“I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything.. at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.” –Dan Millman
As I lead in to today’s Blog post, which I dedicate to my husband, who when I asked last night, “Honey, what should I write about tomorrow?” and he replied, “Hmmm. I like Priorities,” I loved his suggestion. I said, “Like what? Like making your friends and family a priority? Like setting financial priorities? Like what?” He replied again, “Priorities.”
So, I found a great little story on the web about priorities in life, and I want to share it with you. It’s quite profound, and I am sure it will speak to you.
A professor stood before his Philosophy class and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.
He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.
The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.”
“The golf balls are the important things-your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions-things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.”
“The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car.”
“The sand is everything else–the small stuff.”
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.”
“The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.”
Priorities. If I asked you to name your top 5 priorities in life, they would probably be something to the tune of; family, friends, career, security, maybe yourself? So, I would like to now ask you… What are your priorities in life? I encouraged you to make your own Bucket List a couple of months ago, and now I am encouraging you to make your priorities list. What are they? Are you living your life according to that list, or is there some kind of disconnect? Cuz all this is more important to your happiness than you think.
When I think of my own priorities, I think I’m pretty clear. Of course family first, good health, happiness, financial security, meaningful work (be it career or volunteer), friends, travel. I think those. So how come if we know our priorities, we often have such a difficult time prioritizing them and getting them straight? We are constantly juggling the balls in the air. And the balls represent our priorities. We are trying to keep them all in motion, without dropping any of them. But the truth is, the key to juggling all the balls in the air, is to decide how much we value each of the balls. Until we can decide what we value first, we will never be able to prioritize.
For me, look, even as I just listed the first few things that came to my head, I forgot to list myself on that list of priorities. Is it selfish to put ourselves high up on that priority list? I think not, but we all know, we often put ourselves last on our own to-do lists. I think we sometimes underestimate the importance of our own well-being. Perhaps out of poor self worth, perhaps out of guilt. It’s often a catch 22– If we put ourselves first, we’re called selfish. If we put ourselves last, we become martyrs. Both extremes sound pretty much like a lose-lose situation. There has to be a happy medium. I am leaving tomorrow on a girl’s trip. If you don’t think for one minute that I’m not leaving with a heavy, GUILTY, heart, you’re mistaken. In actuality, my girlfriend said to me, it was three years ago the last time we went on our girls trip. Plus, I even have two meetings in NYC, so in fact, it’s business mixed with pleasure. But I just haven’t given myself the permission. I feel guilty making myself a priority. I feel guilty leaving my family, replenishing and recharging the battery.
So, if the key to being happy and living life in balance is all in prioritizing, how do you do it?
Here is an easy exercise to get you started on the path of living your life according to your top priorities. Staying focused. In harmony.
On a piece of paper, write down everything you want out of life for yourself — the things that are most important to you. Maybe they’re similar to mine above, or maybe they’re different. Some examples would be, meaningful relationships, great friends, alone time, financial well-being, health, inner peace and contentment, great trips, a beautiful home, whatever. Make your full list.
Then, choose five of the most important or significant items on your list, and write them in order of importance, 1 being the most important, and 5 the least. Then, on the right hand side next to each of these top 5 priorities, put a number on a scale of zero to five that represents the priority you have given this item in the past three months, with zero being no attention at all, and five being full attention.
Your list might look like this:
1. Family – 2
2. Meaningful work – 4
3. Health and well-being – 5
4. Financial freedom – 0
5. Travel and adventure – 0
Note: Your list might have no #5’s and some 0’s on the right if you have not been giving attention to what truly matters to you.
(Exercise by Jan Marie Dore).
How does your list look? Are you spending the time doing the things that are important to you? Are you dedicating the time to what matters in your life? This exercise will undoubtedly lead to much reflection.
So, remember your priorities. Keep them in your head. Each day should be spent working on your life priorities. If you’re living your life the way other people want you to, and not the way YOU want to, then the result will be unhappiness and resentment. Moreover, if you’ve been sitting on the fence, dragging out a long overdue toxic relationship, or working in a dead end job thereby letting ‘meaningful work’ take a score of zero, then get off that “comfort zone” fence, and get your priorities in line with your wants. This takes both alone time and time itself to truly figure out why you’re on this earth, and what you want out of your journey.
But take the time. Figure things out in your head. If family is a priority like you say it is, don’t forget those golf balls!
And tell us ladies, how did you do on the test? Are you spending time on your priorities, or are you living your life for other people? Do you have your priorities straight? Never underestimate the power of priorities.
I wish you all a great week. I’m off tomorrow AM at the crack of dawn. Cuz this week, I put myself on my priority list.