Setting priorities in your life allows you to focus on what is important to you, to determine what is urgent and needs your attention, and to cut through the clutter that is keeping you from achieving your goals. Figuring out your priorities means you identify what is truly important for you and, therefore, dedicate your time to those tasks, experiences, and people that fulfill your values and beliefs.
Today’s society pulls you in many different directions. It demands you pay attention to a lot of things, and it tries to convince you that all of these things are urgent and necessary. This places you in a perpetual cycle of reacting to things rather than proactively planning how you spend your time. There is tremendous pressure today to put others’ priorities before your own and learning to place your own needs above others is an essential life skill.
This type of focus on other peoples’ demands and needs can quickly lead to disillusionment and dissatisfaction in life. Your priorities get lost in the shuffle, and you are left wondering where in your life there is room for you.
When you learn to shift your life’s priorities back to what is important to you, you are exercising personal choice and living your life in harmony with your own values and goals. So, where do you start when placing priority on yourself?
Step 1. Get clear about what’s important to you.
Take some time that is just for you and use it to clear your mind and figure out what’s important to you. What do you need to be happy and healthy? What is of utmost importance to you? How do you want to live that feels like you are a priority?
Write it all down, focusing on what is most important to you and what you think will make you most proud years down the road. Don’t concentrate on feasibility or resources or anything else. Just focus on what’s important to you right now. Whittle this list down to your top three to five most important goals. That’s where you need to be spending more time.
Step 2. Inventory your time.
For one week, write down all your activities. Everything you do in a day, document it. At the end of each day, make a note next to everything you did that is aligned with something you identified as important to you. Everything you make notes on is when you are placing yourself as a priority. Everything else needs attention.
Step 3. Get rid of the clutter.
Not everything is urgent or necessary in your life. Look at your activities and determine where you are spending time that isn’t necessarily focused on your needs. Where can you delegate, where can you eliminate, and where can you get better organized to cut down on how long it takes you to do mundane or regular tasks? These are spaces for more room in your life, places where your priorities have room to grow and breathe.
Add in more of the important things you identified in your reflection.
What do you want, and how can you start working to achieve that today?
Where does that fit into your schedule?
Make a date with yourself and your priorities and keep your commitment to this time. Start small and work with your schedule over a week or two to see where your new priorities are working and where you still need to de-clutter.
Step 4. Remember it’s a process.
Prioritizing yourself comes with emotions with which you may need to deal. Guilt and anxiety are two common reactions when prioritizing yourself. Change is gradual, and it will take time to find ways to make this new way of thinking work.
Give yourself a break and stick with it. Check in with yourself regularly to see how things are going, to see if you feel like there’s more room in your life for your priorities. Be patient and kind to yourself because you are worth it.
An important component to designing your own life is acknowledging and understanding the choices you have in your life, being willing to make the most of those choices, and leveraging the choices you have to select the best path forward for yourself.
Life is not something that just happens to you, you always have choices. The key to designing the life you really want is knowing exactly what your options are and using all the information at your disposal to make the best choice for yourself.
Your life is defined by the choices you make. While not everything that happens in your life is up to you, how you respond to life’s circumstances and opportunities is always a matter of choice. Even when you choose not to act or react in your life, you are still making a decision, so there is nothing that is beyond your control.
Becoming Aware of Your Choices
There are certain things in life you cannot control. For example, you have no control over the circumstances of your birth or family, your genetic makeup, or the opportunities you were given as a child. However, your choices can override these circumstances.
Your choices determine how you treat others, how hard you work, and the activities in which you engage, even at an early age. This helps you form into the person you are later in life. As you get older, you have free will to choose who to love, to choose a career, and ultimately, what you will strive to achieve in life.
Acknowledging that all of these are choices in life, and not things that happen without your consent, is a big step toward designing your life. Choosing to accept responsibility for these choices, and not to blame life or others for the circumstances in which you find yourself, helps you not only move forward from your past but also accept the tremendous power you have to select your future.
You already have the ability within you to choose the life you want and to design the experiences that will lead you to your goal.
