As you make your plan for the new year, ask yourself
- How will my year be different from what happened last year?
- And how will I be different?
The first place to start is to determine your priority. Note that priority is a singular word, I am not talking about priorities / plural.
“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality.” (from Greg McKeown Essentialism)
If you say that everything is important, that everything is your priority, then nothing is actually important. You are paying lip service to the very concept of having one thing more important than others. We live such complex lives, we expect so much of ourselves in so many areas: fitness, career, relationships, fulfillment, wealth. We are a clever species, so generally, we cope fine with competing agendas. But if you are wanting real change, then sometimes you need to focus on one thing.
What do you want to focus on?
When you scan your finances, health, life satisfaction, relationships, what causes the biggest twinge of regret, fear or disappointment? That, my friend, will most likely be your priority. Sometimes if takes a bit of digging to uncover what that priority truly is. Sometimes it isn’t the most obvious thing that comes to mind.
Dee arrived for her planning session looking determined. She pulled out her list of things she wanted from the new year.
“I want to lose weight, at least 5 kg. I want to run a marathon, as I have never done that before. I want to get that promotion at work. And we need a holiday, somewhere exciting, I was thinking Vietnam! And I need a weekend away with my girlfriends. I want to get on top of our finances, and start living to a budget. To be very clear on where our money is going. And I want my son to progress in his maths skills, and help him get into the sports academy he has been trying for. We need to schedule date nights. And I want to be more mindful.”
I started with, how many of these goals did you start last year with?
She looked at me, suddenly a little stricken, “Just about all of them, I made some progress at work, but that just meant more hours…” She frowned and sat for a second. Then she sat a little straighter, “but this year I am going to try harder, get up earlier and be focused”
After a long talk, further digging and lots of questions I got a different version from Dee.
“My fitness and health are fine, I could definitely lose a bit of weight, but I have been seeking comfort in food a lot recently. Work is going well, but I sometimes feel really resentful that they expect so much overtime from me. It keeps cutting in to my family time. They expect me to answer the phone and deal with work crises all weekend, I can never escape it. The kids are doing great, of course they could do better, but they are pretty determined so I think they will keep doing what is needed. I really would like to be less wasteful with money, as it does get really tight, but we keep spending too much on impulse things. It’s probably when I am feeling a bit disconnected and down. But actually, my relationship is really struggling, we are not fighting, but we are just so damn busy and distracted, we never connect at all. We both want better, but don’t know where to start. It affects me every day, I feel lonely and disconnected, and a bit low, but I just keep pushing those feelings aside”
And she started talking about her relationship. How sad she was about it, how stale it had become, how it was starting to affect every part of her life. How she was avoiding thinking about it. but really wanted to connect better.
“Actually if I had to choose a priority, it would be my relationship. If there was only thing that I could change this year, it would be that.”
And so we started to create a plan. How to find time, how to encourage connection, ways to check in more frequently, how to open up conversations, how to prioritise this most important thing. How to set boundaries at work, and with the kids to ensure it didn’t encroach on their time.
As we finished, she looked at me and smiled “If we achieved only half of that next year, I would be really happy. That’s a life changer”
A few days later, I sat with Cara.
We had a similar conversation but she left with a plan that addressed her stress around money. The plan included a budget, a conversation with her partner around increased work hours (one extra shift per week) would take away some family time, but it would pay off the credit card debt in 6 months. It included an appointment to see an investment adviser. For one year, she was determined that gaining control of her finances would be her single biggest priority. She didn’t drop her exercise schedule, but she shifted into an alternative, cheaper exercise. She didn’t lose focus on her relationships and career, she was happy that she would succeed in them, if she created mental space by dropping the money worries
So what is your biggest priority?
- How will you make more time for it?
- How will you change your mindset around it?
- How will you make space for this new focus?
- How will the rest of your life adjust to suit?
- What mental baggage are you carrying around about it, and how will you clear that up?
Here’s to doing less, so you can achieve more.