My name is Tom O’Leary and this is the Time Academy podcast. Today we are talking about how our priorities are what we do, not what we say or think.
The basic point is that whatever it is you are doing has in essence become your priority. I see a lot of people struggle with this, telling themselves that their priorities are to spend more time with their family, live a more balanced life, be less busy, find a partner, get promoted or go live in the country. And in truth their actions are telling a different story.
So what story are your actions telling?
Take Alex, a 40-year old ex-pat executive earning a really good salary but frustrated with how life had turned out. He had floated from one position and country to another and claimed he dreamt of returning home to his country of origin. His contract was coming to an end so this felt like the perfect opportunity to start laying the foundations for his dream. And yet as we explored his underlying motivations it became clear that there were a whole series of conflicting concerns pushing him to renew his contract. These included maintaining his lifestyle, providing some stability for the family and a preference for the familiar over the unfamiliar.
As a former ex-pat myself, I could easily have unconsciously nudged Alex to “book the flight home”. And yet by signing the new contract Alex was in reality attending to his core priorities. The dreams felt like artefacts from various alternative imagined futures, from values he had learnt as a child, from what he felt he should do, from what was expected of him.
Now, this doesn’t mean he couldn’t create a different future with different priorities but to do so wouldn’t he need to bring them to life in some form? It is so easy to put together a list of things we claim we want to get done but if we don’t work on them then clearly our priorities lie elsewhere. In Alex’s case, rather than clarifying how he might bring his dreams to life, the process of reflection led him to face his true priorities and to partly dispel the dreams on which he knew he wasn’t ready to act– or at least not yet.
- So, what priorities are you actually living?
- Do these differ from the stories you tell yourself?
- How do you even know what your true priorities are?
The complexity is that in practice we have multiple identities or play multiple roles (Tom the dad, Tom the husband, Tom the coach…), each of which may have their own dreams, hopes and concerns and which may wholly conflict with each other. The priorities you are living may thus not be satisfying all these identities, creating some level of dissonance and ultimately dissatisfaction.
- So, let me switch up the question – What priorities do you feel you are not living?
- How might you bring them to life?
- What might you need to let go of to make this happen?
As with Alex, engaging in a process of reflection can be really helpful to identify what you feel your true priorities are and put in place a plan to bring them to life or equally make peace with who you are and what you are doing.
So, as you move through the coming days my invitation is to ask yourself – What priorities am I living now?
Thanks for listening to the Time Academy podcast. I hope this has offered you a slightly different perspective. If you find it helpful please share! I’d also love to get your feedback and hear your stories so please feel free to email me.