Leading with Priorities for a Simpler Life
I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities lately.
I know, I know. Priorities.
At first I thought I was going to talk about values.
You know… those things that are talked about so much and often with a dash of fluff that makes it feel like you’re back in high school; sitting in Career Prep 100 filling out brainstorming spiderwebs to come up with your top 10 core values in the hopes that this piece of paper will help cement your moral compass when you’re catapulted into the “real world”.
But then I realized that it was short-sighted. Yes, values play a role, but I knew that I was flying around in sky - focusing on the big picture morals and beliefs. What I needed to do was to get down onto the ground and talk about what it looks like in action.
If values are the moral compass, then priorities are the ship.
To put it another way: Priorities are the ship that’s actually going somewhere tangible while being guided by the magnetic force of the compass of your values.
And another way (because sometimes you need to hear things in different ways in order for it to be meaningful to you): Values are the guiding force and priorities are that force in action.
However, I’m not talking about everyday priorities. You know, the kind where you rank your to-dos for that day, or week, or month, into a tidy little list that you may (or likely not) look at after 24 hours of writing it. Am I right? Raise your hand if that’s you. Let’s be honest here. This is a safe space. <raises hand>
The kind of priorities that I’m talking about are life priorities. These are the big ones. The priorities that stretch beyond short term gain. They’re the pieces of your list that remain when everything immaterial is stripped away. Let me explain with a personal example that got me thinking about all of this in the first place.
Recently my spouse and I welcomed our third child into the world. It was emotionally charged day that was ending an emotionally-charged pregnancy and starting a new chapter of our story as a family. As we checked into the hospital and began the process to prepare for the c-section delivery we had only four things on our minds:
Was the baby healthy?
Was I healthy?
Did our other two kiddos know how much they are loved?
Did our “other half” know how much they are loved?
That’s it. Of all of the things that fill our schedules, and “needs”, and “wants”, and “shoulds”, these were the only four things on our minds. We didn’t recognize this in the moment. That’s the beauty of being in the moment - presence requires us to focus on our top priorities at that given time and to shed all else that is unnecessary.
So what does slowing down and living simply look like in real life?
Most likely your life priorities start with your values - the moral compass that helps guide you in deciding what big picture themes are most important in your life. From there you can look at each of your values and identify what they look like in action (i.e. your priorities).
One of our core values as a family is living a healthy lifestyle. In practice, that looks like the following priorities:
Daily movement (kitchen dance parties most certainly do count!),
Quality sleep, and
Every day we evaluate how we’re doing on each of these priorities. Just a quick scan through is all that we do - no need to overcomplicate things. Simple is the name of the game over here. So is slowing down. In fact, I find that leading with the intention of slowing down and simplifying what’s important results in a much calmer and happier life. Knowing your values and priorities help you get there - they help you cut out the excess and focus on what’s truly important to you.
The added bonuses of being clear on these priorities are that we keep one another accountable, teach our children how to care for themselves, and put ourselves in a position to better keep up with them as they grow up (I tell ya, it takes a lot of stamina). These outcomes are important to us and getting there is much, much easier because of knowing our values and how they look in action with our priorities.
It wasn’t until we were settled at home and began reflecting on our experience at the hospital that we realized how lately we’ve been agonizing over some very trivial things. It’s so easy to get caught up in society’s beliefs of what you need. We don’t need even half of what we have to survive comfortably and yet we get swept up in thinking that we do and then feeling a sense of scarcity and lack as a result. It’s easy to obsess over owning your own home or having a new car when it seems like everyone is doing it. When you turn on the radio, or browse the internet, or open a magazine you get bombarded by messaging that’s aimed at convincing you that you need something. You probably don’t need it. Like… 90% sure you don’t need it.
So today I’m taking these thoughts, putting them on virtual paper, and releasing them into the internet cosmos in the event that someone else needs to hear it. Because sometimes hearing someone else say what we’ve been silently pondering (or agonizing over) makes us feel like we have license to explore it further. And sometimes we don’t realize that something is a thing until someone else speaks it into existence.