Choosing to live your life by your own choice is the greatest freedom you will ever have.
— Dr. Shad Helmstetter
Set yourself up for an enthusiastic life and holiday season by setting priorities and choosing the important things.
Have you been reminded yet that there are only forty-nine days until Christmas? Just last week I received my first notice and at that point there were fifty-two days until the holiday that I really do love, so why is it that when I received this information I gasped for air, my shoulders drew up to my ear lobs and I didn’t feel enthusiastic? Well, I know… It’s because I choose to not set priorities and run myself into a physical, mental and spiritual mess.
So, back to the word “choose”- it’s such a bitter-sweet word. On the sweet side, it’s exhilarating to know that we are blessed with the freedom of options and get to make our own choices. On the bitter side, having freedom and options can be extremely overwhelming, as the act of making a decision can sometimes be grueling. Its kind of like a food buffet. Rather than choose my three favorite options and eat just enough to feel satisfied, I quickly become overwhelmed by all of the possibilities, and end up eating everything…and then feel horrible!
I actually think that is exactly why I send myself into a tailspin each holiday season. There are so many choices and I don’t choose the important things, leaving me consequentially exhausted, grumpy and unenthusiastic.
In the event you experience similar holiday madness, I propose we choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and the holidays a bit different this year. Rather than inundate ourselves with endless parties, shopping, decorating and expectations, how about we set priorities and choose the important things first? One great rule of thumb is to stick with the number three. According to science, the brain can only absorb as many as three things at a time, therefore choose three of your favorites, per category. For example, choose three of your favorite parties, three places to shop, three gifts for your children, three holidays attitudes, etc. Read our Weekly Intention Guide for Neissa’s recommended process and ideas for creating a realistic priority list.
In my quest for choosing my holiday priorities rather than the holidays controlling me, I found a great article below by Leo Babauta, the author of Zen Habits and The Power of Less. It’s not specific for the holidays, however it can easily be applied to the season by including “holiday season” each time you see the word “life.”
“While it’s easy to be busy and crank out the tasks on your to-do list, it’s a bit more difficult to choose to do the important things — to live your life by priorities that you set for yourself. But living a life of smart priorities is one of the best ways to become much more effective, to make the most of your time and reach your goals with less effort. Instead of running around like a chicken with no head, you can walk calmly in the right direction, do less but be more powerful in what you do. Something you should remember, however: priorities are not what you say they are—they’re what you actually do. So take a moment to reflect on how you spend your time, what your priorities have been lately, until now. And reflect on whether those are the priorities you want to live. If not, let’s look at how to change the situation—as simply as possible.”
Three Big Mistakes
Most people make one of three mistakes when it comes to setting priorities:
1. They don’t think about it. People often do their work and live their lives without consciously setting priorities. They’re showing their priorities through their actions, but they’re not consciously set. As a result, they end up living lives and doing work they don’t really want. They fall into a life they don’t want rather than designing the life they do want.
2. They make it too complicated. Some people do set priorities, but they do so with complicated systems of numbers and letters. “A1” is given to top priorities, then “A2” to the next level, down to “B1” and “C2,” etc. The truth is, you can only really have a couple real priorities at a time. If you think you have many priorities, you aren’t being realistic — you will end up putting a couple of those “priorities” on the backburner — which means they weren’t priorities in the first place.
3. They don’t live their priorities. It’s one thing to set priorities, and it’s another to live them. What you actually do, and how you actually live your life, reveals your true priorities. Your priorities are what you live, not what you put on paper. Too often people say their priorities are one thing, but their lives show those “priorities” are given very little actual time.
How to Set and Live Priorities
To live a life of conscious priorities, avoid the above mistakes with three simple solutions:
1. Consciously set priorities. Take time today, or some time this week, to sit down and figure out what you want your priorities to be. What’s most important to you? What goals are most important? What do you want your life to look like? Who is most important? Reflect on these questions, then write down your top priorities.
2. Keep them simple and focused. When setting your priorities, choose just 2-3 to really focus on. If you have a longer list, put the others on a “someday” list to focus on later. You can’t live more than 2-3 priorities anyway, and if you keep things simple, it’ll allow you to truly focus on these priorities.
3. Live your priorities. Keeping things simple and focused makes it so much easier to actually live your priorities. Take time each morning to remind yourself of your priorities, and to put them into your schedule. Block off time each day for your top goals or priorities, so your life will actually reflect the priorities you set.
Interesting, huh?! All of a sudden having forty-nine days until Christmas doesn’t feel so overwhelming after all! In fact, I’m excited to set my holiday priorities and choose the important things. Actually, I’m feeling enthusiastic and hopeful that by choosing the important things I’ll avoid my holiday meltdowns that can oftentimes look like the children in this week’s video, who found out all of their Halloween candy was eaten. This is hysterical, but less funny when I do it… Enjoy!