If you are not clear about your priorities, every wind of change is likely to take you a little further away from your goals, until you lose sight of them. Or worse yet, let others decide for you, determining what you should prioritize in your life. So you will end up chasing goals that don't belong to you, chasing the dreams of others.
From direct pressure to emotional manipulation: the different types of control
In the world there will always be people willing to tell us what we must do and how we must do it, improvised masters and connoisseurs of nothingness who wish to impose their opinions and the way of seeing the world.
They are usually arrogant people, moved by Procrustean syndrome and with little empathy, who do not conceive anything beyond their way of understanding things. Often these people resort to criticism, disapproval, or even contempt to impose themselves. And if we're not strong enough, if we haven't built bulletproof self-esteem, we will easily fall into their web.
However, we tend to suffer from various pressure mechanisms. Some people act more surreptitiously by manipulating us by leveraging the sense of guilt, playing the role of the victims, in this way, they make us assume their priorities and forget ours.
This type of control is much more difficult to detect and, therefore, more dangerous, as it usually comes from close people with whom we maintain a closer emotional bond. These people will not try to impose their priorities by "force", but will end up doing so by touching on sensitive points such as our sense of responsibility.
The parable about priorities in life
It is said that one day a philosophy professor stood in front of his class and, without saying a word, took a large empty jar and filled it with stones about five centimeters in diameter. Then he asked the students if the jar was full.
Everyone said yes.
Then the teacher took a box with much smaller pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and the pebbles rolled until they filled the empty spaces between the stones. The teacher asked the students again if the jar was full.
Everyone agreed again that it was full.
However, the professor took a box of fine sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining spaces. “Now,” said the professor, “the jar is full. This jar is like your life. The rocks are the really important things, the ones that give meaning to our existence. Pebbles are also important, but not that much. And the sand represents all insignificant things.
If we put the sand in the jar first, there will be no more room for the rocks or pebbles. The same happens in our life. If we waste all our time and energy on small and insignificant things, we will never have room for the things that really matter. "
Why is it so important to have priorities in life?
"No wind is favorable for those who do not know which port they are going to," Seneca said. If we're not sure what we want to achieve, we are likely to miss out on valuable opportunities and end up wasting much of our potential. Having clear priorities in life, on the contrary:
• It helps us achieve our goals. Having clear what we want and where we want to go is the key to focusing on this and achieving our goals. In this way we can take advantage of opportunities as they arise and get closer and closer to the goal we have set ourselves.
• It allows us to be more effective. Having clear priorities will prevent us from wasting precious time and energy on things that do nothing. Not losing sight of our goals will help us find the most direct path, without unnecessarily wasting energy on things that not only bring nothing but even take us away from our goals.
• It gives us back control. While we are aware that there are factors we cannot control, having clear priorities empowers us and allows us to take the reins of our lives, developing an internal locus of control that will make us more proactive people.
5 steps to prioritize life
There are priorities in life, and it is important to know that or we run the risk of reaching the end of the road without having done what we wanted, with the heavy burden of regret. Unfortunately, it is usually not easy to realize that we are moving away from our dreams because it is a gradual process in which habits, customs, urgencies and unexpected events impose themselves filling our lives, without even giving us time to think. The good news is we can stop that vicious circle:
1. Analyze your daily routine
Think about what you do every day. Conscientiously. What do you spend the most time on during the day? What activities do you spend the most time on during the week? And during the month? And at the end of the year?
A good exercise is to write down what you do each day during a normal week, as well as the approximate time you spend on each activity. The results will likely amaze you.
You may find that you spend an enormous amount of time on things that don't matter or don't contribute to the long-term goals you have set. It's normal. We often let ourselves be carried away by routine, the unexpected consumes our time and the urgencies of others are imposed. The first step is to be aware that we have fallen into a vicious circle.
2. Ask yourself what is important to you right now
Take a pencil and paper and write down the 7 or 10 things that are most important to you right now. Analyze them and ask yourself: how important will they be in 5 or 10 years? Do these priorities help me achieve my goals in life or are they a hindrance? Are they really my priorities or are they the priorities that someone has imposed on me?
Keep in mind that priorities also change over time. Maybe what was important to you a decade ago is no longer. Try to take the necessary psychological distance when analyzing your current priorities.
3. What do you want to do with your life?
Ask yourself what's really important to you. Not for others, unless your priority in life is to please others. This does not mean adopting a selfish attitude, but only giving priority to your happiness. It's not a good thing or a bad thing, it's just what you think is important.
Remember that one of the main obstacles to defining our priorities is fear of criticism, rejection or anger from others, which can lead us to choose what is socially acceptable, but not what is most important to us.
4. Identify your excuses
During the whole process of introspection, doubts and apologies usually appear. It is difficult for the mind to manage cognitive dissonance, so it prefers to cling to excuses not to change and maintain the status quo. It is a process that we often do unconsciously but which is important to bring to light.
Therefore, once you've identified the gap between your dreams and current priorities, it's time to investigate these limiting excuses. Maybe it's not just about social pressure, but that social pressure has given you the perfect excuse to not take risks, stay within your comfort zone, and not create conflict.
5. Change your priorities and your routine as needed
If you discover a huge gap between your desires, dreams and goals and your daily life, chances are that he has organized your routine by letting others carry you or simply what you think you should do. At this point you should be wondering if you need - and want - to change your life and rethink your daily priorities.
There are times in life when we need to postpone some of our dreams and change our priorities, but we need to make sure it's a transient situation, not a real desertion. We may not be able to radically change our lifestyle, but at least we can incorporate more things that add meaning and value.
A technique for managing daily priorities
On a daily basis, it's easy to get carried away by unexpected events, presumed urgencies and other people's priorities. Living on autopilot, letting ourselves be carried away by the flow of events takes up the whole day with activities that don't bring much.
One technique to better manage our daily priorities is the comparison between peers. Basically, it's about comparing the different options we have, two by two, choosing the most important among them.
This way you can turn off autopilot and start making conscious decisions about how to occupy your day with things that make you feel better or contribute in some way to your goals in life. After all, if you don't feel alive it's not life.