“Action expresses priorities.” — Mahatma Gandhi
As one of my mentors put it, you’re no use to us dead.
If you get your priorities right, you change your world, and you can change the world.
If you get your priorities wrong, it’s a fast path to self-destruction.
If you really want to help others, get your priorities right, build a firm foundation first, and then work from there.
In the book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, Scott Adams shares why priorities are the things you need to get right so the things you love can thrive.
If You Ruin Yourself, It’s Game Over
You know what they say, “put your oxygen mask on first.” You can’t help other people very much, if you can’t even help yourself.
“It’s useful to think of your priorities in terms of concentric circles, like an archery target. In the center is your highest priority: you. If you ruin yourself, you won’t be able to work on any other priorities. So taking care of your own health is job one.”
Your Personal Financial Engine
If you don’t get your personal financial engine working right, you create a burden.
“The next ring — and your second-biggest priority — is economics. That includes your job, your investments, and even your house. You might wince at the fact that I put economics ahead of your family, your friends, and the rest of the world, but there’s a reason. If you don’t get your personal financial engine working right, you place a burden on everyone from your family to the country.”
Family, Friends, and Lovers
Love makes the world go round. But it doesn’t pay for food, shelter, or give you a clean bill of health.
“One you are both healthy and financially sound, it’s time for the third ring: family, friends, and lovers. Good health and sufficient money are necessary for a base level of happiness, but you need to be right with your family, friends, and romantic partners to truly enjoy life.”
Local Community, Your Country, and the World
Now that you’ve mastered your inner circles, you can expand your sphere of influence and change the world.
“The next rings are your local community, your country, and the world, in that order. Don’t bother trying to fix the world until you get the inner circles of your priorities under control.”
All of Your Priorities Overlap and Conflict
Too bad the world doesn’t always fit into nice little models.
“The problem, of course, with my neat little model of priorities is that life is never that simple. You can’t tell your boss that your assignment will be late because you want to go for a long, healthy walk. All of your priorities overlap and conflict. What you need is a simple rule for keeping your priorities on track while handling all of the inevitable exceptions.“
Use Your Personal Energy as a Gauge
It’s not the most scientific, but it can help you avoid crashing and burning.
“One simple way to keep your priorities straight is by judging how each of your options will influence your personal energy. It’s not a foolproof gauge, but if you know a particular path will make you feel more stressed, unhealthy, and drained, it’s probably the wrong choice. Right choices can be challenging, but they usually charge you up. When you’re on the right path, it feels right, literally.”
Meaningful Work Can Be Energizing
You’ll face trade-offs all the time. Your personal energy can help you understand those trade-offs.
“For example, if your boss asks you to work the weekend to finish something worthwhile and challenging, you might be willing to give up a little of your personal life and health. Meaningful work can be energizing. And if things work out, perhaps you will be promoted because of your efforts. That’s a trade-off that might charge you up in both the short run and the long run.”
If It’s Brain-Deadening, Find a New Job
If your work continuously sucks the life force out, something has to give. Don’t wait until it’s you.
“On the other hand, if your boss routinely asks you to work overtime for no good reason other than to claw through piles of brain-deadening administrative work, you probably need to look for a new job.
In both example, your boss is asking for extra work at the cost of your higher priorities, but only one of those situations increases your personal energy.”
Dumb Choices are Obvious
On a good note, it tends to be fairly obvious which choices you make will not serve you for the longer haul.
“The risk with using energy as your guide is that there are plenty of bad choices that also get you energized in the short run. But realistically, we all know, for example, that shoving cocaine up your noses isn’t a good long-term strategy. The dumb choices are generally quite obvious.”
Get Priorities Right So the Things You Love Thrive
When you line up your priorities, from the inside out, you build a firm foundation to survive and thrive for the long haul.
“When I speak of priorities I don’t mean that in terms of what you love the most. You can love your family more than you love your job and still spend all day working so your family has good and opportunities. Priorities are the things you need to get right so the things you love can thrive.”
Do your priorities need a reset?
Today is the perfect day to find your path of fire and fulfillment.
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Image by John Trainor.