“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (goe-tha)
There are certain times in life when we lose sight of our priorities and get off track; life gets too busy, a crisis occurs, we fall into the wrong company, or we simply fail to shift our focus as we evolve through different phases.
Our priorities are like the coordinates a pilot plots on his map to ensure that the plane flies in the right direction. Without a defined line of progression, we could lose our way and end up in places we don’t want to be, just like an airplane.
Humans, however, aren’t mechanical. We are emotional beings. Before we define our trajectories and set forth in a purposeful direction, we have to make sense of the clashing desires of ego and soul and see through superficialities that obfuscate our inner truth.
One movie that powerfully illustrates this struggle is ‘Jerry Maguire.’ Jerry Maguire, played by Tom Cruise, is a successful, hard-driving sports agent who would do anything to land the biggest and most lucrative contracts for his clients and for the profit of his employer. One day he has a moral epiphany after questioning his purpose and comes to terms with what’s wrong in his life. He expresses these thoughts through a passionate memo to the company and consequently gets fired and is stripped of his high-profile clients and elite status.
Even after losing everything, he stands by his heartfelt mission and opens his own sports management firm. Accompanied by only one co-worker, played by Renee Zellweger, who chose to leave the firm to assist him, and one volatile yet charismatic client, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., he faces the challenge of rebuilding his life. Along the way, he’s exposed to harsh truths he’d ignored in the past and endures hardships in his personal and professional relationships that eventually reveal that love and kindness are all that truly matters.
Much like Jerry Maguire, we reach pivotal points when we question whether we are honoring our gifts and capabilities. However, most people ignore these inner nudges to reflect and change course, and only pay attention when they’re hit with challenges that plough through the superficial layers of their personality, revealing their depth and humanity.
It doesn’t help that we’re bombarded with choices in a society ruled by consumerism and image-consciousness. In his book, ‘The Second Mountain: A Quest for a Moral Life,’ author David Brooks writes: “Our public culture, normalizes selfishness, rationalizes egoism, and covers over and renders us inarticulate about the deeper longings of the heart and soul.”
Brooks goes on to say that this ethos of worldly success causes our “ego to swell and heart and soul to recede” as we seek to establish an identity. Eventually, we learn that the hollow existence of a self-interested life does not offer the spiritual food necessary to nourish us and allow us to live fully. The empty and shallow priorities fed to us by society are transformed into a quest for morality and meaning.
Setting the right priorities not only serves our deeper needs but also maximizes our efficiency and productivity. It allows us to work with the inevitable limitations and restrictions on our time, energy, and resources. Without having clearly defined goals and plans, we squander what we have and waste our energies.
Living your best life requires the ability to intuitively pick up on the times when you veer off course and lose sight of what’s important. Here are four signs that you should look out for:
1. You feel out of alignment with your real self: When you feel out of alignment, you wake up every day feeling like something isn’t quite right. There’s a niggling feeling that you’re not living your best life and deep down you know that there’s more that you’re here to do. You can’t seem to hear that inner voice that used to guide you toward inspiration and you find yourself mourning the loss of your old self. You wonder what happened to that vibrant person you used to be, who lived a life that was a true reflection of her dreams, values, and ambition. You may find yourself envying other people who are living their lives with passion and excitement.
2. Your outer reality isn’t matching up to what you truly desire: When you look around you, you’re not resonating with what you see. Unlike someone who is actively taking steps to create the reality they desire, you feel helpless when it comes to changing your circumstances. You may have indefinitely put your most cherished goals on the backburner because of the restrictions and obligations placed on you by others. You might find yourself living someone else’s life based on their idea of what’s best for you. Over time you feel defeated, and the dreams you once had will fade into the ether and feel out of your reach.
3. You’re unfulfilled after a hard day’s work: Even though you’re busy and engaged with diligently meeting the demands of a packed schedule, you don’t feel accomplished at the end of the day. No matter how much you get done and how productive you are, you feel like it isn’t getting you anywhere. Whether you’re busy at home or in the office, you aren’t experiencing the deep satisfaction that adds vibrancy and meaning to your life. If you find yourself going through the motions and trying just to get things done without being fully present and engaged, there’s a strong chance that you’re not devoted to what you’ve chosen to spend your time and energy on.
4. You feel bored, uninspired, and unsure of your future: Passion is something that cannot be faked – it’s either there, or it isn’t. When you’re working on the wrong priorities, you’re going to lack passion and experience a general feeling of boredom and malaise. Your energy levels will be low, and you’ll find yourself having to drag yourself out of bed to meet the demands of the day. You find yourself asking, “what’s the point?” because nothing inspires you anymore. If you’ve felt this way for a long time, it may have become your normal way of being and you’ve gotten used to feeling this way. It has diminished your ability to plan and see what is next for you. Your foresight has become foggy and you lack direction.
Shakespeare famously said that life is too short. We should do everything we can to live our lives to the fullest and treasure every second. Setting the right priorities allows us to do just that- it liberates us from the time-wasters that weigh us down so that we can soar toward our ultimate destiny.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you believe that you’re working on the right priorities? If not, what are you willing to do to shift this?
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