Linda Arnold: Major life events help set or reset our priorities

December 2, 2018

Here we are — approaching the end of another year. How does that make you feel?

Like most of us, your mind and body have likely become accustomed to dashing around and crossing things off your to-do list.

A certain rhythm has been established, and you’re off to the races.

This is human nature, and we’re all wired for accomplishment. Individual ambitions, personality types and life circumstances all influence these levels.

Sometimes you find yourself at a burnout point and recognize you need to take a break. And, at other times, a major life event rears its head and causes you to stop in your tracks.

Lately, it seems there are a lot of these defining moments occurring. Friends, colleagues and those in the community - and on the national stage - are going through lots of challenges.

Life changes

Job layoffs. A life-threatening illness or accident. Divorce. Just a few of the experiences that rock our worlds.

While we can usually expand our personal bandwidth to accommodate extra challenges, sometimes a reordering of priorities is not only called for, but mandated.

Digging deep

Experiences like these cause us to dig deep into our souls. And they can bring out the best in those around us who offer support.

Upon recovering from a major life event, we find ourselves taking small steps back to normalcy.

Even though it’s a new normal.

Following some losses in my extended family - and a close call with a dear friend over the past year - I’ve been moved to redouble my efforts and set priorities around those things that are really important to me.

So much of our lives get frittered away - either by external demands or misguided internal pressures. Sometimes I’ll catch myself and realize I’ve been “frittering.”

This is different from downtime and recharging, which are important elements in creating balance in our lives. It’s more a sense of getting caught up in the minutiae.

Living the lessons

When my brother passed away awhile back, I reflected on the way he set his priorities.

He spent every day doing what he loved, and he was able to combine his passion with a business that benefited his community.

He truly lived in the moment. In fact he’s my role model for appreciating the simplest things in nature.

He had a curiosity and never ending quest for knowledge, as well as a keen understanding of the mysteries of this life - and a quick wit.

In my renewal of efforts toward my career, family and friends, I’m looking at injecting some of my brother’s life philosophies - and tempering my normal inclination toward “fast forward” into a speed that allows for just as much accomplishment in a more sane manner.

Stopping the juggling

For those of you at a crossroads right now, it may help to step back and reorder your priorities.

Major life events have a way of jolting us. And sometimes we need a compass to get us on track.

To enjoy a more fulfilling personal and professional life, you may need to give up your juggling act and let a few balls drop, as noted by author Cheryl Richardson:

• Trying to do everything perfectly

• Trying to please everyone

• Relying on adrenaline

As you consider the balls you’re juggling, ask yourself how you’ll need to grow in order to let one drop.

Pick one item from the list and notice where it plays out in your daily life.

If you’re a people pleaser, challenge yourself to say “no” at least once a day to something you normally would have said “yes” to.

Although it takes awhile, new behaviors can emerge and replace the old ones.

Pondering the questions

Here’s a handy checklist to follow when reordering your priorities:

• What really matters most?

• Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow and evolve, or will I use it to beat myself up?

• Am I looking for what’s right - or what’s wrong?

• What am I not seeing?

• Where does it make sense for me to act, and where do I need to step back?

• Which choices will propel me to an inspiring future, and which will keep me stuck in the past?

• Am I living my life for long-term fulfillment or short-term gratification?

• Is this an act of self-love or self-sabotage?

• Will this choice add to my life force, or will it rob me of my energy?

Whew — that’s a lot to consider. Chances are, though, that a couple of these questions jumped out at you. Pay attention.

The magic behind questions like these lies in their ability to reveal what’s really motivating your actions.

They help determine whether your choices come from your visions and dreams - or from your fears and doubts.

If you’d like to dive deeper into these topics, a helpful book is “The Right Choices” by Debbie Ford.

Ford spent a lot of time developing questions like those above and coming up with tools to keep priorities on track.

Major life events give us instant “permission” to make changes, as they’re often emergency situations that require total focus.

What about the everyday dilemma of getting “caught up in the drift,” though? That’s where you’ll need to be more proactive.

Taking stock of your life can give you the wisdom to transform what was previously unconscious into the conscious realm.

And all of us can make better choices when we’re fully aware, rather than continuing in autopilot mode.

If — and when — you’re ready, these questions can help you get out of neutral.

And into gear.

2018 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org For information on her books, go to www.lindaarnold.org or Amazon.com.

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