Photo Credit: Owen Duncan
There are so many wonderful, valuable aspects of each person's life, areas of importance to which we might give our attention and time. I have about 12 areas that are my most important. These are: spirituality, family, friends, home, fitness, nutrition, working, community, environment, learning, writing and pausing. Some of these priorities are rather easy to manage and some are so big I could never begin to list everything they entail. All of these areas in my life are important, and they are all priorities to me. I attend to and spend time focusing on each one of these areas everyday in different ways. For instance, under the area of home I have home maintenance, chores, errands, pets, landscaping and cars, just to name a few. Spending time attending to each area above requires so many things in and of itself. I need to be organized, healthy, motivated, and sometimes selfless. There are times when I do well and times when I fail miserably and, though I may not fail in all areas on any given day, I do find that if one of the areas is neglected, then it affects the others in some way. So, the most important things in life to me, those that I hold most dear and that need my attention, also require that I am constantly pursuing them to the amounts each one is due, and habits are the fuel that drives this pursuit. Taking the time to be strategic and analyze your most valuable areas in your life will help create the building blocks for the change needed to replace bad or unhelpful habits with good ones. In my own life, I am constantly problem solving how I can give the due attention to what I value most, because I find that I am FAR from giving that due attention to most of those areas. One example is that I have wanted to exercise daily in some way for years. I joined gyms, bought dvd's, tried classes and walking the dog, but nothing ever seemed to stick. The only free hour of my day was 6:30-7:30 am, and I was stuck at home during that time. For numerous reasons that hour of the day did not work for me to exercise. I am not a morning person, and I found I spent that time watching the news, which tended to set my day off on the wrong foot. So, I struggled, failed, and struggled some more. It wasn't until I realized that I could replace a bad habit of not exercising with the good habit of exercising by making a radical adjustment to my day. I literally changed my business hours to start an hour later and I worked an hour later into the afternoon. This gave me a much later hour in the morning, before work, to exercise. I adjusted. Though it seemed like too huge of a task to change my business hours, I valued exercise enough to pursue it despite the discomfort of changing times with clients and working all of that out. Not only did this free me to pursue exercise, but it gave me another hour of my day with which I could be intentional towards something else I valued. My 6:30am hour became a time for reflection, reading, spiritual meditation and pausing before the onslaught of lists and calendars and schedules came running in to find me. Just replacing an hour of my afternoon that I wasn't using wisely, with an hour of work gave me an hour of exercise, and in turn I found an hour of quiet refection to start my day. Replacing one bad habit with a good one trickled down into so many other areas. Of course, there was a period of time when adjusting to a busier afternoon and sore muscles from the gym was a bit stressful and unpleasant. However, having that quiet time in the morning was worth the adjustment, and replacing my bad habits with good ones began to feel wonderful after only a few short weeks. I also had some help with accountability as I have a friend who encourages me to meet her at the gym each day, which has helped me to stay on track with my good habits. For years the changes I needed to make seemed insurmountable to me. It wasn't until I replaced my bad habits with good ones and made the adjustments I needed (with some accountability and encouragement) that I saw real change and felt amazing because of it. What changes do you want to make in your life with your priorities? Where do you see your values a little out of wack? Pick one this month, and work on replacing some bad habits in your day with good ones. You may just see, as I did, that it trickles down into the rest of your priorities, fueling the change needed to pursue the values that are most important to you.