How To Love Your Life: Your Priorities 

Dannielle Owens-Reid

A few years ago I realized I was not super happy, but I had no idea what would make me happy, so I spent a long time just trying to ignore the fact that I wasn't happy.

I started making major changes, kind of trying to see if something (anything) would work out and I'd magically find the key to my own happiness. Turns out that was a good idea. The fact that I knew I wanted something to change, meant I was at least aware that I needed something different. 

In trying to figure out what I wanted, I made a lot of lists. I went to the top of a mountain and wrote out all the things I wanted in a romantic partner. I wrote every thing I could think of; I wanted passion, I wanted to go on adventures, I wanted to laugh all the time, I wanted to make dumb jokes, I wanted to be inspired and supported. Writing that list was a game changer in a lot of ways. I was realizing what I actually wanted in a partner AND I was realizing I wanted those qualities in all of my relationships. I wanted all of my close relationships to be inspiring, supportive, fun, etc., Since I had this physical list, it was easier to remember the things I wanted in relationships and it was easier to identify when I wasn't getting those things. Feeling like it was possible to have the relationships I wanted was a brand new feeling to me and it helped me let go of some of the relationships that I knew weren't good for me. 

I applied the same logic with my priorities - if I know what is important to me, then I can make decisions based on that. I wrote out my priorities in two lists: (1) the priorities I'm living by now, and (2) the priorities of the me I'm striving to be. If I was already the best, coolest, most confident, happiest version of me, what would my priorities be? 

I made a video that explains this all a little more, and below I've listed out the exact steps I took in making the list.  

Step One:
Write down your main priorities. Around 10 - 15 is a good number.
I'll use my life rn as an example, this is the list I came up with --

LIST OF PRIORITIES:

JOB / CAREER

MONEY

SUCCESS

FAMILY

FRIENDSHIPS

ROMANTIC PARTNERSHIPS

SEX

EMOTIONAL / MENTAL HEALTH

PHYSICAL HEALTH

CREATIVITY 

COMMUNITY / GLOBAL COMMUNITY 

PERSONAL GROWTH

LEISURE / RECREATION TIME 

TRAVEL / OUTDOORS

 

Step Two:
Without even thinking about it, circle your top three priorities. The three things you know are most important to you. 
Make a list of 1 - 14  (or however many priorities you end up with).
Put those in order 1 - 3. 
Now pick the three things that are least important to you. Without a doubt, you know these things get taken care of last in your world. 
Put those in order 12 - 14. 
Now put the rest in order in the middle. When I get stuck between two things I'll make up a scenario "okay, if I had to chose between doing something that would make me more successful or my friend's birthday, what would I do?"

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Step Three: 
Think about the best version of you. If you were at your happiest, most confident, if you felt cool, and felt secure and happy in all of your closest relationships. 
With the same list, circle the top three things that are most important to that version of you. 
Make a list of 1 - 14  (or however many priorities you end up with).
Put those in order 1 - 3. 
Now pick the three things that are least important to the best version of you. That doesn't necessarily mean they aren't important, they just don't steal your focus from the things at the top of your list. 
Put those in order 12 - 14. 
Now put the rest in order in the middle.

-- Keep in mind, these are priorities, which means they are ALL important to you. You aren't picking between what you think are "good" and "bad" priorities. These are all good priorities, you're just ranking them in order of where your focus will go first -- 

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Step Four: 
Put the lists next to each other and look at the things that are glaringly obvious. 
Think about how your priorities now effect different decisions you're making in every day life. 

Some things will be easy to recognize. For example, three years ago, Success was at the top of my list and I already knew that I was answering text messages about work at all hours of the night. Family was also at the top of my list and my mother (who struggles with both alcoholism and bipolar disorder) has always been very emotionally abusive, which I didn't really know how to deal with, and it gave me a lot of anxiety.

Step Five:
Start making decisions based on the priorities of the best version of yourself. 
If it helps, make a list of a few decisions you plan to start making. 

When I did this three years ago, I made a few big decisions right away. I decided to only respond to my mother if she was saying something positive, which meant I was actively deciding to not respond to her a lot of the time. I decided to turn off the sound & vibrate on my phone. That way, I only saw the notifications on my phone if I intentionally picked up my phone to look at it. I also made smaller daily decisions - sometimes I would skip a party in favor of alone time (emotional health) or I would bring grapes and vegetables to a party, so I knew I could eat stuff I felt good about (physical health). Once I was trying to put my best self first, I felt like I HAD to make certain decisions. It was like I had a cheat sheet, I already knew what the best version of me wanted to focus on... So, I just had to focus on that. 

I'm glad I did this exercise again because, right away, I know a few things I can do differently. The best version of me cares most about Personal Growth and Emotional Health, but I've been focused on Global Community, which means I'm constantly on social media learning more about all the bad shit going down, speaking out about what's going on in the world, and trying to be as socially active as humanly possible. It's high stress and it's sad and I'm obsessed with it. Leisure is #2 on my list, which means I'm smoking weed and chilling out a lot. I probably care so much about getting chill time because I've been so focused on all the bad in the world and I just need a break. Success is higher on my list than Travel / Outdoors and I know there are times when I spend all day inside working.

So, I’m going to take some major social media breaks to get some space and that will give me more time to focus on any of my other priorities. I’m going to start dedicating some of that leisure time to more active forms of self-care like stretching and foam rolling and meditation. And recently I've started going to this cafe that has an outdoor area, that way if I'm working all day I can, at the very least, look at trees and birds on the way to the bathroom. 

Some of the decisions I want to make are obvious. My therapist and some of my friends have recommended that I get into meditation a million times. It decreases anxiety, increases your ability to focus, it’s great for your memory, and for feeling happy and present.  I don't know why the fuck I keep putting it off, but now seems like a great time to start. Some things are way less obvious, though, which is why my "try everything because something (anything) might work" theory is still helpful.

Recently I grew out my hair just to kind of see what would happen and it changed my whole look. I was feeling super feminine, which I wasn't into because I'm just way more comfortable when I'm presenting a little more masculine. It was making me very self-conscious. I started to notice I was less confident around new friends, I think, because I didn't feel like myself.  So I decided to chop it, I'm so happy with it how it looks / feels. It’s been great for my confidence and comfort (aka emotional health). At some point, I'd love to talk about the importance of self-portraiture and how dressing in clothes you love can change your life. For now, I'd like to encourage you to try something; change something, rearrange your room,  unfollow some people that stress you out on the internet, start a new healthy habit - like stretching or drinking a glass of water every morning. Make at least one decision today that will make your life better. Try it out, let me know how it goes.