Focusing on your true priorities

November 14, 2021

Too often, we talk about hypothetical priorities.

“From now on, working out regularly will be a priority for me.”

“I won’t let myself get distracted by urgent emails anymore—I will prioritize working on my research.”

“I”m going to spend more time with my family.”

Such intentions are all well and good. Clarifying your intentions is necessary to achieve your goals. It’s not sufficient, though. Do your actions match your words?

Your true priorities reveal themselves:

  • What do you actually do?
  • What do you spend your time on?
  • What gets your attention?

If there’s a mismatch between your stated priorities and your true (revealed) priorities, things get interesting. Why is there such a mismatch?

You might be lying to yourself about your true priorities. You’re probably not deliberately deluding yourself, but you’re not being honest with yourself either.

Let’s say you do want to spend more time with your family, but you end up working overtime most weeks. Even if you don’t want to work overtime, you still choose to do it. You could quit. You could get another job. You could earn money in some other way that leaves you more time for your family. But you don’t. Staying in the job that has you working overtime is in fact your priority.

The obvious question is: what are you going to do about it?

There’s no sense in holding onto fake priorities once you’ve realized they are fake. That will only make you feel guilty. Feeling guilty because you don’t spend as much time with your family as you “ideally would” helps no-one.

Can you accept your true priorities and act accordingly? Can you accept what you really want and not wish you were more disciplined, more career-focused, or more family-oriented?

This isn’t to say that you should give up trying to get fit, telling yourself, “I’m just not a fit person”.

My point is different.

If you’ve been struggling to go to the gym, don’t berate yourself for that. Accept that going to the gym isn’t fun enough for you to prioritize it over watching Netflix. Instead, find a different way to get fit that is more fun than watching Netflix. Could be yoga, tennis, SoulCycle, or even muggle quidditch. As long as it’s fun enough to actually do it.

Accept your true priorities first. Then work with your priorities to achieve your goals.

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