Priority is defined as: A thing that is regarded as more important than another. Think about that for a second and reflect on what is important in your life. We all have different priorities, but that isn’t really important. What is important, is how we treat them. To me, holding something above another means dedicating time, physical effort, and mental energy towards our intended task or goal, before focusing else where. I don’t think I would have any disagreement there, but the funny thing is, I often don’t do this and I know Im not alone in that respect.
So what are some universal priorities that most would agree on? Health, love, family and personal happiness. That last one includes many things, but happiness is different for all of us. To generalize, this would be a career that provides a standard of living that allows us to be comfortable, while allowing time to do things that excite us and see those we care about. Most importantly, it would provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. For some, that might mean a huge house on the hill and a lush corporate job, while others would prefer a cottage near the beach getting paid minimum wage; it is all subjective to the individual. However, usually what we seek is not something so simple as just a bum on the beach. Life is too complicated now! The simple life is great, but the world is shrinking. Family and friends spread out all over the world and cities are bigger. Satisfying the many different aspects of one’s desires will include a certain amount of financial success, thats just life these days. Otherwise, we are simply trying to get through the week to get through the month. We never quite get ahead and so we don’t have enough free time to do much of the things we want, which can be as simple as traveling up-state to see family. Everything cost money and our bills are residual. I found myself working really hard just so I could barely make enough money to pay rent and feed myself, let alone travel and have hobbies. All I did was work and all I thought about was getting away.
I needed something to change. There is more to life than paying bills just to survive. I want to THRIVE. I want to enjoy my life; make it into the escape. I want to be happy to wake up everyday. I want to be excited to do whatever my job is, because we spend well over a majority of our life working. I want to be passionate about my entire life, not just the weekends and the hours after 5pm. I don’t want to be held back by financial obstacles. I don’t want to be separated from my family and friends by unnecessary obstacles like small distances. Most importantly, I want to spend my most precious resource how I see fit. My time should be mine and mine alone. Freedom of time is what enables all the other needs and wants in my life to be attainable and as much as we hate to admit it, money is what buys us time. Thats why college is such an important step in our society. Society tells us the route to a happy and lavish life includes college to get a good job that pays well. We set our sights on this big paycheck and end up living our lives as if money is the goal. We forget that there is another step, though. Using that good paycheck to chase dreams and do the things that excite us. I am content and happy living a simple life. I don’t shop, or have need for flashy and expensive things, but the reality of our current civilization is that freedom to be who we want to be, on our own terms, requires enough money to buy your time back. On top of that, no matter how much we make, trading time for money will never solve this problem. I have to be financially independent with a passive and residual income so that I can be the man I want to be. That is my top priority and it allows all others to be possible for me.
This is where the breakdown occurs, though. If that is my top priority, then it would dictate a great number of things in my life, yet I often forgo the choices I know are required to reach this goal for others of more immediate comfort. I tell myself that my business and helping people is top priority, but do I always act that way? Ask yourself, “what are my priorities?” Then, I want you to reflect on your choices that day and honestly evaluate if the path you took today was one which brought you closer, or farther from your goals, or priorities. Its a little alarming, isn’t it? We lie to ourselves constantly about what we prioritize as important; saying one thing but demonstrating something completely different in our actions. I’ve learned to take everything people tell me with a grain of salt, letting them expose their true feelings through their actions. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had to apply this same lesson to myself. I tell myself that my business and my future is a priority, yet I put off working towards it for so many reasons, one of them being video games. If I choose to turn on a game console when I could be at my computer writing or working, whats more important to me? When a couple has issues because of a drinking problem, how many times must forgiveness be granted before its understood that drinking is more important than the relationship? I work in health and fitness and I hear people tell me all the time that their priority is getting healthy. Time and time again, I am told, “Ive tried everything and nothing works.” As the conversation progresses, I discover that their priority isn’t being healthy, its actually ice cream, watching football games, partying and drinking. Thats why nothing ever worked, because it was prioritized behind all the things that kept them from getting healthy. It isn’t the bullshit we spew from our mouths or the garbage we think to ourselves, but our actions, that shape our lives and become our future.
