I had a conversation recently about how having too many priorities is pretty much the same thing as having no priorities whatsoever. With all apologies to the United Nation and its various sundry goals (17 at the moment, if you happen to be keeping track), I’m not sure how much actual progress we’re making. At the same time, if I were to list out my own, personal set of goals, it would be much longer than 17. Which may be why I constantly feel as though I am spinning my wheels with few results to show for my depleted energy.
After some thought, it occurred to me that perhaps three is the magic number. More priorities than that at any given time would likely be splitting focus in too many directions. Fewer would certainly be OK, but that seems unrealistic in our achievement-oriented culture.
For example, for the past few months, my top three priorities could be said to have been work, puppy and yoga. But the constant list running through my head of other things on which I should be spending time has created feelings of guilt: “These aren’t the right priorities;” “I should be teaching yoga, not just deepening my own practice,” “My priorities are selfish – shouldn’t I be giving back in some meaningful way?,” etc. and so on. Those are my guilt triggers – your inner dialogue may be quite different than mine (I hope it’s less exhausting, but I’m guessing it’s probably not). In the end, the whole process is pretty counterproductive.
I have a friend who, each season, makes important thematic proclamations. For example, “The Fall of the Tall Boot” or “The Spring of Culture” or even “The Summer of Gothic Mysteries.” It’s extremely amusing, but I also see how it could be a great life hack. When options abound and there’s lots we all want to do/think we need to do, these proclamations are a very useful organizing principle. And you can switch them up seasonally to address other priorities on your life goal list at other times. That certainly appeals to my commit-phobic personality.
I would bet that whatever comes to mind as the short list of things you’d like to focus on this summer are probably exactly those on which you need to place your focus. No guilt, no need to rationalize it for anyone else’s benefit. It’s kind of an interesting exercise, in any case. Think about the first three things that are top-of-mind for you at the moment. Now think about your to-do list. Are these two in alignment? If not, how could you bring them to be more closely aligned?
I’ve given some thought to what my own theme and associated priorities might be this summer. Here’s what I’ve come up with – I’m calling it the “The Summer of Confidence.”
- Healthy eating: After nearly a year of focusing almost exclusively on calorie counting, I am switching up my nutrition to focus more on consuming nutrient dense, plant-based meals. Which means a lot more cooking at home and an attempt to eat out less. It’s my return to “aspirational veganism.”
- Body image: Like many women, I have a lot of self-loathing when it comes to my body. But this summer, I want to make every effort to give less power to the voices in my head that tell me my body is not good enough. I realize more and more every day how much of a blessing good health is – it’s not just a cliché. As my focus shifts to fueling my body with the proper nutrients and continuing to move it appropriately, then all else will follow. In essence, if I take good care of this house I am lucky enough to live in during my lifetime, then no matter what, it is a beautiful house indeed.
- My personal practice. It’s easy to have a robust sadhana (practice) when you live in an ashram or a cave. But in the modern world, life gets in the way. And, like everything else, there is a lot of judgement about what a daily practice should be. I’ve been identifying what works best for me; what is meaningful, how often I am able to do it and what serves me well. There’s more I will say about each of the three things on my list of priorities, but I have big plans to explore this one, in particular, in future posts.
To me, these three priorities are all connected to the theme of confidence. They require me to support myself in as healthy a way as possible. Most importantly, they require me to let go of negative voices (my own as well as others) in order to not just realize, but truly believe that I am good enough just as I am.
So that’s what I’ll be focused on for a while. Don’t worry – Rumi the beagle has become a perpetual priority. She’ll still be getting a lot of my attention (and a lot of real estate on my social media accounts, for those of you who aren’t sick of it yet). But I think the three outlined above are a nice, neat set of action items.
What about you? What are your priorities this summer?