6 Reasons Why We Struggle Focusing on Our Priorities
Unless you have been locked in a very dark and soundproof room, you have at some point heard about the importance of focusing on priorities. This concept of identifying one’s priorities is often suggested by employers, trainers, health and life coaches, and even hard-working teachers and parents charged with training our youth.
I would propose that even though well intended, our efforts to remain loyal to our priorities is an incredibly difficult task. It is certainly much more difficult than it would seem to be for someone who is striving to live their best life. The big question is what makes it so difficult for us to continue to work on what we have identified as our “priorities.
I would like to suggest to you that there are some hidden obstacles tucked away in the weeds regarding the topic of priorities and why many individuals struggle with maintaining consistent and focused effort. Here are six reasons why I feel these struggles exist and a few tips to overcome the problems.
1. First and foremost, many individuals have not evaluated and defined their priorities. Taking some time on writing down your priorities, and even ranking them, may seem like a “no-brainer.” Unfortunately, when tasked with this, people often find it difficult to do. One reason for the difficulty may be that “it is like having to look at your internal compass and then come to grips if you are not operating with your true north.” I would suggest that you aren’t too critical at this stage, and you simply list what is important to you. You can come to terms with any dissonance later.
2. Not being honest with yourself is another big concern. Ironically, most people identify the same priorities. If surveyed, individuals often reveal their priorities to be things such as family, faith, health, etc. Unfortunately, this inventory typically becomes more of a wish list over time since very little effort is made to pursue these priorities. We may even make to-do lists but even that often isn’t enough. Take a closer look at your calendar and examine what you have filled your time with. If you have indicated that your health is a priority, however, it is not reflected anywhere on your calendar, you are not being honest with yourself. If you identified “family” as a priority but you have nothing but work-related items on your calendar, again you are not being honest with yourself. Make sure that those items that you have identified as a priority are showing up on your calendar and in your actions.
3. Priorities often change as we grow as human beings. We may find new passions as we gather new information and life happens. If this is true and I would suggest that it certainly is, we need to constantly evaluate and adjust those priorities that no longer serve us. We should also make room and address those new passions in our lives.
4. It is easy to take on one more “thing” and one more thing and then again one more thing. This often creates distractions from the big picture. In my humble opinion, this is the biggest hidden killer in allowing us to focus on our priorities. We simply crowd out those things that are important to us by adding things that are steering us in the wrong direction. Our intentions may be “well-intended” however, by adding something more to our plate we may not be adding value to our lives. The answer to this concern may be as simple as saying “no” to a few things. At first, it may seem incredibly awkward and even difficult, but with a little practice, it may feel amazingly liberating!
5. Lack of focus. People often chase the next shiny object. Again, this diverts energy from our real priorities. Though this issue could be the result of the above, “one more thing,” it often is its own issue, stemming from a lack of clarity of your priorities or it could be the result of something as simple as boredom. Keeping the focus on your priorities should continue to offer new and relevant challenges. Unfortunately, some of us see challenges as a time to give up on our priorities and shift to less meaningful tasks that are not in harmony with our priorities.
6. Not spending time constructing a rich environment. Having a supporting cast of players and being surrounded by an environment that helps you focus on your most important priorities is a must. I believe that sometimes we are simply gifted with this support and other times we must work extremely hard to create it. Either way, the first step is awareness and again, it is inventory time. Look around you and process what is happening in your world. Are those people you most associate with supportive of your growth in those areas of life that are important to you? Your physical environment is also incredibly important. It too should offer support towards your priorities. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be impediments. But what may be acute today can challenge us and help us grow, while those things that are chronic could eventually break us.
Moving forward, remember your priorities are “your” priorities! However, it is imperative that you
identify what is truly important in your life and that you are honest with yourself about your commitment to these priorities. Plan to make room on your calendar for all areas of importance in your life, not just work or business. Consider that your passions may or may not change but if they do be prepared to respond accordingly. Don’t crowd out the good with the bad. Saying no could be your best defense in guarding yourself against “overwhelm.” Focus on your priorities and goals daily and be on the alert for signs of boredom and vague unclear priorities. Spend an ample amount of time growing an environment that is rich and will serve you in your life’s passion.
Finally, I think that it is important to mention one last thing. It should be your passions driving your priorities which in turn drive your goals. Keeping this order in mind helps to maintain the focus you need to stay on a positive course.