Below is a list of 18 items that many people consider to be important in life.
- Health and fitness
- Influence and power
- Making use of talents
- Personal growth
- Positive impact on society
- Prestige and status
- Professional growth
- Stimulating/rewarding work
- Time for leisure and relaxation
- Where you live
Step 1: Your personal ranking
Find a quiet place where you can think free from distractions. Write down a ranking of the 18 items into priority order based on your priorities at this point in your life. No ties or mergers allowed!
The top 6 items are your "essentials" - the things that you consider most important and would hold on to at all costs. The middle 6 are your "nice to haves" - things that are important to you but you would be willing to let go of in certain situations. And the bottom 6 are your "non essentials" - things that you would be willing to forgo. Choosing priorities is all about making trade-offs and deciding which things we're willing to compromise on in order to make the important stuff happen.
So how did you get on? For many it's a very difficult exercise as it forces us to realise that we can't have everything at any given point in our lives - we have to make some difficult trade-offs.
Step 2: The "hired detective" ranking
The next step is to look honestly at how you're living your life at the moment and see whether this is consistent with your priority list from Step 1. Take some time to redo the ranking exercise, but this time imagine that you're a hired detective that has been monitoring your activities twenty-four hours a day for the past few months.
Now put your two lists side by side - how does the imaginary detective's ranking compare with your own priorities ranking in Step 1? Is there any inconsistency between how you would like to order your life and how you are actually living it?
If so then consider how you might make changes in your life - at home, at work and beyond - to get your hired detective ranking to better match your priorities. What changes would it take to live in a way that really put the important things first?
If you're facing a big life decision - such as a potential change in career, location or lifestyle - try to think about how the hired detective ranking would look a few months after you make that change. Will the change help you to live in a way that is closer to your real priorities or will it actually take you further away from them?