Springs of Joy: True priorities PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 January 2012 15:01

BY Jane dela Cruz Bascar

“In reality, you vote with your actions, not your words.”

It’s here! 2012, the most anticipated year in recent history, has come. We welcome the year with joy - looking forward to the possibilities, surprises and gifts the New Year brings. Yet, we also feel a tinge of trepidation as we ponder on the possibility that these are our “end times.” If this were true and this year our last, how then do we make the most out of it and make it our best year ever? Because whether we do or don’t collectively perish this year, it remains important to live as though this were our last and thus,  honor our real priorities – those that matter above all else. But how do we do this? Writer Richard Carlson suggests a strategy which we may take with us into the New Year. It’s a more novel approach than how we usually arm ourselves with resolutions that, much to our dismay, we readily, easily break all too soon. Carlson says:

“I’ll warn you in advance that this strategy can be humbling, but ultimately very helpful. It involves taking a careful look at those personal things that you feel are most important to you. Once you decide what they are, write them down on a sheet of paper and put the list away for a week or two.

For example, you might create a list that looks something like this: 1. Pleasure reading, 2. Exercise, 3. Volunteering my time, 4. Spending time with my family or close friends, 5. Meditation, 6. Spending time in nature, 7. Getting organized, 8. Writing in my journal, 9. Trying something new, 10. Eating healthily, 11. Traveling.

Here’s the hard part: after some time has gone by, take out your list and read it to yourself. Now, think back honestly over the past week or so, back to the time you wrote the list. How have you spent your time, other than the time you were working? If your actions over the past few weeks were consistent with your list, congratulations! You are in a tiny minority, and my only suggestion is to encourage you to keep it up. My guess is that you are fairly satisfied in your life, and that satisfaction spills over into your work life.

If, however, you look at your list and realize (as I did the first time I did this exercise) that a staggering percentage of your time was spent doing other things, then you’ve got work to do. If you’re like most people, you probably got little or no exercise, didn’t get around to volunteering, and spent all your time inside. To varying degrees, we ignore that which we insist is more important in favor of things that seem pressing or are simply more convenient. Unfortunately, life isn’t going to suddenly accommodate us with fewer demands or reward us with the time we wish we had to do these important things. If we don’t line up our behavior with our priorities, it will never happen.

A friend of mine taught me a powerful lesson that I always try to remember. He said, “In reality, you vote with your actions, not your words.” This means that while I can tell you that my friends and family are important to me, I can write well-intended lists, and I can even become defensive in my well-thought-out excuses, ultimately, the measure of what’s most important to me is how I spend my time and energy.

To put it bluntly, if I spend my free time washing my car, drinking in bars, and watching TV, then presumably my car, alcohol, and my TV are what’s most important to me.

This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with these activities – it’s just important to admit to yourself that this is how you’ve been spending your time. It’s also not to say that there aren’t times when watching TV, even washing the car, is the most important thing to you at that moment. Again, that’s fine. What I’m referring to here are your patterns of behavior, the way you spend most of your time.

You can see why this exercise is potentially so important to the quality of your life. When you’re busy and working hard, tired and overwhelmed, it’s easy to postpone or overlook your true priorities. You can get so lost in your routine and busyness that you end up doing few or none of the things that deep down, you know would nourish you. You tell yourself things like “This is a particularly busy time,” or I’ll get to you later but you never get around to it. This lack of satisfaction translates into frustration at work and elsewhere.

Once you open your eyes to the pattern, however, it’s fairly easy to change. You can begin to make minor adjustments. You can read a few minutes before you go to sleep, get up a little earlier to exercise, meditate or read. And so on. Remember, you’re the one who wrote the list of priorities. You certainly have the power to implement them. I encourage you to write your list today – it really can create a whole new beginning.”

Well, do you think Carlson’s strategy is worth a try? Let’s see if we can finally get our act together and make our words match our actions. Once they do, then we will get to live lives where our internal desires and priorities are consistent with the external reality we create for ourselves…And then it matters not if our doomsday comes today, tomorrow, the next or on the 21st of December because we would have given life our all and would have lived it exactly the way we said we wanted and wished to.

Happy New Year everyone!

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