4 Starting Points to Help Set Priorities

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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?

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The Little Things: What was Your Life Made of This Year?

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“I’m not sure why, but when a person expects something to last forever, they don’t notice the little things. It’s only when the clock is ticking all those little things add up and become bigger.” Shannon Wiersbitzky, What Flowers Remember

As the year winds down I am so acutely aware of each minute that ticks by. I take stock of what the aging year has produced and what hope the New Year holds. I think about what I’ve learned, hoping that I have learned a lot of things. I think about how much better off I am now than one year ago and I don’t mean in terms of money. What I truly mean is in terms of personal growth and life experiences, which to me is so much more than money. It’s the little moments of my life this year that I hope made the biggest impact on my soul and then I think if I can remember all of those little moments maybe they were the big things after all.

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

In the spirit of honoring the year as it takes its final bow out of time I would like to leave you with a few of the moments/memories that have left an imprint on my soul. A trusted colleague calls this his annual review. It’s made up of the very personal good and bad moments that made this year stand tall.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences but never thought to really pay them much heed or perhaps you will take these shared moments and watch for them in the new year or perhaps we are all on the same journey through time sharing similar experiences in our own unique perspective. Whichever way you honor the good and the bad of your life moments I hope you are better for them.

The most recent life moment I absolutely honor with grace and awe is the time spent celebrating my daughter’s birthday. It wasn’t a milestone birthday but it was a celebration of her birth nonetheless and that in itself deserves to make the list of little things.

“So much of life is in the smallness of moments…but they are harder to mark. So we need the grander celebrations and occasions. People like to feel significant.” Ally Condie, Atlantia

Glancing over at the large picture window in my office and stopping everything to go sit in the sunshine streaming through.

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. Just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder – Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Meeting new people and realizing that their impact on my life, be it good or bad, changed me for the better.

“That’s the ideal meeting…once upon a time, only once, unexpectedly, then never again.” Helen Oyeyemi

Seeing a hummingbird for the first time in my life.

“Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur.” Mira Bartok, The Memory Palace

Silently celebrating the day after the first day of winter because for the next 182 days we add one minute of daylight and hope blooms eternal.

“I find it inspiring to actively choose which traditions to celebrate and also come up with new ideas for traditions of my own.” Sara Sheridan

Sitting at my favorite coffee shop enjoying the smell while sipping my green tea and writing. I am not a coffee drinker at all but I love a good, old-fashioned, wrap me in warmth coffee shop.

“A smoke, a book, a cup of coffee. These are the little things that get us through this sometimes weary world and all the rainy days.” R.M. Engelhardt, The Resurrection Waltz Poems R.M. Engelhardt

Window shopping in the winter and seeing all the beautiful colors of the flowers in the flower shop on the most gray, snowy day of the season.

“Somehow, those cold, lifeless winter months had prepared the land for something breathtaking. Something beautiful. Something brimming with life.” Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter

Laughing so hard when I’m supposed to be as quiet as a mouse. Whether it be at my job at the library as an adult or a teenager sitting in my English class I find that those quiet moments are the ones that really spark my uncontrollable laughter.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Hearing the perfect song at a time of day when I needed it most.

“Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughing-stock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams are gone. That’s the power of songs.” Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Raising my level of gratitude so much higher than I ever imagined it could go but battling still with moments of unhappiness.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

Understanding the lessons in why it’s important to make quality decisions but not yet feeling able to make important decisions in my own life.

“The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Continuing to worry about the same problems year after year and finding it so hard to let it go or finding a solution.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34 ― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

Thank you for your indulgence with my annual review of the little things. I hope it sparked something inside of you to help you take stock of your life this year and highlight what you want to work on and grow in the New Year.

Call to Action

How possible is it to mine each new day of the new year for little life moments, for the little things that flavor life with its sweetness? That is the call to action for you. Find the little things in each new day of the New Year and see how it changes you for the better.

What went well this year?

What did not go well this year?

Where does growth reside for you in the New Year?

What little things became the big thing after all?

And Now, The End is Here

 

Whew! Look at us!! We made it!!! We are at the last step in our change ethic. This final step is what Drs. Prochaska, Norcross and DiClemente call the termination step from their book, Changing For Good.

In most cases, like this mini-series, it has been at least 2 months that you have been working hard at making whatever changes you chose and you have been working hard. I hope you were keeping a journal and tracking your progress. You deserve a moment to look back and really take in just how much effort you have devoted to this process and to feel proud of all that you have accomplished.

“Life is a race, and what matters most isn’t when a person crosses the finish line, but how strong they have grown along the way.” –Jen Stephens, The Heart’s Journey Home

In their book (Pg. 274 CFG)  , the doctors say that the termination step is defined as” Exiting the Cycle of Change”. The doctors contend that “the problem or behavior has been resolved with no further threat or temptation or the new behavior is integrated into the person’s life in a way that takes no effort or struggle to maintain. Behavior is now automatic and fully a part of the person’s everyday existence.”

