As previously posted, I’m not a planner nor a list guy so this is going to sound contradictory at first blush. However, the message I’m about to relay simply provides the basic, necessary structure that allows me to make wise decisions about my most precious resource-time-so I don’t have to plan or make lists.
We all need to determine, define and enumerate the priorities for our lives. If we don’t, we end up rambling through a series of decisions and actions without any real purpose and hoping things all come together in the end like the two dozen story lines of a great Stephen King novel. (I love The Stand!) I didn’t realize this until a little over ten years ago while attending a leadership course for my agency. During the closing day of that course, a very wise senior executive officer named Cardell Richardson sat down with our class to share his thoughts on leadership. He started with the need to have priorities and listed his for us. His message resonated so strongly with me I simply stole his list and made it mine. It hasn’t changed since that day so I can confirm he has it right, at least for him and for me.
Here’s my list:
1) Fitness (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual)
2) Family and Friends
Here’s the rationale. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can burn out or fade away and become a burden to others. By focusing on my total health, I continue to grow stronger in all aspects and am able to give more and more of myself to family, friends, colleagues and others.
I can’t tell you how many men I’ve learned from in the past thirty years who’ve told me they wish they had made more time for family and friends. Each one described how they got caught up in the effort to be recognized in their profession and progress through the ranks only to realize they missed too many dinners, dates, or just moments sitting together with their significant other, kids, old friends. We all spend a minimum of 40 hours putting our time in at work. Many of us put in more than that, but when we move into a new job or ultimately retire, someone else steps into the breach and the organization and mission keep moving on as though we almost didn’t matter. However, each moment we miss with family and friends, particularly the limited years we have with our children, can never be recovered. If we don’t prioritize them, we fail to be the best partner, spouse, parent, friend we can be.
I always think about putting Fun in at #3, but we have to make a living unless we’re born into it. Most of the time, I also consider my career experiences to be fun anyway. If not, I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.
Using this short, but meaningful list has had a profound impact on me and, I hope, others around me. Make your own list—I hope it has the same impact for you.