Sometimes it is really really hard knowing what to prioritize. We live in an endless flow of opportunities with endless possibilities, and ways forward. Making´s one choice means that you give up another opportunity which can be scary and as a young person I can relate. Shall one pursuit career within X field or shall I follow the trajectory of getting a job, house, spouse, kids, and life in that order. Or a completely different path. Maybe become a teacher or become a tech entrepreneur. I tried both. I still have not made up my mind. So as you can imagine, deciding what to do is harder than it sounds. What you feel you should be doing and what people think you should do seems to never be aligned.
In the last year, I have been implementing a mix of mindfulness to gain awareness, minimalism to prioritize goals and essentialism to build a value set of how I prioritize my time. This has allowed me to narrow down what I think is important for my personal well-being and how I want to navigate through this world. These three terms have been popularized in the last years with various books such as “The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. In brief, they emphasize the importance of choosing fewer things and persistently pursuing these. Contrast to these ‘ism is the pursuit of everything. Mindfulness teaches you to become more aware of what is taking up headspace and minimalism and essentialism are ways to narrow down what is important essentials in your life and pursue them.
In the last two years, my goal has been to open up more headspace to allow my mind to think, ponder and try to enjoy the simplicity of life. My starting point was anything but a fresh start. I was doing projects left and right, I was having social events almost every day, constantly bouncing between appointments, juggling everything in my life and I had so many priorities. Everything was important. Everything. To me; everything seemed equally important. The end result; I was drained out and not very inspired.
Anyone who has ever had more than one priority knows that once you open up to having more prioritizes, you have open the flood gates. Suddenly everything is important and the list just grows and grows. Anyone who has ever found themselves in this situation might also relate to being unable to fulfill all these commitments and see themselves worn down as a result. I did and it taught me an important lesson; prioritizing is singular not plural. Your mind can only focus on one thing at the time. You can swap between tasks, but cognitively you are in another lane if you focus on something different than the current task at hand. So I realized sticking to one priority was the way forward.
So I decided to“sober” up from this mindset and to start fresh. I took some actions and learned a lot during the way. My value set today is broken down into three important words; faith, compassion, and learning. Those are my core prioritize and those combined make up my “guidelines” of how to spend my time. If I have an opportunity to read a book vs. going out to a bar it is a high probability that I will choose the book. However; if it is a one-to-one coffee date with a friend I might leave the book behind and go. I might do a volunteering gig for an NGO and teach, but would turn down a job working in an industry that I do not trust nor want to work in. My guidelines are the foundation of how I see my time is being spent wisely.
I decided to travel to South East Asia and volunteer. I have been in Vietnam for two months now and been volunteering as an English teacher to help locals practice their English. I have faith in humanity and that is why I want to help out(faith). I know how important it is to help out when someone needs it as we all started out as rookies once back in the days(compassion). I try to use every occasion to discover and explore this part of the world and try to learn as much as I can from anyone and everyone(learning). There is a consistency in my plan that is in alignment with my value set. So you can imagine that staying motivated is thus very easy and I do not have to think about ways to “mind hack” myself into doing the work I do. Lastly; my goal is to help others challenge themselves and reach their potential. My overall goal is thus an extension of my core values.
Most of the activities I do in my life should be in accordance with these values or else I find myself bored and unable to fulfill my commitments. I primarily use it as a “compass” to direct my attention to commitments that are in accordance with what I think is important and combine this with some honest discussions with myself to make sure I am not giving up on false premises or chose a commitment because of some superficial reason. That last one is very challenging but doable. It teaches you a great deal of what you truly find inspirational.
Lastly; I want you to do a little exercise to make it more your own;
1)Try to think about 3 current values that you hold and write them down
2) What are the actions that support those values?
3) What are actions driving you away from those values?
4) What is your goal?
5) Lastly; ask yourself; is there consistency in your values and actions? If not, start over.
“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.” Greg Mckeown.