Most people have been guided by the same core priorities for years. They are so attached to their current priorities that to change even one of them would be like cutting off a body part. Some people identify so strongly with their current priorities, they knowingly sacrifice their biggest goals to avoid dealing with the temporary pain of change.
A few years ago, I went through the process of determining the top six core priorities that were guiding my life. After a lot of self-reflection, which included digging into the strengths I valued in myself and in others,
Putting my priorities down on paper was not easy. In fact, it was painful. I didn’t like some of the items on my list and I was embarrassed by others. But I was determined to be completely honest with myself. I cannot begin to describe the level of clarity and insight I achieved by making this list. Suddenly, I was able to see why I did the things that I did. I finally understood the drivers behind the decisions and actions that shaped my life.
You are in control of your priorities—you can erase old priorities and define new priorities at will.
My long-held priorities were what got me to my current position, but they were not going to get me to my future position. The first and most important priority that I added to my new list was presence. Without presence of mind, self-awareness, and being able to be present in the moment, I would not be able to enjoy any of my pursuits. I would also not be able to see all of the opportunities around me. Second, I added both openness and relationships to my list. If I wanted to be an effective author, I would have to learn to be uncomfortably vulnerable, transparent, and authentic. This openness would help me connect with other people, including my audience, fans, and readers. By valuing relationships, I would stay focused on building lasting connections that would add meaning to my life and the lives of others.
Then I added contribution to the list, which would help me redefine success and achievement. With contribution as one of my core priorities, I would stop asking, “How can I get ahead?” and start asking, “How can I add value?” Focusing on contribution would help me stay focused on building, creating, giving, and leaving a legacy.
Lastly, I added strategy to my list. Strategy meant staying focused on my long-term goal. I would be a strategist consumed with purpose rather than a tactician consumed with instant gratification. Valuing foresight in this way would prevent me from wasting my time. It would also encourage me to be more intelligent, patient, and wise. Most importantly, I would stop engaging in battles that did not matter.
While many of my priorities changed, vitality stayed exactly the same. I firmly believe that vitality should be near the top of everyone’s list. Your new purpose may be important, but it’s useless if you are unhealthy, sick, or dead. Of course, you can leave a legacy from the grave, but while you’re here on Earth, the healthier you are, the more effective you are.
You never lose your strengths.
Finding and fulfilling your purpose requires you to define your core priorities and develop new ones. There is no loss; you are merely adding to your repertoire. You are in control of your priorities—you can erase old priorities and define new priorities at will. The key is to define your new priorities with words that inspire you. Choose words that fill you with hope and energy, and drastically impact your decisions and actions. In this way, you will align your current life with your new purpose and guard yourself against distracting activities and emotions.
Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Can Create a Powerful Purpose for Their Lives