I wrote the bulk of this blog post yesterday, and then went and saw 12 Years A Slave last night.
It's a hard movie to talk about, but also one of the best I have ever seen. I suppose I could tell you about how incredibly beautiful the camera work is, or how captivating the main character, Chiwetel Ejiofor, is. Or that Brad Pitt makes a cameo, or how the music pumps through the film like a heart moving barely enough blood. I could tell you about how succinctly Michael Fassbender, the main antagonist, distills evil, or how effectively the screenplay puts you in the period, with long looping sentences and antique vocabulary.
But mostly, I felt like I had been strangled. All those cinematic pieces pulled together into a weapon that stabbed me like few pieces of art have before. It's a movie that makes you gag, a movie that has you clutching your hands, but one that leaves you immobile, too, having nailed you to your seat for long after the credits have rolled. See it.
Needless to say, a little blog post about priorities and optimizing the daily choices we make seems a little pale in comparison. Don't get me wrong, I think it's an important topic, and one that each of us can and should work on. But mostly, I think it's a topic that we have the incredibly luxury to be able to care about. In the world of 12 Years..., choice does not exist.
On that sunny note, Happy Sunday! As always, I love hearing your thoughts...
That word, priority, gets thrown around all the time. It reflects what or who you care about the most, or what needs to happen first. But the most importantly, a priority represents a specific organization of limited resources so that one thing (your "priority") is achieved more assuredly than others. Notice that I didn't say more quickly. While there are definitely situations where accomplishing the top of your list has a time-sensitive component to it, the true nature of the "priority" only becomes clear when you think big picture and long-term.
Think about the parent whose highest priority is raising their kid well, or the dancer whose highest priority is having a successful career in dance, or the chef whose highest priority is making tasty food. For these folks, time is not really the driving principle behind how they have organized their own ranking of importance. Instead, every decision that comes down the pipe is treated to a selection process: which option, which path, lets me align myself with my priority most fully?
Let me step back for a second, because it's important to realize that our priorities exist with or without us consciously making decisions about them. That dancer from the example above can say whatever they want about what their priorities are, but only the series of decisions that trail into their past really show what their priorities are. In fact, that series of decisions about your priorities, over the span of your life, show's who you are. You are your priorities.
There is no judgement in that statement, by the way. I'm not making some St. Peter at the Pearly Gates argument about how you must satisfy the guy upstairs by making the "right" decisions if you hope to add up to anything. I am literally saying that when it comes to defining a person, pretty dicey ground to tread on if you ask me, I think our best option is to look at how they have handled the big forks in the road of their life. Taken as a whole, those decisions paint a rich picture.
I saw a movie recently in which the protagonist, a psychiatrist, points out that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and I think he's right--to a point. In my business, be it on the trumpet or in the gym, where I deal almost exclusively with helping folks forge futures that represent departures from their established normal or past life, violating the truth of that statement ends up being pretty important. Basically, I think about priorities a lot.
Now, an important piece of the priorities puzzle is how we are dealing with limited quantities, of time and money and energy. Much of the time, I am just encouraging people to think about how focusing and achieving priorities is as much about what you don't do as it is about what you do. Whether it's talking about the SAID principle ("Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands"), or about the Pareto principle (or "80/20 rule"), smart allocation of resources and not just crazy, herculean efforts, always win the day.
But I think the critical bit is that line where priorities hover between consciousness and unconsciousness, that place where your choice about what is most important to you is cemented into actual decisions made.
An example might help: my client Lauren said she wanted to run a half-marathon in a few months, so she ran 2-3 times/week during that time. As her trainer, I had her do other things, too (none of which occurred on a Bosu ball), but her priority was clearly defined and was reflected in the weekly decisions she made about how to spend her time.
Now, if she had said she wanted to run that half- but had proceeded to, week after week, chosen to spend that time studying about dinosaurs (a reasonable pass-time, if you ask me...*), her stated priority would not have been her real priority. Most importantly, she wouldn't have run that half- (or at least, wouldn't have done well if she did), and that half-marathon would not make up the picture of who she is.
Having a significant hand in crafting your own life is, not surprisingly, incredibly empowering. The experience of stating a priority and then following through with your daily decision-making effects you in a way that is contagious and delicious, and it usually inspires more life-priority aligning.
But the actual doing is really a tough thing, because there is always internal resistance between what have always been priorities (that "prior behavior") and what you have decided are your new priorities. It is a daily struggle, but one that truly defines who you are; where else can you get that kind of bang for your buck? And it sure beats the alternative that Yoda mentions, if you remember that classic... When it comes to priorities, it's always "Do or do not, there is no try."
*Happy (day-after-day-after-day-after) halloween, everyone!