4 Starting Points to Help Set Priorities

Resilient

It is the priority, intention and discipline of all living things to push through adversity and accomplish its purpose.

— Journey On Coaching

“The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.” Leo Babauta

What matters to you in the New Year?

What stands out as the most important thing to accomplish, focus on or plan for?

I’m not one for resolutions. For me, resolutions come after I’ve experienced something and have learned a great lesson from that experience. I resolve myself to be more streamlined toward a better outcome should this particular situation rear up again. My resolution shows up in acknowledging my mistakes or missteps, in resolving myself to the new reality of what worked and didn’t work and most of all I resolve myself to the changed me that I have become because of those experiences or lessons.

For me, when the New Year comes around I like to set priorities, intentions and disciplines. I recently attended a sermon being given by a very wise pastor, someone I have become a fan of.  He pointed out that although it may sound counterproductive in today’s world to put ourselves into a box or to set limits upon ourselves, that is exactly what we should consider doing. I know this isn’t what you truly want to hear but stay with me because this just might reach deep inside of you and inspire you.

As I was researching and soul searching to write this post a book appeared to me through reading another person’s blog post. I resonated so deeply with just the title of the book that I had to get a copy for myself. The book is called hand wash cold, care instructions for an ordinary life by Karen Maezen Miller. On page 122 of this very down to earth book came the point to my post for you. It combines thoughts from the incredible sermon and this incredible book:

Each of us is given one life as a great gift. The image that came to my mind as I was listening to this sermon was one of a garden and then these were the words I read, “Life is a garden, and when you do not yet see that your life is a garden you may not see your life clearly at all. You are the garden and the gardener, you reap what you sow.”

We each have whatever limits our mind sets for us as to how to manage this great gift of life however, it is up to each of us to tend to, develop and take deep care of the piece that was doled out to us within this great gift of life. “You may think to yourself that your portion of this garden is too much work to tend to; then take it step by step. You may think to yourself that you might make a mistake; then know that gardens are forgiving and will grow back.” You may think to yourself that it is too much discipline to carry; than know that if not this discipline there are many more gardens to tend.

“You make everything true by bringing it to life, so be careful what you bring. Anger kills, bitterness poisons, greed spoils, fear stunts, and inattention withers.” By neglecting our garden, by taking on more than the land can hold or yield, by not putting your full intention and discipline and priority to this gift of your garden, you can’t possibly do great things in your garden or be the great gardener you were meant to be. To be true to our miraculous abilities and gifts we must truly work in the garden or the gift of our life with priority, intention and discipline.

So I ask again, what matters to you in this New Year? What are your priorities? How do you set intentions within your garden of life so that you can accomplish what was destined for you to accomplish?

I believe that we get lost sometimes in what becomes a priority and what becomes important. Yes, what you set up as your priority becomes important however, what we make important doesn’t necessarily mean it should become or is a priority. Sometimes what we make important or for that matter urgent is really procrastination or avoidance of what we really should be making a priority or our intention or our discipline.

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The dictionary defines importance as the quality or state of being important; of value or significance. The dictionary defines priority as something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done first; superiority in rank, position or privilege; a preferential rating.

The things we make important can carry a heavy feeling of urgency. The things we make a priority can carry a heavy feeling of self-discipline, intention and courage.

According to the website www.differencebetween.net,

“Urgent tasks have an immediate deadline although not necessarily a task that will have a significant impact on your life. Often things become urgent or an urgent situation is created when a person always knows that something had to be accomplished but kept deferring it.”

“Important tasks need not have a deadline looming over the person. The task is important because it has an impact on the person’s life. For example planning your education or career since your days in school is not something that you need to execute right now but will help you chart your life’s direction. Urgency of tasks is based on deadlines. Deciding which task is important is relative to each person’s thoughts and circumstances. Urgency of tasks is decided based on external pressures. Importance of tasks is decided on introspective thinking.”

“There are times when tasks can be urgent and important. For example keeping up with yearly doctor visits and deeper level check-ups can have a significant impact on you and your family. In keeping up with these important yearly tasks of keeping yourself healthy you can avoid the urgent need to see a doctor should something suddenly go awry because you put off your doctor visits and check-ups.”

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen R. Covey

When a person sets his/her priorities it is equivalent to celebrating limits. Limits are helpful in creating priorities because it puts into a neat little package time, people, resources and focus. It prevents overwhelm and helps to achieve goals whether the goals be lifelong or short term. The priorities we choose to label urgent AND important are also a great step toward time management and organization.

