Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lesson 18: Set your priorities, and follow them.


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

 Action expresses priorities.
—Mahatma Gandhi

In an earlier lesson, we talked about living by a set of values. Priorities are driven by your values, and in fact some of your values may also double as priorities. But whereas your values are principles to live by, priorities are more like a set of rules. Think of your priorities as a list of the most important things in your life, in ranked order.
 For many people, the basic personal priorities include family, career, and religious development, but personal priorities can go well beyond these. Some may set their leisure activities as a priority. Athletes place a high priority on improving their performance, musicians on practicing their craft. Young couples often want to save money for a new home or a child’s education.
We need priorities because we have a limited amount of time. We want to make sure we spend our time on things that are important to us, rather than wasting time on worthless activities. Priorities are our way of budgeting our time so that we get to the important stuff.
Now that you’ve graduated, your priorities will become even more important. As we’ve already seen, time becomes more precious as you get older. And as you enter the world of full-time work, you’re likely to find that your non-work hours are very valuable to you. You want to make sure you spend them on activities that are important.
You may have never thought much about your priorities, but they’re there, all right. They reveal themselves in your behavior. Wherever you spend your time and effort, you’ll find a priority.
Whenever our actions don’t match up with our stated priorities, discontent is sure to result. A man may say that his children are his number one priority, but if he neglects them, then something’s wrong. He either needs to change his actions or admit that his kids really aren’t as important to him as he says they are.
Ask yourself: Where have I been spending my time? What are the priorities that are revealed in my actions? Are they the priorities that I want for myself? If not, now is the perfect time to set your priorities, and then reflect them in your actions.

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