Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, December 09, 2006

How to Establish Your Life's Priorities

There are two things we all (or almost all) wish we had more of: Money and Time. We are convinced that if we only had more of these two things, our lives would be so much better. We would be so much happier. If we currently make $25K in annual salary, we think, If only I could make $30K. If we make $50K, we think, If only I could make $75K. And don't we complain about our time shortage? There just isn't enough of it! Sadly, we probably spend a good chunk of the time we do have complaining about our need for more. Our schedules are so full that we're tired all the time, and if anything in our life doesn't begin and end exactly on time, chaos ensues. Does this describe you? OK, just learn this word and you'll be on the way to a more peaceful and productive life. Ready? OK, here it is...NO. That's it! Don't you wish it were that simple? It's not, but learning that word is a good start. Learning to mean it is a good second step.

If you browse the internet or the bookstore for self-help or personal development guidance, you'll see a tanker load of trendy ideas and fashionable concepts, and maybe, if you search long enough, you'll find some information that will actually work. This information will work because it is based on some fundamental truths about human nature and how we work. These truths have been around for a very long time. They're not new, they're not trendy. They just work. This article has to do with one of these truths, to wit: Our lives are better, happier, and more productive when we put first things first. Here are some tips that will help you do that.

Tip #1: To put first things first you must accept that you are the one in control of your time. No one else can make you do anything. You decide. Seems like a simple truth, but it's devilishly difficult to put into practice. You say, if I'm in control, why does it feel like I'm not? Because you are ceding control to others. You are giving power to others to run your life. They don't have it naturally. You have to give it to them. So you can take it back. Next tip:

Tip #2: You have to take time to figure out what's important. Not what's yelling for your attention. What's really important. Most of us don't ever take the time to do this. We keep our heads down and stick to the treadmill, never taking the time to lift our heads to see the panorama, to see what our life is all about, to see where the treadmill is taking us. Nowhere. Why not stop off the treadmill for a bit, just to get your bearings?

Tip #3: Free your mind from consumerism. What do I mean by that term? I am referring to the endless, single-minded focus on the acquisition and maintenance of material wealth. Do you realize just how bombarded and bedeviled we are by people telling us that we need this thing or that thing to be fulfilled, happy, worthwhile, interesting, comfortable, whatever? Nice things are nice, don't get me wrong, but they aren't fundamentally satisfying. They're nice to have, but they are only surface, they have no depth or substance. For that we have to look deeper. What's really important? What things are first things?

Tip #4:The quality of your character is a first thing. The development and nurturing of good things in your character deserves time and attention. We all love stories of transformation. Take "Home Alone" as an example. When the old man is changed by his encounter with the character played by Macaulay Culkin, our hearts melted. Some of us even cried, though we would never admit it. Those kinds of changes can happen in real life too. Transformative events happen in our lives when we come face to face with a reality we don't like. If you can see aspects of your character that need work, you can make changes. Qualities that are worthwhile developing are things like love, kindness, peace, gentleness, diligence and honesty.

Tip #5: Focus on the Why, not just the What. Why you do things is sometimes more important than what you do. For example, someone who works hard at their job for the sake of propping up their ego will not find as much long term satisfaction as someone who works hard because he or she loves his or her family and desires to provide for their needs. It is a worthwhile practice to take some time to figure out the why of the things you are doing with your life.

Tip #6: Simplify and consolidate. Take an inventory of your schedule and commitments. Ask yourself what is the purpose of all these activities. Evaluate whether or not they fit with your own reasons for being on the planet. Choose whether or not you need to continue each one, or if you should set it aside. Leave some room for an inner life rather than crowding it out with activity.

Taking control and taking time to see the forest for the trees is the essence of these tips. Putting first things first is a major key to getting your life on a happy and productive path.