existing and fitting in our responsibilities is not the same thing as living. Priories, we learn again and again, are fueled by responsibility, and if we allow them to be, they are infused with our sense of purpose, too. It’s up to each of us to find our daily balance and know when it’s okay to leave things incomplete, so that we may accomplish that which should be our greatest daily priority—to enjoy our lives and bring joy to others.