Primers: Inspiration for the New Year (Part 2)

To succeed today, you have to set priorities, decide what you stand for.” – Lee Iacocca

The Ask and the Yes

“You wanna play with us?” This is one of the questions I get asked by our two daughters more times than I can count. Tired as I might be, I find myself saying, “yes!” If for nothing else, I say it to see the joy and excitement on their faces. For about thirty minutes, I am immersed in their world of castles, puzzles, princesses, imaginary tea-drinking, singing, and dancing. What I thought would exhaust me further, refreshes me. The tiredness from the day’s occupation became a distant memory. This is the power of engaging in priorities. They renew and replenish us. I have discovered that being grounded in your priorities makes the opportunities we have and use meaningful. Author James Clear says, “Modern society is defined by an excess of opportunities.” And they can keep us from thriving in our priorities when we see them as more important. When I weigh priorities and opportunities, I don’t view them as contradictory but complementary. When both are properly placed they create a balanced quality of life. 

Here are two statements I carry with me to remind me of the power of priorities:

1. Priorities help me grow

Fifteen years of marriage and two kids have taught me that priorities are a necessity to growth by way of responsibilities. Without priorities, we can become ossified in old ways of thinking that serve no benefit to the life we are meant to live.  At the core of successful living, character-building priorities supply sustaining power to the opportunities we get. My priorities fuel me to be my best in every opportunity I receive. My priorities have given me the boosters I need to rise to the occasion and be my best in each opportunity that has come my way. One of the greatest opportunities for me has been writing. It is a privilege each time I write words that hopefully inspire, edify, and add value to you. But my writing has grown because I am engaged and responsible in my priorities. I am a better writer because my writing has not interfered with my priorities. This means, my priorities make me better in my opportunities. The inspiration and examples I use for my writing come from what I have learned in my priorities. My writing has become fuller and richer to the extent of my engagement in my priorities. And I believe my best work is still ahead!

Stagnancy arrives quickly at the door of anyone who abandons their priorities to chase opportunities. Despite wanting to succeed, Chick-fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy affirmed, “I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to sacrifice my principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this is our decision to close on Sunday.” And Chick-fil-A is one of the most successful fast-food restaurants today, despite it being closed on one of the most profitable days for the food industry. By learning that our priorities help us grow into our opportunities, we can remain centered on the signal of what’s essential.   

2. Priorities keep me centered

Organizations that want to improve their health to become more efficient begin with prioritization. They look at areas where inefficiencies and redundancies steal necessary resources from what’s important. Then, they center themselves on their defined priorities and focus on maximizing their bottom line with those priorities in mind. For example, an organization may decide its top priorities are its employees, customers, and giving back to the community. Using this, they can apply their energy and time to ensure these three areas are constantly receiving their utmost attention as they play the biggest roles in the company maintaining its competitive advantage in the marketplace. And companies that stick to their priorities, like Chick-fil-a, eventually grow in profit over time. Similarly, we must be specific about getting centered on our priorities. You can engineer a profitable life by staying centered on your priorities. Do you know what your priorities are? How much of yourself are you giving to each one?

Final thought: At the end of our lives, we will not be remembered for the opportunities we took advantage of but more so for the priorities we were engaged in and centered on. Eulogies always reference the values that a person stood for. They also highlight the impact a person had through the priorities that they were responsible for. Save your “yes” for your priorities. You will tap into a level of strength and growth that your opportunities will benefit from. Get immersed in them. They will give you sustaining power in your opportunities and bring you joy minus any regrets. As Truett Cathy once said, “I’d like to be remembered as someone who kept their priorities in the right order.” How will you measure your life?

Keep on keeping on!

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