To start your New Year off on good footing it might help to create your priority list for each month or each week or each day. Here are some helpful suggestions:

Four Square: I’ve never actually played this game but I love the concept of it for setting priorities. Divide a piece of paper into 4 squares. Label the top left square “Important and Urgent”, the top right square “Important but not urgent”, the bottom left square “Not Important but urgent” and the bottom right square “Not Important/Not Urgent”. The top 2 squares are all those tasks that are crises like deadlines, right now work that will yield punishing outcomes if not completed. The top two squares are often reserved for people such as family, volunteering and leadership activities. There will always be something that comes up unexpectedly and falls into square one or two so always be flexible enough to allow for that however square one will be more manageable if you are disciplined enough to always stay on top of what is in that square through time management and intention. The bottom 2 squares are more of the procrastination stuff like chatting, email, meetings, surfing the net, in other words all the things we allow to drag us away from what is really a priority.

The Mountain: Each night, or each new week or each new month before you close out your day sit somewhere quiet and write out all the really significant tasks that need to get done. Maybe your list will have 20 items on it. Only the 3 most significant tasks count here. The biggest, toughest, most challenging mountains to move are the most significant because it will not only impact your life but the lives of those around you. The next day look at your 3 top tasks and start with number one. Work on that number 1 until it is as complete as possible. Then move on to number 2 and so on. Once the top most significant tasks have been completed or started enough that it requires further small steps to complete then you can move on to more of those details within each task.

Getting to know YOU: Do you know when you are at your peak performance during each day? For me I know for sure that my peak concentration and self-discipline times are from 8am until around 1pm. By the time the early afternoon rolls around I am reminded that I haven’t eaten, taken a drink of water or looked up from my tasks and I feel my mind start to fall away. I make sure that my priority list of tasks each day gets done during my peak performance times. I like the feeling and satisfaction of knowing that the tough stuff is behind me early enough in my day that now there is room for miscellaneous things to happen like day dreaming, reading, and checking email.

The Payoff: Any forward movement in fulfilling your priority list of tasks is a reason to take time to celebrate every little achievement. This is up to you how you choose to reward yourself for a job well done. Having someone like a close friend, sibling or life coach in your corner to hold you accountable to your priority lists and celebrate each accomplishment with you is also a tremendous incentive to tackle your to-do’s.

I’m a bit unconventional when it comes to this New Year in how I set my priorities. I decided to set my top priorities as more of a mantra that will help guide me in the everyday tasks that need my grateful care, purposeful intention and willing discipline. I don’t mind sharing it with you:

To love and be loved, to always speak and show gratitude, kindness and integrity.

This mantra for me means saying no if a task doesn’t meet my personal expectations for what I set as my priority that day. In other words knowing my limits and disciplining myself to always strive to be and give my best, staying organized and balanced and always doing what needs to be done with enthusiasm and courage. Don’t misunderstand, I will trip up, I will abandon my disciplines from time to time but my mantra will always be right in front of me cheering me on.

“Time is our most valuable nonrenewable resource, and if we want to treat it with respect, we need to set priorities.” Albert-László Barabási, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

Call to Action

According to the social security website, www.ssa.gov the average life span of a male today is 84.3 years. If you take 24 hours/day times 365 days a year times 84.3 years that equals 738,468 hours of life. That doesn’t seem like very much time does it?

What are you doing with your hours or as I like calling them, your life minutes?

What are your priorities that lead to action that lead to intention that lead to discipline that lead to integrity that lead to what people will say about you when all is said and done?

Who do you want to be this New Year with intention and discipline and courage?

Image by bing.com

 

Decisions, Decisions: 5 Mindsets toward Making Your Best Choice

“Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.”
J.E.B. Spredemann, An Unforgivable Secret

Should I stay or should I go?

Should I turn left or should I turn right?

Should I pick up the phone and call or should I just remain silent?

Should I stay in school or should I drop out?

Should I marry him or keep searching?

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Sometimes choices we face every day are of little consequence or so it seems and sometimes we know deep inside that the choices we make have a great impact on our lives and those around us. I believe that every time we are faced with a choice to make the decision and choice matter very much. So how do we know when and how to make the right choices?

In his book, The Travelers Gift, author Andy Andrews tells a story of the 7 decisions that determine personal success. In a nut shell here they are:

1-      “The buck stops here. I am responsible for my past and my future.”

2-      “I will seek wisdom. I will be a servant to others.”

3-       “I am a person of action. I seize this moment. I choose now.”

4-      “I have a decided heart. My destiny is assured.”

5-      “Today I will choose to be happy. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit.”

6-      “I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself.”

7-      “I will persist without exception. I am a person of great faith.”

