How To Prioritize In A World Of Options

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I’ve always been taught to prioritize.

If you want to get good grades, you make homework a priority. If you want to buy nice things, you make working hard – and saving money – a priority. If you want to get really good at juggling Oreos while balancing a glass of milk on your head while walking on a tightrope, you’ll have to practice daily (and hope for the best).

You get the point.

When you’re a kid, most of your priorities are laid out for you: get chores done before playing with friends, do homework before watching TV, feed the dog before leaving the house.

But as you grow up, the line between what’s a priority and what isn’t gets blurry fast. You gain the freedom to stand before the vending machine of priorities and take your pick. Should you get that much-needed extra hour of sleep, or finish running errands or do laundry? Is it more important to spend that evening with your friends…or your family?

If choosing priorities was solely about choosing my favorite things, then admittedly the bulk of my days would be spent hanging out with friends and family, eating peanut butter cookies, and attempting to clothe myself in head-to-toe J.Crew for as many consecutive days as possible.

But I also have other, “bigger,” priorities: I work. I make sure I get enough sleep. I exercise. I try to shower at least once a week. Are these priorities more “important” than the others? Some obviously are: most people would agree that spending my money on college tuition is smarter than, say, spending it on expanding my already-embarrassingly-expansive wardrobe.

Those examples are oversimplified, but the thing is, there’s really no wrong – or right – answer. No one can tell you that you really should have gotten that extra hour of sleep instead of going for a run that morning. No one can say you should make getting a college degree a priority over traveling the world. You can choose what you think should be a priority in your life – but you have to live with the consequences.

Through trial and error, I have found success comes in choosing certain priorities. When you get enough sleep and exercise and take care of yourself, you feel better. When you spend quality time with your family and friends, you’re happier. When you work hard, save money, and avoid debt, you have more freedom.

As I go along, I know I’m going to find I’ve made certain things priorities that I shouldn’t have, or that I’ve been totally lacking in prioritizing other, important, things. For now, though, I’ve learned at least the truly important things – relationships, faith, health – and if you keep those priorities constant, you really can’t go wrong. TC mark

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