At the start of a new year it feels natural to think about vision, priorities, and goals. I haven’t set any goals this year. This wasn’t a conscious decision. In fact, I had intended to (I have done for the past 7 or 8 years). It turns out however, that it wasn’t enough of a priority. So I woke up on New Year’s Day without any goals. And that feels fine.
The word ‘priority‘ has been on my mind a lot. Because even though I don’t have specific goals for the next 12 months, I have a growing sense of what matters most. The values I want to nurture, and the kind of life I am designing.
By definition you can’t really have more than one priority at a time. ‘Prior’ means ‘first, former, superior, better, before, in front of etc’. And ‘ity’ is the condition or quality of being. Therefore a priority is the condition or quality of something before other things. If we have multiple priorities then we actually have no priority. Just a bunch of things that hold equal sway in our life. Which is fine, until those demands become too much to handle.
Themes and Priorities
Maybe you’ve set a theme for the year. I know many people who have taken this approach. For example, I’ve seen people commit themselves to the year of creativity, health, relationships, less, play, travel etc. Whereby the intention is to prioritise that theme as the filter through which they act, think, and make decisions.
This is an interesting way to frame things and I believe gets us some way towards establishing a meaningful priority. Priorities give us clarity, focus, and set the conditions for growth in our lives. They help us align our values and our actions, and provide a wide angle lens for us to understand to micro-aspects of everyday life.
But how do we come up with a genuine, meaningful priority?
This is a question that is difficult to answer. What truly matters? What do we want to commit our lives to this week, this month, this year?
It can be hard to decide. As we seek to narrow our focus, we might quickly get caught up in the fallacy of multiple priorities again. There is fear in letting go of the unimportant. Especially when the unimportant feels important. The stuff that is only unimportant by virtue of the evidence that it isn’t a priority. Goal setting is my example. It feels important. I intended to do it. Yet I didn’t.
Doing vs Being
We can also get tied up in knots when we see our priority as a thing we must do. This is where setting a theme for the year works well, because it sets a ‘spirit‘ around the year.
To commit to the spirit of creativity, health, play, adventure, serenity, etc. This blows open the doors of potential, so that all things are seen in light of the spirit. Rather than a priority that restricts action to a single thing, e.g. I will create more stuff this year. Or I will travel more this year.
It’s a subtle difference, but when we live within the spirit of creativity, it means we see everything we do as carrying potential for some kind of creativity within it. And the spirit of travel can be nurtured without you needing to actively go anywhere. It can be enjoyed through the books you read, words you write, or games you play with the kids.
A Positive Priority
We are good at opposing ourselves to things. Even in our own lives, we might say a priority is ‘stop eating badly’, or ‘stop being a people pleaser’. These carry good intentions. But will ultimately fail if we don’t state what we DO want instead. Otherwise we will fixate on the negative, and in all likelihood bring more of it into our lives.
It’s hard to state things positively, because it takes time to actually get clear on what truly matters. We can probably identify many ‘shoulds’. Stuff that we see others doing that looks cool. But what about our own priority? The spirit that will help us grow positively into the person we want to become?
Stop People Pleasing
I mention this because it has been following me around over the past few months. Even more pointedly over the past couple of weeks. In this week’s Extended Play episode I talk about the revelations I’ve experienced in realising the characteristics of my own people pleasing. And how when we prioritise the reactions, opinions, and feelings of other people, we might severely neglect our own needs and desires.
For me, the positive priority is creative play. To live life through a spirit of curiosity and a sense of returning to my creative imaginative core. And to do so without apology, in ways that allow me to experiment with being playfully vulnerable and real. It is already having an impact in different areas, such as my work, relationships, creativity, and general attitude. The things I am saying yes to and those things to which I am happy to say no.
I will continue to remind myself of the spirit by which I want to live this year. And to use it as a filter. Over time I am convinced this will become an ingrained habit, an instinctive reaction, and an unconscious priority that will allow me to consciously prioritise whatever comes next in my lifelong pursuit of personal growth and integrity.
Over to You
What is your priority this year? I’d love to hear your response in the comments below.
Listen to The Gentle Rebel (Extended Play) Private Podcast:
Recovering From a Lifetime of People Pleasing
If you like this topic and want to hear more of my (more personal) thoughts and reflections, as well as some exclusive ‘behind the songs’ insights, you can subscribe to the bonus podcast right now, through Patreon.