The Perils of Setting Priorities

“God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.” – Bill Waterson

Sometimes it seems like life is full of never ending tasks and activities for one to accomplish. One can dedicate their entire lives to pretty much anything. Finding one’s soulmate. Starting a family. Memorizing every character in the Star Wars universe in alphabetic order. The potential priorities our endless. However, if we were to try and accomplish everything there is its very likely we would accomplish nothing. Unless of course we have the ability to stop time and were immortal in which case we would probably have more profound things to worry about. Unfortunately, we mere mortals have to deal with the inability to do it all by setting priorities. A task, might I add, that is often easier said than done. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to narrow this expansive list down.

Do what you love. Oft repeated, this is a pretty common theme amongst those attempting to hand out career advice. However, its important to understand not everything we love will lead us to the promised land. For example, I thoroughly enjoy eating bread pudding, but making it my number one priority will probably do more harm than good. My soul will probably feel better, but I imagine the rest of me might may suffer from putting all my effort into the pursuit of a dessert. The point is, while it is important to do what you love, it is also important to make sure what you love is good for you. So if I want to make bread pudding consumption my number one priority, I should probably accompany it with exercise and a source of revenue.  So basically, do what you love, but make sure its balanced by your other priorities.

Stay true to your values and beliefs. This doesn’t mean drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. That never ends well. Rather, it means assessing what matter most to you in life, (be it your religious beliefs, your family, your dedication to the ways of the force, or the multitude of other potential elements that make up one’s being) and staying true to it. At the end of the day no amount of success in life will mean anything if it doesn’t line up with one’s values. You could become the richest person in the world, but if you did it by sacrificing the very essence of your being, happiness will not result. This does not mean we should never question what we believe, but that we should always be asking ourselves what it is that drives us and make our decisions accordingly.

Try new things. Wait, what? Did I not just spend the last couple of minutes explaining how one can narrow down their priorities? Doesn’t this completely invalidate the entire process of setting priorities? While it might seem like trying new things is counter intuitive to narrowing down one’s attention, this is not always the case. By experiencing new things, we are able to better understand ourselves. Furthermore, we can compare our current priorities to the potential new experiences excite in us, and determine whether our current path in life is the one we should be on. This doesn’t mean throw out everything you care about every month or so, in favor of experiencing some new adventure. What it does mean, is that by exposing ourselves to unknown and untested experiences we are better able to understand why we prioritize things the way we do.

Life is busy. Just getting out of bed every morning involves a variety of tasks and priorities that need to be set. Throw in trying to support one’s self or family, following a dream, or merely enjoying the impermanent life we all live, and things tend to get out of hand pretty quickly. Which is why, it is vital we remember to rank the things that matter most to us. Taking on the affairs that add quality to our lives, and letting those that do not fall away. As the literary master, Shakespeare once said,  “the heavens themselves, the planets and this centre Observe degree, priority and place.” If the heavens themselves set priorities, why shouldn’t we?


One thought on “The Perils of Setting Priorities

  1. Laura Beth says:

    Great post and so true! Especially when we live in times where we are confronted by the ever daunting gianormous American dream standard and the Be All That You Can Be slogan. 🙂

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