In the last couple of months I’ve written about getting un-stuck by choosing growth. About how you can never make a mistake when you are centered in integrity. About how you can, singlehandedly, turn around a challenging work environment – and how to leave a toxic job. I’ve written about creating a new way to measure your own success.
And now, the single most important thing you need to know.
The most important thing you need to know is what’s most important to you.
I was standing in my kitchen the other morning, exhausted. It’s been that kind of week. Lots of people giving me unsolicited advice about who I should be and what I should be doing. A lot of assumptions made about me and who I am. Several well-meaning folks attempting to graft their yardstick of success on to me because, very obviously to them, I have fallen short.
As I stood there, baffled, buffeted, blue – and exhausted – I had the most wonderful epiphany.
The most important thing in my life became crystal clear.
My true priority revealed itself.
And in a moment I knew that everything would be OK – because, day in and day out I am serving what’s most important to me. To me. Not to the well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning folks I encountered last week.
I am putting my energy where I want it to go, and that’s the right thing to do.
Because my number one priority is being a present parent for my children.
And although you love me, well-meaning friends, and want to see me on the Today show, knee to knee with Matt Lauer, I’m not going to do it if it means I’ll miss my daughter’s softball game. I’m just not.
And although you don’t understand it, other folks, when I tell you that I’m not that interested in traveling to Marrakesh or Istanbul unless my kids can come too, I’m sorry.
And for those who think I should be making a ton more money than I do – that I’m “leaving it on the table” – you are absolutely right.
That’s a by-product of serving my priority.
Sure, I could be back in a corporate job with a fatter paycheck and juicy stock options. But that’s not my priority.
My kids are.
Let me clarify. I am no helicopter parent. I am not all up in my kids’ business. When I say my kids are my priority, I have an intention. And my intention is to be reliable, dependable, connected – present – for them. Because that’s how I think independent, functioning, happy adults are formed. And my big responsibility is to sherpa them to their adult life. That’s my job.
And I’ve chosen a career for right now that allows me to serve that priority as fully as possible. See, being a self-employed coach allows me to make some key decisions for myself. For instance, I don’t work between 4pm and 7pm. Just don’t. That’s the time we go to the dermatologist (did I mention that they’re teenagers?), the dentist, the doctor, the orthodontist (did I mention that they’re teenagers?), and every other -ologist known to man.
Four to seven is softball practice and/or games. It’s the time for a run to Target for poster board. It’s when we walk the dogs, or practice a change-up. It’s time to sit on the sofa watching Ellen and discussing both marijuana use in middle school, and what constitutes a hootchie-mama outfit.
This is the golden time that we sit down to dinner together.
A couple of nights a week, I teach or take clients after seven, which works because that’s allegedly homework time (did I mention that they’re teenagers?).
It works. I make the all the money I want to make, I have the time to serve my highest priority.
But here’s the trick. Saying, “My kids are my number one priority” is pretty daggone politically correct. Who would publicly say otherwise without fear of being hauled into the town square (or Twitter) and being stoned by the community?
You are allowed to have your own priority. And it might be growing a business. Or climbing the corporate ladder. Or creating incredible art. Or treating malaria in Africa.
Wherever you spend most of your time, or want to spend most of your time, that’s your priority.
And if you are out of sorts, blue, off step – then look at how you are spending your time and creating your days. If you are spending time on stuff that’s not really your priority, start making some changes.
And you can start by putting your fingers in your ears, saying, “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah” to shut out the voices of folks who would tell you what your priority should be.