Most of us know what our priorities should be.
If we were to take a test about it, most of us would pass.
But the real test is what we do under the pressure of our daily lives. When we have to choose one thing over another, our real priorities show.
In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown tells his story about how he realized this problem:
On a bright, winter day in California I visited my wife, Anna, in the hospital. Even in the hospital Anna was radiant. But I also knew she was exhausted. It was the day after our precious daughter was born, healthy and happy at 7 pounds, 3 ounces.
Yet what should have been one of the happiest, most serene days of my life was actually filled with tension. Even as my beautiful new baby lay in my wife’s tired arms, I was on the phone and on e-mail with work, and I was feeling pressure to go to a client meeting. My colleague had written, “Friday between 1–2 would be a bad time to have a baby because I need you to come be at this meeting with X.” It was now Friday and though I was pretty certain (or at least I hoped) the e-mail had been written in jest, I still felt pressure to attend.
Instinctively, I knew what to do. It was clearly a time to be there for my wife and newborn child. So when asked whether I planned to attend the meeting, I said with all the conviction I could muster … “Yes.”
To my shame, while my wife lay in the hospital with our hours-old baby, I went to the meeting. Afterward, my colleague said, “The client will respect you for making the decision to be here.” But the look on the clients’ faces did not evince respect. Instead, they mirrored how I felt. What was I doing there? I had said “yes” simply to please, and in doing so I had hurt my family, my integrity, and even the client relationship.
As it turned out, exactly nothing came of the client meeting. But even if it had, surely I would have made a fool’s bargain. In trying to keep everyone happy I had sacrificed what mattered most.
On reflection I discovered this important lesson: If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.1
Set your priorities before someone else does.
Does your life reflect your priorities?
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