Some priorities in our lives are easy to manage and simple to recognize, like paying the electricity bill over the cable bill. If you have no electricity, you won’t be able to watch your favorite show anyways. Most, however are not as obvious and any significant goal, no matter where you prioritize it, is something much more complicated than a yes or no. The two biggest goals in my life occupy my top two priorities, my fitness and my business. With either of these, accomplishment takes years of steady work and dedication. Only through constant effort and commitment to a goal I can barely imagine, let alone visualize, will I be able to make my dreams come true. To do this, I must prioritize them above all else because health and fitness is not easy and neither is achieving large dreams. Neither happens over night and both require large amounts of effort with little or no gratification for long periods of time, so how do we stay focused? How do we recognize when we idly drop our deepest desires down a few rungs in our personal priority pyramid?
The answer is simple, in theory, yet difficult in practice. First, we must understand that life is simple a series of choices, that is it. Secondly, the future does not actually exist. Its a theoretical place in the distance. We associate this distance with change. When we travel to another location, everything is different, so we project this belief on our future, but this is dangerous thinking and also a mindset that holds us back. You wake up today and only today. You will never wake up tomorrow. Think about that for a moment. You will never occupy the space in time that we refer to as tomorrow…Your future, is the accumulated result of the choices you make everyday until that date in the theoretical future, but its just another “today.” What does that mean? That means that if you do the same thing everyday, go to work, get home, watch a show, go to sleep, then you can see your future. How can your future possibly hold anything different than your current “today,” if you never do anything different? An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. For a long time, I went through the motions waiting for that “outside force” that would make my future into something other than what I was used to, but nothing ever changed. It took some hard times and dark situations for me to realize that unless I did something different today, nothing would change in my future. I was the outside force that I was waiting for, so I stopped waiting. This helps us understand the urgency of everyday we are given. If you don’t take advantage of each day, then don’t expect anything special to happen. If you want change, you must act! Just start! The last step is using our priorities as a litmus test for each choice, no matter how small. Every decision we make, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is a step towards our goals or away from them. Some choices contribute to accomplishment in a less direct way and some are negative in the same manner. It doesn’t matter, though, every choice brings us closer or farther away from where we want to go in life. Hold all your choices up to the light of your priorities and see if you are sticking to what you tell yourself. If saving for a new car is top priority, but you go to starbucks everyday instead of buying a coffee maker, or giving up coffee all together, then you prioritize going to starbucks over buying your car. Seems small, but it all adds up, not to mention that coffee from that place is insanely pricey.
Reaching a profound goal is terribly hard. We live in a world abundant with distraction and hindrance. Don’t kid yourself and think that you can half-ass your effort and achieve a brilliant outcome. Its hubris that keeps us from thinking we need to do all the little things and ego that keeps us from committing to the level we should. We get worried that people will give us a hard time for really wanting something and letting it consume us, but the reality of it is that if we don’t align ourselves completely with our top priorities, then we never make them happen. Think of accomplishing a goal like breaking a board with your hand, as they do in martial arts. If you are just an ounce of pressure shy of the required forced needed to break the board, then all of the impact will be reflected back into your fist, causing pain and injury. If you apply just an ounce of pressure more, then your hand will pass through like it was just a twig. If you do not apply this to your life, you will never accomplish the things you really want. Years go by as we live a life only half committing to the things we think are at the top of our priority list, like our health. Why spend so many years living a life we don’t want, in a body we are not happy with, in a job we don’t enjoy? We wait until we get a reality check, a wake up call. We finally realize that the water is beginning to boil in our proverbial pot, and we finally take action and rearrange our priorities properly. Don’t wait. Skip that step and all the wasted years. Turn the heat up now. Look at your life and the future you want and ask yourself if you are doing anything that can actually allow you to wake up in that imagined “today.” If you have something, then make sure you are constantly putting it at the top of your pyramid. If you don’t, find something and chase it, but don’t forget to hold your choices up to the light to make sure your priorities are organized correctly! Each choice is important, no matter how small, so don’t feel silly about going above and beyond. If you honestly have your priorities in order, nothing will be too small to hold significance to your future. How you prioritize your life is a choice, so you can either choose to live the life you want, or choose not to, but at least you won’t be confused as to why your goals didn’t happen.