I think, for right now, the hardest item for me is number 4. I don’t yet feel like I have a decided heart about some really important issues in my life like what to do about my son not wanting to get a job and also his decision to not to go to college right now.  Ultimately I know he has to make his own choices about how to live his life but while he is living at home and affecting the lives of those he lives with I am faced with a choice to make about how to teach him what his responsibilities are for not only himself but to the people around him and the world at large. There are several choices I can make here but which one will get me/us to a good place now and in the long run? The choice I decidedly want to make is one of helping him to become a victor not a victim of his own mind.

“I find that the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.” – Steve Maraboli

There are some things that I am decided on like the fact that I love, love, love my children and they will always be what makes my day worth living, I will always leave myself in a position of learning every single day, and making G-d more of a central focus in my life grounds me. Those are the things I know for sure and am absolutely decided on. Everything else, well, not so much. Indecision is a scary nowhere place to be and I can feel deep inside a pull to get decided on things like my life relationships, my 5 year plan, and exercise. What I know for sure is that once I am decided I not only make room to expand on the depth of the decision but my sense of self-worth grows from the inside out. At times I feel so desperate to just know the choice I’ve made that I get impatient to get to the choice already. But then I take a deep breath and forgive my impatience as best I can and decide that time is my friend and it is assured that when the time is right I will be decided about many things.

“We face an endless string of choices, which leads us to feel anxiety, guilt and pangs of inadequacy that we are perhaps making the wrong ones.” –Renata Salecl

So why does it take so long to make a choice and how do we know we are even this close to making a good, right, guilt free choice/decision?

I think it’s because we have the heavy job of letting go. We need to let go of bad choices of the past and forgive ourselves.  We need to let go of the regrets and mistakes we made or think we made, we need to let go of the things we thought we wanted but didn’t get and we need to let go of the idea of being stuck. Really, what we need to do is make a choice to either hold on to the pain of the past or choose to forge ahead with enlightenment and hope for a better future based on lessons learned from previous choices.

As for me, I want to take what I have learned about old choices and use the information to make better choices going forward; whatever I would have done in actions and decisions needs to be my guidepost of what not to do the next time or at least what to consider in a better light this next time. Basically, use my heart to guide me toward the best right choice for this now moment.

“Before you can live, a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently. You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours. When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others. From this point you will finally be free.”
Shannon L. Alder

There are concrete steps you can take toward making good choices/decisions but keep in mind that there will always be the possibility, whether now or down the road, where hindsight will make your choices even more clear. This is a good thing because decision making and choosing is a skill that needs to be honed constantly. So where to begin?

1-      Think clearly. The act of thinking clearly simply means to stay as calm as possible. If there is too much emotion revolving around a choice that needs to be made then step back, create space between your emotions and the choice to be made and wait awhile. Don’t be impulsive. Put off making any choices until you can think and see your options more clearly.

2-      Research. Collect as much information as you can about what you need to choose. Consult the internet, a trusted friend or mentor, take a poll, or whatever works for you. A rational, logical mind is what is needed to feel confident of the choices you are facing.

3-      Pros and Cons list. This is my ultimate go-to action step. I love this step. This step weighs risk and reward and lays out possible outcomes either way. Making a pro and con list for each choice needing to be made gives such clarity to not only the choice but to your heart. If you get to a point on your list where you can feel where your heart belongs then you eliminate the high risk of regret now and later. HOWEVER, try not to get too caught up in every pro and con because over-thinking things can create more problems than necessary. It really is a heart thing so listen carefully. Your heart and your gut won’t steer you wrong.

4-      Options within options. This one is really cool. Do you have a plan “b”? I was reading a book recently where the spy was giving advice to a new recruit. The advice was to always have at least 2 ways into a situation and 3 ways out. Create a plan “b” or a plan “c” or even a plan “d” if possible. You win the battle of making good choices by expanding and finding new choices to make. It’s fun and kind of like creating a safety net underneath you. It helps you feel protected and safe in whatever choice you then have to make within the options you’ve created.

5-      Be responsible. Eventually you have to make your choice. Be responsible for the choice you ultimately make. Don’t make a choice out of fear or time running out or any kind of outside pressure. Accept responsibility from the inside out when it comes time to look at the choice you made.

Call to Action

On the list of 7 decisions, what are you working tirelessly at making part of your personal success?

What is very hard for you to start working toward and how would you choose to accomplish that?

What do you think would be the hardest step to really get the hang of?

What choices are you facing now that could use a little bit of the 5 key steps toward better decision making?

Images by bing.com/lifechoicemedical.com

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.