I’m sure you have noticed some changes in the way you are thinking about yourself and your life as a whole and not just about the particular change you are engaged in creating or bringing about. Once you started feeling a bit of success toward the changes you were making I can’t help but wonder what else popped up that led you to feel that another change might be necessary or dare I say really wanted.

For me, although the surgery itself was a change and had an ending of completion after recovery, I knew that I didn’t want that one change to be the end of any changes I might go through. Instead I used the surgery as a springboard toward other changes. I capitalized on how proud of myself I was for having the courage to go through with the surgery; I capitalized on how much better I felt about myself and what I was seeing in the mirror. I became more determined to continue to take care of my body inside and out and I built upon each little bit of self-confidence by taking steps toward a new career, among other things. The good feelings I was experiencing because of how good I was starting to feel overall left me behaving more open and less reserved as a person and people started noticing me more. One good thing leads to another.

 

“A story has no beginning or end; one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” – Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

“Life changes are essential for maintenance; a new lifestyle is essential for termination. The difference is in the permanence of the change. In maintenance, you modify parts of your life such as social contacts, daily schedules, behavior patterns in order to overcome your problem. In termination, you institute a healthier lifestyle as a means of preserving your gains and promoting new growth.” (Pg. 278 CFG)

In his book, Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions, Dr. John Norcross poses the question as to whether termination is ever really achieved. Although there has been heated debate on this issue, Dr. Norcross points out 3 conditions that are met in order to classify termination as a real step toward lasting change.

*You have reached termination if your temptation to regress or relapse across triggers is low

*You have reached termination if your self-efficacy to maintain is high across situations

*You have reached termination if you have established a healthy lifestyle that precludes the old problem behavior. Zero temptation = 100% confidence. (Pg. 198 CO)

Don’t panic if you don’t quite meet these 3 conditions. That just means that maintenance is where you are at and that is a great place to be because your awareness is very high and failure or relapse is not an option if you can help it however, you recognize that it might happen and you are choosing to always be aware of that fact. Good for you for recognizing a weak spot and sticking with your processes.

Your changes and how you chose to use the tools at hand to succeed in changing a problem or behavior or thought pattern is your personal stamp on the process. “Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Produce your thoughts with care and personalization, act as if you have already won, and wear proudly the signature of your success because no one could have done it the way you did it. Take time to really acknowledge and thank those allies of yours. These are the same helpers that will stick with you now that your change process is at an end. Most of all celebrate yourself for your success and perseverance.

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do it has increased.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Remember the steps it took to get you here:

*Make a pro/con list about the change you want to make. There should be at least a 3:1 ratio of 3 pros to every one con

* Clarify your WHY in terms of making a change.

* Visualize what life will be like if and when you make that change.

* Create a support group.

* Research and gather information to support your efforts.

* Develop a “worst case” scenario.

* Set clear and specific goals toward the change you want to make and how to deal with stress and anxiety within the action of changing.

* Monitor your progress while in the throes of your actions steps.

* Monitor any inner critic that pops up to sabotage your efforts.

* Use your allies as often as possible.

* Renew your commitment as often as necessary. Never lose your WHY.

* Always celebrate along the way each and every little success. Keep your motivation high.

* Forgive yourself through a relapse or slip up. Get back on track right away.

* Only you will know deep inside if you are ready for termination of your action steps or if you are going to hold the line and maintain your efforts for a while longer.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

My Story

There is no end here. I am not in termination regarding the personal changes I want to make. The “changes” have now become a part of me and it is “me” that I am working on, probably for the rest of my life. There is a person that must be developed, released and set free because of all the changes I have made so far and I am in exploration of just who that person must be in order to reach fulfillment and authenticity. I will hold the line on the changes I have made so far. I will not allow any slip ups from here on out. I like who and what I have become so far. I am very much okay with never reaching termination because that only means I am alive and learning and sharing and creating. Please consider joining me in my quest. This is the greatest adventure yet.

Call to Action

Now that you have a taste of your own inner strength and power perhaps you will take on this challenge and dare to be……

 

Dare To Be

Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

 

“When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.

When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.

When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.

When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.

When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.

When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.

When you are feeling tired, dare to keep going.

When times are tough, dare to be tougher.

When love hurts you, dare to love again.

When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.

When another is lost, dare to help them find their way.

When a friend falls, dare to be the first to extend a hand.

When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.

When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.

When the day has ended, dare to feel that you have done your best.

Dare to be the best you can/At all times/ Dare to be…….”

Thank you for joining me in this mini-series. It has been a great pleasure to share these insights and strategies with you.

Journey On….

For information about coaching, creating lasting change in your life, help with figuring out who you want to be when you grow up or just an ally in the struggle to move up the ladder of life please contact lisa@journeyoncoaching.com or call 203-560-3061.

For more wisdom wizards please visit Lisa’s website at www.journeyoncoaching.com  or visit Lisa’s Pinterest Board at http://www.pinterest.com/lisazaccagnini/wisdom-wizards/.

 

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