This past Monday, I was asked to speak at a SMARTY People event in Boston about prioritizing your goals and maintaining balance. It was an intimate group, which I loved, because it made it more informal and much more of an interactive discussion. The group was a really wonderful cross-section of women: some in their mid to late 20s, some close to retirement. Some were in corporate America, some were in limbo, and others were entrepreneurs. Each of us had a story to tell and a struggle we were facing when it came to finding balance and honoring our priorities, both professional and personal. It seems that this is a rather common issue among women (and I suppose men, too, but they were not in the audience).
I opened the discussion with a personal story about how life changes are a constant force that can throw off our priorities. Whether it is getting married, going back to school, moving to a new city, having a baby, or starting a new job, it always throws us into a new cycle or chapter in our lives. And when that happens, we find it even more difficult to prioritize our needs.
Personally, after having my son, I felt a huge shift in my life, one that is a constant adjustment. And, prioritizing my professional goals and needs, let alone my personal goals and needs, has been anything but smooth or easy.
Truth be told, I don’t believe that we can achieve total balance. The ever-elusive concept that everything in our lives is in perfect balance…that all of the balls we juggle are equally spaced so we can catch each one as they fall, and toss them up again in perfect time…is a myth. Yes, we may achieve balance for a minute, an hour, a day, or if we are really lucky, maybe a week, but inevitably, life happens. And, when it does, it throws off that balance.
I often draw an analogy of “balance” to “perfection.” Always worth striving for, but never really attainable. And that is okay. Life wouldn’t be interesting if we were perfect OR always in balance. The ups and downs, the push and pull of life is what makes life interesting. The challenges we face make us stronger and more capable.
Lack of balance, however, shouldn’t cause us to completely abandon or give up on our priorities. Taking care of ourselves, our needs and even our desires is instrumental to finding happiness and fulfillment. In order to do so, however, it is imperative we let go of other peoples expectations and standards for us, and live by our own.
If we live by what others expect of us, we are living a life of “shoulds.” Slowly but surely, we forget what it is we really want and who we really are, and in turn, our priorities become a faint memory. What does one do, when they’ve lost their own identity or way? The best way to combat this is to get back to your authentic self. We so often lose our authentic self to external pressures…but it is our authentic self that we need to honor to prioritize our needs.
In A Whole New You – Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life, I walk readers through a process to help them uncover their authentic self and to get to the heart of what they really want. It isn’t a quick process, but it sure is meaningful. Once you have gained clarity into what you really want and what you really care about, it is then easier to prioritize.
During the discussion, one woman asked, “Although it is great to do all of this self-discovery, I still have problems figuring out how to prioritize.” This is where a simple goal-setting activity comes in:
- Identify and Write Down Your Goals: Put a timeline to your goals and priorities. And, if you are especially driven, create milestones for each.
- Find the Time: If you really want something, you need to carve out time. Make the time and block it off on your calendar. It doesn’t matter if it is cooking a meal, getting a massage, or practicing the piano, block it off.
- Communicate: Make sure the other people in your life know your goals and your priorities. If you communicate with them, they will be likely to respect them. They may even help you attain them!
- Reward Yourself: Prioritizing your goals and needs is reward within itself, but maybe some deserve a little extra acknowledgement. Professionally, especially, take the time to reward your accomplishments. It is very easy to quickly move onto the next goal without giving any consideration to what you’ve just achieved.
- Remember Tomorrow’s Another Day: Each day is a new chance to restart. If you slip up, then remember that you have another chance tomorrow to get back on track.
Now it is your turn! Do you struggle to prioritize? Have you at some point fallen victim to external forces, which have somehow caused you to lose your sense of self? Please share below in the comments section your thoughts and experiences.
Thanks, as always, for reading and contributing!