There’s a lot written and said about priorities in life. In fact, any self-help book worth the paper it was written on will cover something about prioritization of your life, tasks or something in general. Unfortunately, most mistake priorities as a mantra.
In my real estate business, I had a set of core values that proclaim our priorities. God, Family, then business. This sounds really cute and upstanding. Unfortunately for me, many of the years and even some times now, this mantra is simply that. Yet another goal in a long line of goals that are being sought to achieve, or worse a meaningless mission statement hanging on a wall.
Priorities are not goals.
In many cases, we accept a goal that is never achievable because we love progress. Self-improvement is a neverending pursuit. Unfortunately, many people view priorities as a type of goal. If something is a priority it means it’s “first.” When you set up priorities you’re setting up an order of operation for yourself. Priorities become a lens with which every decision can be viewed. “Does this decision honor this priority?” can be asked of every choice.
Prioritization is more like making a covenant with yourself rather than a commitment or contract. Meaning, it’s unbreakable, there is no negotiation. There aren’t moments where it’s okay to deviate from the plan. If loving your spouse is a priority there aren’t moments when it’s okay to commit adultery. Priorities are something that should ORDER your life and ultimately make your life choices easier.
Put simply, prioritizing your life upfront, makes it much easier to make decisions in the future. So what does that look like?
If you read about how I love systems and how creating systems or habits for yourself, then you know that I have a simple system for priorities. A very simple, “if, then” statement. Let’s look below.
Throughout the Old Testament and New, it’s clear, put God first. I think for me, sometimes it’s lip service. However, it should never be so! Putting God first doesn’t mean I’m walkin around with a religious attitude. Instead it means I measure each decision against what God wants. How do I know what He wants? You might ask. You have to ask! and listen. Although, sometimes He’s silent, most of the time His word will give you the guidance you need.
The “system” then is this… “IF” God is good with this decision, “THEN” talk with your spouse.
Jesus is quoting Genesis here and it pops up again when Paul quotes it in Ephesians. This relationship of a husband and wife is a mystery. How two distinctly different individuals become a harmonious one will baffle us forever. I’ll write more on marriage later, but for now if your spouse is truly “first after God” then most of your big decisions need to run through that. Marriage isn’t 50/50 it’s 100, all in! It means that you’re giving up pretty much everything to serve that person. In today’s world, my meaning could be misconstrue. I’m not talk about subservientness, I’m not talking about accepting abuse. What’s great about this conversation is that if God is first for you then it helps you understand what to do in good times and in times that aren’t so good.
The point on priority is that you have to say with every decision, “if this is good with God, then is this good with my spouse?” In other words, how does your deicision impact your spouse?
Kids & Everything Else
Usually if something is good with God and my spouse it’ll be good for everyone else. However, there are decisions that impact other people that might not be one where you will need or get input from God or your spouse. For example, if your wife is traveling and you’re at home with the kids, do you decide to play golf or spend time with the kids? If your children are a priority you put the golf clubs away and spend time with them (this is just an example and not meant to be legalistic).
Where Do You Put Yourself On The Priorities List.
First and last. We’ve probably all heard the airplane analogy. When the oxygen masks come down, put one on yourself first before you help others. When it comes to arranging priorities and understanding what to do, you need to take care of yourself first. Just like on a flight, you wouldn’t put your mask on, then adjust your Spotify playlist. No, you’d help your neighbor if you could.
Practically, if you’re hurting you’re in no condition to serve others fully. The solution is simple but not easy. You need to spend time on your number one priority. While self-care is important, I’d suggest that the quickest path to getting that “oxygen” is to get with God. Often if I’m feeling down, depressed or confused it’s because I’ve neglected my time with my first priority. Once you’re good there, it usually gives you the ability to focus on your other priorities.
How you arrange your priorities is key. Essentially, it’s a serving list. It answers the question, “who does this decision impact?” By design it puts your needs at the bottom. This doesn’t mean that you never get what you want. Taking care of your self should be a high priority but to list it as part of your “if, then” system is difficult. You can’t say, “if I’m feeling lonely then I come before my spouse and need to find immediate attention.” At the same time if you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be good to anyone else.
When it comes to this list, make the list but keep it short. For me, it’s really muddy past the first three. Putting it down on paper at least once is very useful, as most people rarely think about it let alone write it down. Writing it down allows you develop a plan on how to deal with decisions as they come up. This is a great exercise for you and your spouse, one that you can review quarterly or yearly.
What’s your priority list? Use the comments to share them.