And in doing so, you may have to say goodbye to some old friends: career, location, birth family, friends….Did that sentence raise some hackles???
Most of us spend almost zero time in our lives consciously thinking about our priorities. What do we put first in our lives? What next? Because of this, most of us shift our priorities around all the time, thereby never really putting anything in place that we stick to. By doing that, we are, in effect, prioritizing just one thing: uncertainty. And by doing that, we might wonder why it is that we are all over the place in our life. Why we have difficulty in making decisions when it comes to choosing between “big” things in our lives. For some of us, there is such a lack of clarity about priorities that we have difficulty in even making SMALL decisions in life. My friend Jon talks about the trauma he created for himself just choosing whether to “super-size” a meal at McDonalds! (Which he has LONG since overcome, see the video here, at The Option Institute page on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/optionvideodept#p/u/58/dHsNMfSCLkY ). And while you’re there, if you haven’t already, you can check out some of my own story here as well: http://www.youtube.com/user/optionvideodept#p/u/32/04XMu1kHSzg .
So what does it mean to “prioritize” something? Even when we DO use this word and this tool in our life, we tend to use it in a very soft way. With “to do” lists for the weekend, or, at the most, by filling in our daytimer with work/family/leisure appointments, with one taking priority over another in any given situation. Rarely do we use these to truly GUIDE our LIFE. I do. Mary does. We have priorities that ALWAYS take precedence over others and we have clearly laid these out in order, at least for the big ones at the top of our life lists. What are they? For both of us, number one is prioritizing happiness. It takes precedence over all else, including our relationship. (Well, Mary says she would be unhappy if we ever broke up, so in that instance, temporarily, she might put the relationship ahead of her happiness, but I believe she would get past this fairly quickly, due to her desire to put happiness first). For both of us, next comes the relationship, and that means that we put it ahead of our careers, our friends, family, everything else. There is a really neat monologue from the film “The Family Man”, with Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni, with Tea’s character Kate telling Nick’s character, Jack:
“When you got on that plane, I was sure it was over. I left the airport afraid I’d never see you again. And then you showed up the very next day. That was a good surprise. You know, I think about the decision you made… maybe I was being naive, but I believed that we would grow old together in this house. That we’d spend holidays here and have our grandchildren come visit us here. I had this image of us, all grey and wrinkly, and me working in the garden and you re-painting the deck. But things change. If you need this, Jack, if you really need this, I will take these kids from a life they love and I’ll take myself from the only home we’ve ever shared together and I’ll move wherever you need to go. I’ll do that because I love you. I love you, and that’s more important to me than our address. I choose us.”
That’s the kind of commitment to priorities that I’m talking about! REALLY be clear on what you prioritize in your life and REALLY stand by that, and you will find that you’ve taken a huge step towards an effortless life! In this case, by putting the relationship at the top of your list, it makes your decisions about how to deal with things that conflict with your relationship much easier. On the other hand, in doing this, you better be pretty clear about not judging yourself in the decisions you make about your priorities, because by putting your relationship ahead of all these other things, you WILL be judged by others! These will be people who want to tell you what you “should” do and will liberally tell you how to be happy when they, themselves, are not. Want to learn to be happy? Hang out with, and listen to, happy people, not ones who judge you.
Mary and I are constantly reminding each other that “wherever we are, that’s home”, just like the Billy Joel song that we both love. So it doesn’t matter if we end up living in the US, or in Holland, or portions of the year in both, wherever our jobs or our wants, our passions take us, our relationship comes first. NO MATTER WHAT. No friend or family member’s opinion or advice, no matter how beloved they are to us, gets in the way of what we believe about ourselves. And, TRUST ME, we get a LOT of opinions! Most of them from a place of fear, telling us to “go slow”, do this, do that, “how will you live”, etc. We don’t get upset with that, we just ask them why they want to give us this advice. Usually they say it’s because they have lived their life and learned this so they want to impart their knowledge to us. At which point we ask, “oh, and then you’re totally and completely happy in your life?” “Well, no…but no one is.” To which we reply, “We ARE!” Beware others giving you advice when they haven’t lived in your shoes! ESPECIALLY if that advice is cautionary and comes from a place of fear. Live with abandon! There will be a future post on a longitudinal happiness study that has spanned some 70 years, the learnings of which I will question and re-frame, but I will quote here one of the study participants who the head researcher seems to consider a passionate failure, but who I consider to be the shining example. He was given the moniker of “Alan Poe”, and he said this on one of his questionnaires:
“I mean, I can imagine some poor bastard who’s fulfilled all your criteria for successful adaptation to life, … upon retirement to some aged enclave near Tampa just staring out over the ocean waiting for the next attack of chest pain, and wondering what he’s missed all his life. What’s the difference between a guy who at his final conscious moments before death has a nostalgic grin on his face as if to say, ‘Boy, I sure squeezed that lemon’ and the other man who fights for every last breath in an effort to turn back time to some nagging unfinished business?”
Do me a favor–squeeze the lemon!!!