“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” ~Greg McKeown
Read the quote again. Take it completely to heart as you ask yourself, ‘Who sets the priorities in my life?” If you are 16, your parents are setting most of those priorities, but you can absolutely exercise your right to speak up and claim what matters to you. If you are working, there’s a good chance that an employer is setting many of your priorities. At some point, we each must take responsibility for our own priorities, and as McKeown came to realize, the world will set our priorities until we are willing to do it ourselves.
I write because I love to write, and it brings me so much joy. My husband loves playing music on the guitar or bass. I can see the difference it makes when he gets time to play, it enriches his life. Too often, my writing and his strumming have to happen after the rest of the world lets us move on from all of their needs and after we finish the ‘one more thing’ that seemed important at the moment. What about you? What do you love so much but aren’t doing because other people are setting your priorities? There is no time like now to begin taking out the things that are not essential in our lives, and just because we know this doesn’t make it any easier.
Greg McKeown’s story struck a nerve with me when I heard it. His employer and business partner pressured him to be at a meeting with a ‘priority’ client taking place a few hours after the birth of his child. While he fulfilled his responsibility to the job, no deal was made with the all-important client, and even they seemed surprised that he ‘chose’ to be with them instead of his family.
What essential moments have you and I missed because of non-essential priorities, possibly someone else’s priorities? Shortly after giving birth to my second son I attended a mandatory retreat so I could be in a group. It was difficult to not be with him for a number of reasons, but at the time I felt so much pressure to attend the retreat that I sacrificed time with someone who truly mattered to me to please an organization who thought they should set my priorities.
Activities aren’t the only things that we allow to become someone else’s priorities, things and people can be non-essential, too. How? We push out what would be most meaningful to us with really meaningless placeholders. My mother did one of the nicest things for me, and I didn’t realize it for a long time. You see, when I left home, the only things she and my daddy had saved to send with me were a doll bed my great-grandfather made, my baptismal dress, a book with all of my report cards and class pictures and mementos, and my baby book. At the time, I was a little put out that there wasn’t anything else I could have from my childhood. I came to realize that she, in her wisdom, had given me the essentials, and those items remain meaningful to me still.
Lastly, there are the people whose presence in our lives might be their priority, but they aren’t ours. If you don’t have time for the activities with people you enjoy, whether you are 18 or 80, you can start right now to reorganize your time. I never want to miss out on the people I really care about to spend time with people who don’t really care about me. I wish I had known at 35 what I know at 53.
If “the unexamined life is not worth living,” as Socrates said, I want to examine every detail and choose my own priorities in a life worth living. I hope you’ll do the same.