Determining Your Priorities

When I graduated from college, I had the mentality that I had to do it all. Somewhere along the road to my career, I had to learn when to say no. It can be a difficult lesson to learn, but one that is important nonetheless. Choosing our priorities in life is difficult. We have to understand what our foundation is as an individual and ultimately commit to the things that define us.

Defining your life priorities is a three-step process: choosing your priorities, understanding them, and committing to them. It’s equally important that you don’t overwhelm yourself along the way.

The first step, choosing our priorities, is crucial. I like to think of it as a question: what is it that defines me?

We need to consider what is most important to us and how we can compromise on the rest. For me, choosing my health as a priority was vital. I am one of those people who don’t understand the concept of resting when I feel unwell. I am a busy person and rather than give myself a break, I work harder. Choosing to make my health a priority gave me an opportunity to evaluate what is most important to me: my emotional and physical strength when I need it.

The second step, understanding our priorities, is where we reflect on why that aspect is important to our well-being.

For instance, if you make “spending an hour every day doing something I enjoy” a priority, reflect on why that is significant. Does it help you unwind if you have the chance to go for a run every evening? Does it make it easier to face the day ahead when you spend every morning reading a book you love? Understanding our priorities gives us the initiative to choose ones that are meaningful, purposeful, and representative of our best selves.

The last step is commitment. We know that goals and dreams carry no weight if we don’t commit to them. The same can be said for our priorities.

We need to firmly believe that our priorities are what ground us in our everyday activities. Know where to draw the line when something compromises your priorities.

For example: if you commit to spending the weekend relaxing and hanging out with friends, don’t go to the office to catch up on that latest project in hope of some career recognition. If we focus our efforts on the priorities we have chosen, our lives will be more manageable. Sure, we’ll still have those days that, in our minds, go catastrophically wrong. In those moments when we feel like screaming, watching DVD reruns of Friends, or pigging out on carry-out, just remember that our priorities are what will carry us forward in life. 

Finally, we need to remember this: we can’t overwhelm ourselves when determining our priorities in life.

People change and we will change – it is a part of living. We can use this as a learning experience to reevaluate what is most important to us. We are human and will make mistakes. Being our best selves doesn’t equate being perfect. I know that over the years, my own priorities have grown and evolved to reflect the person I am today. The essential idea is that we choose, understand, and commit to the things that make us who we are. Make a lasting effort to develop your priorities in life.

And remember, if something doesn’t match up with your priorities: know where to draw the line.

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