When Do Your Priorities Become Your Distractions?

I was listening to the Minimalists podcast the other day and something Joshua said really struck me.

He explained that there wasn’t a plural to the word ‘priority’ until quite recently, in the last century or so.

The idea that a multitude of things can be extremely important to us is a modern invention, but is it useful to have multiple priorities, or is it a distraction?

Whenever we set a priority we elevate something to make it more important. If your career is your priority, you might work late to impress your boss. If your health is your priority you might go to the gym instead. But if your priorities are your health and your career, you are simultaneously pulled towards each choice.

The worst case scenario is that you stay late at work, you lose focus and aren’t productive, you try and go to the gym but you’re tired and injure yourself. You get home late and have such poor quality sleep that in the morning you’re grouchy and inadvertently offend your boss. By having these dual priorities you have failed at both.

Of course that would be particularly unfortunate, and it’s important to have balance, but having a single, over-arching priority can help guide your decisions to hopefully a much more satisfying and rewarding outcome.

My priority at the moment is family. I want to be the best parent I can be, and provide my family with the time, opportunities and resources to live comfortably, learn and grow.

Because this is my priority I can, when faced with a difficult decision, draw on this priority to give greater context. If I am offered a better-paid job, but have to travel further, I am gaining in financial opportunity, but limiting my family time. This is at odds with my priority, so I wouldn’t take the job.

When you understand your true, single priority, the rest of the decisions become much easier. Think about what ultimately drives you, and use that knowledge to make better judgements for your decisions.

You can read more about priority and lots of other subjects in the Minimalists book of essays ‘Essential.’ Any purchase made through this link helps support the blog.

Thanks for reading!

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