Using Self-Knowledge to Make Better Choices
Developing knowledge about yourself, including your fears and insecurities as well as your strengths and gifts, is essential to designing your life and attaining your goals. Until you truly know yourself, which means getting clear about your beliefs and values, you will always be vulnerable to crafting your life to please others or assessing your accomplishments against what others have achieved.
When you become aware of yourself and your inner longings and desires, you can use that information to better inform the design process for your life. Without knowing your true passions, interests, and strengths, though, you are left making decisions based on poor information.
Without self-knowledge, you are more likely to pursue work or other goals that are unsuited to your talents and passions. Instead of choosing what makes you happy, you may opt to go along with the crowd or take the advice of others when you lack sufficient insight into yourself. This type of decision-making can lead you to invest more of yourself and your money in pursuits that don’t make you happy.
Life is About Choice
Understanding that life is about choices and you are in charge of those options gives you the power to design the best life for yourself. Even opting not to choose is a choice, and only you will have to live with the consequences of those choices.
Regardless of your initial circumstances or what you were born with your life is defined by the choices you make, how you deal with the results of those choices, and the dreams you strive to attain.
Changing your thinking really doesn’t have to be an overwhelming and complicated process. I know, it’s not easy. Nor will it happen overnight. However, making a concerted effort to switch things up or add a couple new practices to your daily routine can lead to long-term results that last. One practice you can begin to incorporate that’s not very intimidating is to embrace gratitude as you start your day. A gratitude exercise in the morning helps to develop a positive mindset for the rest of your day by putting you on the right track before you even walk out the door. The following information will explain this simple process and the benefits it can offer.
A Common Gratitude Exercise
One of the easiest and most effective ways to practice gratitude each day is to write in a journal. The act of putting pen to paper can be therapeutic in itself, almost as if you are creating your intentions as you form the letters on the page. Some people prefer to type their journal into their computer, and that’s fine but personally, I prefer good ole' fashion pen and paper. The important thing is to consistently take time each day to journal an expression of gratitude. You can simply write a list of five things you are grateful for each morning as a way to center your mind on positivity as your day begins or you may decide to write longer entries. By making this morning writing a habit, you will instill a routine that brings positive thinking to the forefront of every day. It’s difficult to slip into negative thought patterns when you’re reminded daily of all the good things you’re fortunate enough to have, including good health, shelter, loving family, good friends and food to nourish you.
Benefits of a Morning Gratitude Exercise
The primary reason embracing gratitude works is because it intentionally shifts your focus to a positive mindset instead of one that concentrates on lack or negativity. In order for this shift to become internalized into your frame of reference, you’ll need to practice. That’s where daily writing comes in. Journaling makes it more real and is more proactive than attempting to change your thinking alone. As you begin to embrace gratitude daily, you may soon find that you become less fearful. Grateful people center their attention on abundance, which naturally tends to overcome fear. Being less afraid allows for a peace of mind that is comforting. When there is less fear, there can be more risk. You may discover increased success in your career and other areas of interest because gratitude gives you the freedom to pursue what’s meaningful to you. All of these benefits combined have the ability to give you a far happier life.
Practical Steps to Getting Started
The most difficult part of implementing a new routine is usually just getting started. To help you be more committed to your morning gratitude exercise, it’s important to put some concrete measures into place. First of all, be realistic. Your new habit won’t take root right away, so be easy on yourself if you find yourself skipping a day here and there. Just get back into the groove as soon as possible and move on. Discouragement is what leads us to quit. In the beginning, set your alarm to go off 20 minutes or so earlier than usual. This will give you adequate time to attend to your morning ritual so you don’t feel rushed. As you get used to journaling each day, you’ll find a quick five minutes is all you need. If you find you’re not able to maintain this practice on your own, get an accountability buddy. Tell someone about your new goal and ask them to check in with you on occasion. This will motivate you to stick with writing until it becomes a habit.
So there you have it. Beginning a practice of gratitude isn’t all that difficult, but its rewards are great. You may soon discover that you truly crave this peaceful alone time to set your daily intentions and to enjoy the quiet solitude.