I’m often asked by clients and friends, “How do you accomplish everything you do, Deb? It’s seems like you’ve done everything and there’s almost nothing you can’t do. How do you do it?”
Well, to be honest, there are lots of things I can’t do (or at least not very well…but that’s a subject for another time). Bottom line, I simply focus on doing what’s important to me and I delegate the things I don’t enjoy, or don’t do well, to someone else whenever possible, or let those things go by the wayside.
For me, accomplishment comes down to doing the things I love to do and know I do well. Perhaps even more important, it comes down to my priorities. I weigh all the activity options against what is most important to me. I keep a mental list of the priorities of my life.
That’s what people are doing when they tell you, “I just don’t have time for X (whatever X is)”. What they are really saying is: “X (whatever X is) is simply not as high a priority for me as something else you have planned.”
We all have the same number of minutes in a day and anyone can magically make time for just about anything we wish. Whether we choose to or not depends on our priorities and how we elect to use our time. Some people simply use their time more effectively than others.
In my HerSpectives blog last month, I shared the story about the actions I took when my husband was suddenly diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. It took me all of about one minute to immediately decide what direction to head in, what path to take. When faced with any decision, large or small, I simply weigh the options against my personal priorities list. The best answer(s) for me become readily apparent. It’s not rocket science, but it does require you to know precisely what your life priorities are.
At a very early age, I lost a parent to alcohol addiction. I watched my biological mother live a life full of regret. It was so sad, and it didn’t have to be that way. But she made her own choices and she couldn’t seem to battle the demons she allowed to taunt her. I vowed to myself when I was only in middle school, I would never let that happen to me. I would not live a life of regrets. I would take as much control as possible over the kind of person I would be and be responsible for the results I would achieve.
Ever since then I have defined (and many times, redefined) my personal life priorities to ensure I won’t live a life of regret. I intend to live a life of success on my own terms, not anyone else’s terms.
A very special and wise couple once told me, as I grew up and started thinking about living life as an adult:
“Always put your spouse first, not your children. Your spouse should always be your closest confident and best friend because they are the one you will hopefully have by your side your entire life. Your children should certainly be important, but not more important than your spouse. As parents, you and your spouse must be aligned as strong role models for your children. Never allow your children to come between the two of you. Together, teach your children to be responsible, independent adults. Let them fail, that’s how they learn. Allow and encourage your children to leave the nest in 18 years or so, allow them to raise loving families on their own. You will still have your very best friend with you, to love every day and have fun with.”
I have lived by this advice ever since and have never regretted it. Of course, we all have many priorities for our lives, but for me, my spouse is my #1, my kids and parents are #2, my career #3…etc., etc. I am very grateful, and very lucky, to have a wonderful spouse who is comfortable and confident in his own skin, who I love with all my heart, who is indeed my best friend and partner, and who supports me 100% in virtually everything I wish to do from a career and community standpoint.
If you have not clearly defined your personal life priorities, or, if you have allowed someone else to define your life priorities for you (as some parents do for their children) you may have to do some real soul-searching in order to come to terms with yourself. It’s vitally important to be honest with yourself in this process. Sometimes that is the hardest part of this whole exercise.
Ask yourself, “what is most important to me, in order of priority?” Is it your career? Is it having a certain title or money? Is it the nature of the workplace around you? Is it your relationship with your life partner? Is it prestige or power in the workplace or the community? Is it making a difference for those around you? Something else?
Rest assured, there are no right or wrong answers. Some people may think there are, but it’s not their responsibility, or even their place, to make such decisions for you. It’s up to you to decide what you do each day. You are free to make whatever decisions you wish. No one forces you to go to work where you do, or have the career you do (or lack thereof). But to live a life without regrets, you must be tuned in to who you are and what kind of person you really want to be.
What is your ultimate vision for yourself? Who do you really want to be when you grow up? Some of us take longer than others to grow up. Some of us never get there. The good news is, there are no speed limits on your life journey. You can go as fast or as slowly as you wish. It’s your own foot on the gas pedal or the brake, or both. You are your own navigation system. You can take which ever route you wish. You decide the scenery to take in along the way. You decide whether you will arrive happy and refreshed, crawling on your hands and knees, rusted out, or warn out. It’s entirely up to you.
I encourage you to write those things down that are important to you, then try to put them in order of their importance. Keep in mind you only have a finite number of hours in each day. You cannot do everything, at least not all at the same time. Weigh your priorities day by day, as they can shift over time, sometimes in an instant, due to situations we cannot anticipate or control, as when my husband was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Here are some of the key questions I ask myself regularly:
- If I found out today that I only had a month left on this earth, what, if anything, might I regret?
- Is there someone I need to thank or apologize to, or someone I can help, or pay something forward?
- What do I have to do so by this time tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year, I could leave this earth with no regrets?
That’s where you start.
Give it a try. You might be amazed at how much more fulfilling your life could become.