Priorities

“Decide what you want.  Decide what you are willing to exchange for it.  Establish your priorities and go to work.” – H.L. Hunt

This sounds pretty simple, right?  Many of us know, for the most part, what we want.  However, deciding what to exchange for it is the sticky area.  Everything is a trade off.  Then, after we get through that, we must establish our priorities.  This requires putting our proverbial feet down and standing our ground.  The last part, going to work, is pretty simple.  So, let’s break this down and put it back together again.

Exchanging one thing for another is something we do every day.  The first thing that comes to mind is the exchange of money for goods.  My high school government teacher, Mr. Crawford, would explain this to my class as telling the world you would rather have things than money each time you make a purchase.  Actually, we want both.  But yes, in the end, when we buy something, we are saying, “Here, take my money because instead of this money, I want THAT.”

We make similar trade offs, big and small, every day.  I recently traded financial security for the freedom and thrill of running my own business.  That is a big one.  So was deciding whether I wanted to live down south or in Iowa, to see my family less or more.  Being close to my nephew Gabriel trumps everything else in that decision, now that I am back in Iowa.  (Someday I will eliminate having to make a choice by having  a beach house somewhere!)  One of my friends chooses to live in the suburbs to raise her daughter rather than live in the heart of downtown.

But what about the simpler, often less contemplated, daily trade offs we make – other than the exchange of money for goods?  What about the trade off between being well-rested and slightly lonely or going out with friends and being exhausted the next day?  How about the choice between going to the gym and being fit, or not going and being able to get other things done (like a blog post!)?   And then there’s the never-ending struggle between working and spending time with those we love……

Once we know our wants, we must test them against the trade offs to see if they really are our priorities.  If we can handle the trade offs, then they are priorities.  I consider this part sticky, because what we say are our priorities, and what our priorities actually are often differ.  So that alone may take some time to resolve.  Nonetheless, it must be resolved now.  If you do not truly know what your priorities are, you cannot make effective choices in life.

Be honest with yourself.  If you say reading is a priority, but you must watch The Office on Thursday nights because you love the show, then watch it.  Just accept that you will not read much, if at all, on Thursday nights.  Be happy and comfortable with your priorities.  They are a reflection of who you are.

Priorities may change throughout our lives, but once you have accepted what they are and the related trade offs, stick to them, and establish them.  Don’t let others make you feel guilty if you really want to have “you time” instead of doing what everyone else is doing.  And don’t make someone else feel bad if they are doing what they really want and need to do to be happy.

Sticking to your priorities is not necessarily selfish.  Priorities are not always about what we want to do for ourselves.  They may be what we want to do for others.  One of my priorities is to spend time with family.  Even though I often don’t feel like driving somewhere, I know I will suck it up and do it, because I will be happy to see my family.  And hopefully they will be happy to see me when I arrive at my destination.

Prioritizing what is most important to you may make others upset.  If someone does not agree with your priorities, do a quick self check to ensure you are making the right choice for you.  If you are doing what you need to do, then confront that person and tell him or her what your priorities are and stick to them.  If the person really cares about you, he or she will accept this.

If the person does not accept your choice, then how beneficial is that person in your life?  You probably have an underlying reason for choosing something or someone else over this particular person.  Does he or she suck the life out of you when you are around?  Does he or she consistently make you a priority?  Some people may need a lift up every now and then, but those are not the people I am talking about.  I am referring to those people we tolerate who do not deserve our time.  Surround yourself with good, positive people, and amazing things will happen.

Bottom line:  You decide what your priorities are and stick to them.  Acknowledge what you do each day is a direct reflection of your priorities.  Don’t allow people to make you feel guilty for the choices you need to make for yourself.  Those who truly love you will have your back, even if they think you are crazy at times.

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