We live in an “instant gratification” age. Need to grocery shop but don’t have the time? Use a personal shopping service. Craving some dinner from that Italian place across town but don’t feel like going out? Schedule a delivery service through an app. Need an update on a team presentation but you’re out of the office? Shoot a quick group chat over Skype.
Having what you need basically always at your fingertips is a wonderful byproduct of how far technology and companies have come, but I would also argue that this unbridled access is also opening up a dangerous expectation. As a society conditioned to expect things almost immediately upon expressing interest, we are all essentially hardwiring ourselves to believe that the sooner you can deliver, the more successful and gratifying you are.
You can probably already see where I’m going with this. We are halfway through our discussion on priorities this month, and I am guessing that it has not been a very comfortable topic for most of the hard-working professionals in our audience. Many of us wholeheartedly believe that, in order to be viewed as MVPs at work, we must sacrifice everything and cram as much as we can into each day, even at the expense of having a life outside of the office.
I encourage you, as someone who has pushed herself for years, to take the time to reevaluate how you view priorities. What makes someone truly successful, both to their managers and to themselves?
Driven Or Balanced?
Some managers may be more impressed by those who are incredibly driven and work long hours, because this type of employee tends to get a lot accomplished over a short period of time. But this work ethic is not sustainable. It is beneficial to have people on your team who have other interests besides crushing their work goals. Those that dedicate all their time and energy into succeeding at work aren’t great employees in the long run. They burn out and “hit the wall.”
I was fortunate to have a wonderful boss at Trammell Crow Company, Mike Lafitte, who is now the Global Chief Executive Officer, Advisory Services, of CBRE. Mike and I both cared about our faith and our families, and we each had other interests. It made us more interesting and helped us find a wonderful work/life balance. Mike knew that I focused on only traveling an average of one night away a week and that I left the office to eat dinner with my family every night.
What Should Get Priority
My faith fuels my purpose and my hope in the long run in my life. Over the last nine years, I have become very focused on being in a Bible study. In the last three years, I decided to not only do my Bible study right when I wake up but also share a summary of it with my two oldest children. This is the best gift I could ever give them and myself. Author Sonja Lyubomirsky found that practicing spirituality was one the twelve things that happy people do different than those less happy.
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3
“When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.” from The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
What is the fuel to your happiness? What drives you, physically and mentally, to live well each day? If you neglect this magic ingredient, you will find your life becoming less and less fulfilling and more confusing and draining. Your days will feel like reruns and your professional journey will grow stagnant. Make time for that spin class before work. Give yourself a break each day by taking a walk around the block with your lunch.
Importance of Stepping Back and Recharging
My husband Chris and I had seven full days in Berlin and Prague this fall. I was exhausted when we left. The growth at 4wordwomen.org kept me working long hours to keep up. In addition, there were a lot of speaking engagements in the summer that required a lot of travel. We knew we had to go overseas to totally unplug. We didn’t schedule any calls and both worked maybe a couple of hours over the course of our trip. When we returned home, my energy level had shot up. I was reinvigorated and ready to take on the rest of 2018!
“‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.’” – Psalm 73:26
Sonja Lyubomirsky found that practicing savoring life’s joys and nurturing social relationships were very important to those who were truly happy. “Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.”
How to Know Your Priorities Are Out of Whack
If you are exhausted, like I was after this summer, and you feel that you need connection with those you cherish the most, your body, your heart, and your head are telling you something. When those signs hit, you must listen. Recently, I did a check-in with my amazing team at 4wordwomen.org. Jordan, who has been with me for five years and is one of my four people that “make 4word happen,” hadn’t taken a “real vacation” this year. I asked her to let me know two days later when she was taking vacation. She did. Not only did I hear the energy come back into her voice at the anticipation of taking a vacation, but I know she will come back refreshed and her relationship with her husband and son will be strengthened. That will sustain her over time versus continuing to push forward.
“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:9
A great determiner for priorities is gratitude. I have made it a habit to start my days by gratitude. With my daughter, Annie, toughing it out through a horrible health journey for four years, I felt myself being weighed down by the intensity of her pain. So I decided I needed to focus on all of the things that I was grateful for, so that I didn’t let the situation consume me as she also needed me to give her hope. Each morning, I start my day with a line at the top of my laptop listing what I am grateful for her and me.
Focusing on what you’re grateful for will give you an enlightening starting point for determining your priorities. All the fluff that doesn’t really matter will fall away when you mentally tally the things that are so important to you that you can’t help but be grateful. This will likely include relationships in your life, talents or hobbies that allow you to express yourself, and yes, even roles or projects at work that help you feel truly accomplished.
Priorities don’t need to be overthought. They are your opportunity to live out your life’s purpose. Don’t cloud up your life with things that don’t really matter in the long run. All you will receive in return is exhaustion, frustration, and a constant thirst for validation. Stay true to your life’s purpose and your priorities will follow.