Finding Your Top Priorities

By: Susan Browning

So I’m sitting here beginning to see our calendar fill… yes, it’s a slowed and gentle influx. But still I’m breathing in a hint of that familiar feeling and the returning of a pace I don’t think I want – anymore… I know it’s coming.

The time where yes’ will begin to constrain against my heart, because I know, I do busy well. And old habits die hard… Busy was the thing I found my worth in… sound familiar? If nothing feels accomplished then the day feels worthless… right? As if to say resting or playing, or even enjoying the day wasn’t somehow important or deemed valuable. An identity founded in others obligations and expectations. Also, life… And responsibilities… and necessity. But there it is… What is actually necessary… or in today’s terminology: essential?

Our “I don’t have enough time…”, or “I’m too busy”… our cloaks of hustle, our badges of honour. It’s what I used to hear. And it’s what I used to say. Then I realised… I’m still hearing it… often. Even though the WHOLE WORLD HAS STOPPED. A pandemic doesn’t deem these as excuses anymore. In fact, it just highlights time has never been the issue. It has been, and continues to be our priorities.

Right now we have an opportunity to re-evaluate. This forced reset means we get to actually determine what is most important to us, because everything stopped simultaneously. We grieve what once was… and cannot ever be again, finding ourselves on the threshold of the new beginning and because we live out of what we value the most, we need to know what is paramount for our future. It will be different for each person because we are built from different stories.

I know you see it too… the horizon where your yes will be given away again and wondering how far they extend. Will this time be different in our pursuit of a life we own and live out, where the people, the family, the commitments we miss and the ones we don’t will all come creeping in slowly, but swiftly. The very thought of it makes my heart begin to feel claustrophobic. Do I want to say yes to this? I must allow myself to wrestle with the permissions to give my life shape, aligning with the culture I want to set for my family, the calling I am desperate to pursue, and in our general day-to-day moving forward. We can no longer hit burnout as if it’s meant to be cyclic… it’s not. We need to be okay to run in our own lanes at our own pace, because in the past if you’re like me… I ran hard for everyone else. If everything is important, nothing is important. This time, I’m listening. This time, I’m honouring. This time, is different. So I sit and ponder what does valuing my time look like? What are my essentials? What is peripheral?

Priorities are founded in our personal values

I thought I knew what they were the first time I processed this… but when I actually gave way to all the “should be” voices, I realised I actually valued what others thought MORE than what I actually valued. And I felt robbed by this wake up call. Although you might see too that this is what breakthrough looks like – it’s listening to the still small voice inside, pleading with you to choose it over other noise and follow through by championing it on and giving it volume.

In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to. – Dave Hollis

When you don’t value something – enough – you won’t make the time for it. We all have some sense of what we value right? Like I value time on my own. I value rest. I value slow. I value creativity. I value authenticity. I value family. I value independence. I value depth. I value relationships. I value loyalty. I value expression. I value a level of lifestyle. I value transformation. It took time for me to come to the realisation I needed to place more intrinsic value on these things.

So now we’re here… part way through a season of life that’s either stripped everything bare, or somehow you have found you added a heck of a lot to it to adapt and try to keep up with this pivot the world has set in motion. I just want to remind you today is another opportunity. Today you get to decide what has value. Just like any other day of your life, you can begin. You don’t need a new year, you don’t need a pandemic to change your pursuit. You just need to decide, create the space and make it happen.

Finding Your Priorities

Let’s do something fun… or at the very least, something beneficial. Grab your journal and writing implement or open a note on your phone and mindfully write out the things that are important to you. Like all the non-negotiable things. Tangible things. Constructs, relationships, the day to day rhythms. Basically list all the things your life, wouldn’t be life without.

From there let’s see if there’s a theme or if some of what you have listed can be grouped and put under an umbrella. For example loyalty, honesty and authenticity are all characteristics of “meaningful relationships”. If one word stands out more you could say Authentic Relationships. It’s your set of values – there’s no judgement here, it’s for your eyes only – unless you feel you need to share it with those you do life with closely. Ultimately though, this is for you. Work through these until this list of your-life-wouldn’t-be-life-without down to 3-5 main umbrellas.

Once you’ve got that sorted, let’s take those things and assign them in order of absolute greatest thing down to mostly essential. This is the tricky bit, because what I found when I did it was I had to take more time than I realised to analyse. Start by putting them in the order which first comes to mind. Then look at your last two values. Ask of the lower value “can I meet this value with value 1?” If the answer is no then value needs to move up. Then repeat this process, ask the same of the other values above it – once you have agreed the answer is yes then that’s where it sits. Start with the value at the bottom and ask again, continue this process and move things around accordingly until you can go from the first value down with the answers being yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

I found this really challenging from a faith perspective, especially as I have been conditioned my faith must come first and with the addition of littlies, my family is my most important priority. Yes I agree they are very important. But for me I had always put my health last, and when I am not healthy I am no good to my family and likewise for my relationship with God, then add ministry… I mean you can’t serve others if you are dead… right??

I determined this by saying ‘does my faith thrive when I am physical healthy – yes or no?’ or ‘can I do family without my physical health?” If I found myself saying ‘no I can’t do family life when I am sick’ then I moved it around until I arrived at my top 6 priorities.

They are:

1. Purpose and Expression

2. Self Care and Health

3. Authentic Relationships

4. Family/A Sense of Home

5. Solitude and Quietness – Faith

6. Transformation: Always Learning and Evolving

These are my personal values… therefore my priorities… and now how I filter the choices I make in spending my time… At the end of the day you won’t probably share your value list with anyone, when you’re journeying this process remove all judgement and remember this is what makes YOU effective for your life, it will overflow into “others” but ultimately what you decide is most important will be how you live your life.

At the end of each day I reflect if those core values have been met, and if not – what needs to change moving forward. It’s a simple process but an important check-in. Especially when life transitions or thresholds appear. I can determine what drains me and fills me from the list above. I can decide how much I pour out from a place of alignment and for how long. I honour who I am created to be when I look after my temple. I honour God when I operate from a healthy overflow. Where I have given my yes is only held accountable to what is intrinsic to me, and therefore I operate from a place of rest, I give out from a place of joy. Bitterness, obligation, expectation get a review here.

Finding what is precious to you will be how you make the sum of your daily choices to paint the canvas of your whole life moving forward. This is the perfect time to take a moment and reflect, reset, pause and re-evaulate. Let some things go, grieve the loss, pick up the new things and find a new life waiting for you in whatever your new normal will look like. Looking ahead will be with a new lens and I can see it all too clearly – the path I could take. It is here I, collectively WE have a choice.

Article supplied with thanks to Susan Browning.

About the Author: Susan is a worship leader, vocal coach and mentor encouraging you to be all you can be in fulfilling your purpose.

Feature image: Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.