What Really Matters To You?

Image courtesy of Hidden In France.

What are your most important priorities in life? What matters to you more than your job, more than your car or house, more than your hobbies and interests? What would you drop everything else for?

You might answer something like:
•    My partner
•    My religion or faith
•    My children
•    My health
•    My spiritual or personal growth

If your partner was very ill, you’d cancel all your plans to be with him/her – even if it meant missing out on an event you were really looking forward to.

If your boss asked you to do something contrary to a central tenet of your religion, you’d say no – even if it might scupper your chances of a promotion.

If your child came home from school in floods of tears, you’d stop doing the housework in an instant – even if it meant putting up with a grimy bathroom for another day.

If you had a sudden health scare, you’d start making changes to your lifestyle – even if you’d never managed to find the time or willpower before.

If you realised that your job was crushing your spirit, you’d work up the courage to leave – even if it meant cutting down your spending.

Don’t Wait for a Crisis

The problem is, your important priorities – those things that matter to you more than anything else – often only get your attention in a crisis. Sudden illness, a stark decision, an unexpected problem, might force you into making a choice. This is why people often make radical health and lifestyle changes after a serious scare, for example.

In the normal run of life, though, it’s all too easy to let those important priorities drift aside. After all, they rarely seem urgent – whereas work, chores and leisure-time lures can be pressing.

There’s an oft-quoted maxim that no-one looks back from their deathbed and says “I wish I’d spent more time in the office.” But how often do we end up working late, or obsessing over work whilst at home – and letting relationships with family members sour?

It’s the same with other areas. Perhaps you feel that your personal growth or your spirituality is currently stagnant: you might have some particular habits or issues that you know you want to work through, but you never find the time and energy. Or maybe it’s your physical health: you’d like to lose a few pounds and get fit, but you never get around to it.

The problem is, if you don’t take action now, you might find that it’s too late. Those absolute priorities in your life will keep on getting subordinated to the concerns or whims of the moment.

Your Typical Day

In an average day, how much real, quality time do you spend with your family? How much time do you spend on your own growth and development as a person? How much time do you spend in religious or spiritual observance (if relevant to you)? How much time do you spend actively taking care of your health, both mental and physical?

I think many of us will find that our answers to those questions are dismaying. A lot of our time and energy ends up spent on tasks that aren’t especially significant to us – and our relationships and health suffers.

Keep Your Priorities In Sight

So how can you make sure that you focus your attention on what truly matters to you? A tip I picked up from Dave Navarro’s 30 Hours A Day is to have a “dashboard” where you write these essential priorities. Keep it in the front of your notebook, or on an index card in your pocket. Look at it at least once a day: this can really help when you’re faced with the choice between slumping in front of the television in the evening, or playing ball outside with your kids.

If writing down your priorities like this seems a bit cold or odd, try using something symbolic as a reminder. Perhaps you want to wear a piece of jewelry that your partner gave you, or you want to keep a photo of your kids on your desk. Whenever you see it, you’ll be reminded of what truly matters in your life.

What are your real priorities – the ones you’d drop everything for? How can you put them back at the center of your life?

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