As I move through life and speak with people around me, I'm aware that many of us feel something is lacking in our lives, and yet we are uncertain what that is. Our lives have become full of tasks to do, responsibilities to shoulder, promises to keep. And a cacophony of information is thrown at us! It's hard to get clear on our own priorities. It's harder still to hear our own inner voice amidst the turmoil.
Most of us want to have a clear sense of what matters most to us, yet searching for purpose doesn't seem like an easy task, does it? It would be great if we could just wake up one morning and have an 'ah ah!' moment and be set for life. But I think knowing who we are and what we want is actually a long-term process. I think too, that our purposes - naturally -morph with us over time.
A while ago I watched a program on personal finance, and the gentleman said that if your goal is to save or invest, you should always pay yourself first. I began to think that perhaps one of the ways we can invest in our life purpose is to pay ourselves first - in time. Studies have shown that those who make time for themselves have more peace and serenity in their lives and a better quality of living.
In order to get clear on your purpose, you must be willing to find a way spend time alone on an ongoing basis. That means you need to schedule time for yourself and make keeping that commitment a priority in your life. Perhaps that should be the first thing you do every day. You could go for a walk, jog, meditate, garden, write in your journal, or just sit and breathe - whatever works.
Time alone gives you perspective. It gives you a regular place to work through the issues in your life and make decisions. It gives you space and quiet and allows your inner voice to be heard. It brings clarity to your visioning and goal-setting.
In order to achieve the goal of more time for yourself, you may need to be ruthless in dealing with some of the things that are taking up your time now. You may have to sacrifice a little income to gain time. Perhaps choose to live a simpler life, downsize your home and rid yourself of unneeded material things. Giving away the television might be enough to free you! Or maybe it's time to delegate or outsource some responsibilities - hire a maid, an assistant, or someone else to help with routine tasks.
Clarifying what really matters to you will set you free to live life to its fullest potential. Knowing what you stand for allows you to proactively seek the people, situations and things that support your core values. If you know your priorities, you can assess every demand on your time against them.
This year, give yourself the gift of time by yourself, with yourself, doing things that you enjoy. Take a long term view of your life to make sure that how you are spending your days now is in line with your overall vision and a true reflection of what you really want. Make the choice to pay yourself first. It will pay dividends both in the present, and in the future.
Here is a simple exercise to get you started on the path to living a life focused on your top priorities.
On a blank piece of paper, write down everything you most want for yourself from your life – the things you say are most important to you. Some examples would be close family relationships, health and well-being, meaningful work, long term friendships, supportive community, creative pursuits, travel and adventure, financial freedom, spiritual life, beautiful home environment, recreation and fun, community service, or personal growth. Add your own examples to this list.
Choose five of the most significant of these items, and list them in order of what's most important to you. Then, next to each item on the right hand side, put a number on a scale of zero to five that represents the priority you have given this item in the past three months, with zero being no attention at all, and five being full attention.
Your list might look like this:
1. Family - 2
2. Meaningful work - 4
3. Health and well-being - 5
4. Financial freedom - 0
5. Travel and adventure – 0
Note: Your list might have no #5's and some 0's on the right if you have not been giving attention to what truly matters to you.
Does your list indicate you’re not spending you time doing what you say is most important to you?
Are you spending time accomplishing other people’s priorities, but not your own?
Memorize your list of priorities, and use it as a guideline for every demand that is made on your time.
Don’t let anything come between you and what truly matters most to you!
Here are some suggested books if you want to read more about getting clear on your priorities and life purpose:
i. ‘The Path’ by Laurie Beth Jones
ii. ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey
iii. ‘Callings’ by Gregg Levoy