Reflections at 40 – Priorities – 23/40

To celebrate turning 40, I’ve challenged myself to blog for each of the 40 days leading into my birthday. This is post number 23. You can read all the posts here.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who told me a cancer diagnosis (or the like) was an immediate ‘cure’ for their overwhelm. They’ve said how clarifying it was because all the things they thought were ‘priorities’ got stripped away to one singly priority – surviving.

Pushing all the way to rock bottom was similarly clarifying for me.

But it’s also one of the few regrets I have in life. The fact that I had to push all that way before I could get my priorities straight.

I wish I could have made the changes I needed to make earlier. I wish I could have given myself permission to do so.

Is it realistic to expect highly-driven, Type-A overachievers to arrest the slide from overwhelm into stress, anxiety and/or depression before things get dire?

Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to do here on the blog for the past five or so years and, given I’ve received emails from people saying something I wrote forced them to take a good look at their life, I feel I’ve been somewhat successful!

What’s the best way to take a good look at your life when you’re on the overwhelm slide? Checking in with your values.

The times where we’re on the overwhelm slide, they’re the times where any work we’ve done understanding our core values comes in handy. Those values are what allow us to do a priority check.

If you’re not in tune with your values or would like a more practical reality check, try what I call the traffic life test.

List out the segments of your life that are super-important to you. For me those are:

  • Family
  • Personal goals
  • Professional goals
  • Self-care/health
  • Friends

At the end of the day for two weeks, apply a coloured dot next to each of these segments using the following ‘colour code’:

  • Green – looking after this area of my life pretty well
  • Orange – doing a pretty good job of looking after this area of my life, but could be better
  • Red – neglecting this area of my life

At the end of two weeks, take a look at the dots. If they’re mostly green or amber for a certain segment/category, then you’re most likely living in line with your values regarding those things. If certain categories are mostly red or orange, they need your attention. Now.

You’ll probably also note that, in order to give them your attention, you need to do some de-cluttering. Of your life.


Image Credit: Steinar Engeland