Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Reflection: Prioritizing and Intentionalizing

Over the last few months, I have been thinking a lot about prioritizing and internationalizing. It has  come up as a key piece of subject matter in some of the books I've been reading, and it has been a major topic of many recent conversations with others. How does one prioritize? How many priorities should one take on? What does it look like to make something a priority?

Recently, I read that it has only been in the modern era that the word took on a plural form "priorities" and in my opinion, that may be part of why it seems to be a great challenge for people today. It is hard to set just one priority, or at least only focus on one priority at a time. Because we live in a world where it seems like we are encouraged to move forward with multiple tasks at once, we can very easily find ourselves making virtually everything into a priority, but by definition only one thing can be a priority at one time.

Now can we do activities that can accomplish more than one goal at the same time? Of course! For example, over the last few weeks, I have been getting up early and exercising either by myself or with friends. Doing that helps me to grow in my own self-discipline but I am also becoming stronger, more fit, healthier, and more alert--I also find that this discipline carries over into other parts of the day. This one activity and priority is helping me accomplish a great deal in the day. And maybe that is part of the power of setting a priority.

Stephen Covey mentioned a concept in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that there are activities in our life that fall into one of four quadrants. They are either urgent and unimportant, important but not urgent, unimportant and non-urgent, or urgent and important. He says that the areas of our life that fit into the important but not urgent category are those most easily squeezed out and deprioritized. For example, I may believe my health is important, but it is very easy to allow activities that would benefit my health to be less of a priority than tasks that at least feel more urgent or important. If I believe/say my health is important, but I don't eat right and and don't exercise, then I'm not investing in this priority for my life.

For me, it has been helpful to develop routines around what I want to be prioritized in my life. If something is prioritized, that means it needs to happen, and that other activities must take a lower priority. We live in a world where we are told that we can do anything and everything with our life and our time, but it it is a lie. We cannot do everything. And in trying to do everything, we often miss out on doing the things that are most important.

Every year at the end of the year/beginning of the year I like to take a look back over the previous year and set goals for the year ahead. It's an opportunity to recalibrate and refocus. It gives me a chance to see what was the ultimate priority, and where I need to make adjustments. My ultimate aspiration each year is to grow in my relationship with God, and then let everything else in my life flow from that singular intentional priority. It affects how I care for my body, my time, my relationships, and my limited resources. Setting my priority toward cultivating my relationship with God keeps everything else in its proper perspective. During times in my life when I have let other areas of focus become the ultimate focus (health, work, relationships, time management, etc.) it seems like not only that area, but every area suffers by degrees.

As you go about your day, may you have wisdom in setting your ultimate priority and intention, and may you daily move the needle in the areas of your life that are of greatest importance to you, so that at the end of the day, you can reflect with satisfaction that the "main thing" was indeed the main thing.

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