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To succeed, get priorities and values in order

Why are values and priorities so important? 

They’re important because decisions about your priorities determine your destiny.

Allow me to propose five principles that successful people inherently “know”—yet most unfulfilled, stressed-out, dissatisfied people don’t seem to understand.

Successful people know values and priorities are essential because

There is tremendous power in being focused and having purpose.

People who are fully alive, exciting to be with, who have genuine charisma, who seem to be in a different “zone,” who are prosperous in the best in life—have found ways to do what they love to do.

A few of them are wealthy, but many of them aren’t. Either way, they are prosperous in the best of life. (Note that I didn’t say “the best things”—although there’s nothing wrong with things, so long as you don’t give them first priority.)

Behavioral scientists tell us that there are three powerful sources of motivation. Fear of loss is one, opportunity for gain is another. The most powerful is love. Love can take many forms, of course. Love

of life is one of them.

People motivated “from within” are more creative and inspired, and have considerably more stamina than people who are motivated by external factors (i.e., the lure of money, power and fame).

Those motivated from within discovered a way to link their gifts and talents (what they’re really good at doing) with their heart’s desires (what they love to do, what excites them, what they’d do for the fun of it). It is hard to imagine anything that would be more exciting!

There’s incredible power in being focused and having life purpose, doing things you genuinely love to do—thus making the most of your gifts and talents. It all begins with clarifying what’s most important in your life.

Everyone is “limited”—in several ways.

Who among us has unlimited access to any resource? Any resource is available in limited supply: time, intellect, energy, wealth, whatever. Name a resource and your access to it is limited.

Whereas successful people believe they can do almost anything, they also know they cannot do everything—not by themselves. They know that if they try to do everything, they will achieve little of significance.

Therefore, we should focus on important tasks.

“Managing your time” is not the same as “leading your life.”

Dr. Peter Drucker defines efficiency as doing things right, and effectiveness as doing right things.

Arranging wrong things in right order (or right things in the wrong order!) won’t achieve things that are really important. We need to do the right things in right order. That’s the difference between managing and leading. If you invest your time in all of the options competing for it, but never start achieving worthwhile dreams and goals, what difference does “managing your time well” make?

To achieve the most important things in life is to lead life effectively. This idea embraces leading ourselves. We must first decide what’s most important. That accomplished, we can manage our time efficiently and effectively.

The worst enemy of the “best” in life—is what passes for the “good life.”

Stories abound of people who invested their lives pursuing “the good life” (accumulating things associated with enjoying the good life)—who ended life with regrets about what they didn’t do.

If we go through life focused on pursuit of “good things,” chances are we’ll miss the “best.” We must focus on the most important things—so we can pursue the best. Steven Covey says, “It’s easy to say ‘no’ when there’s a deep ‘yes’ burning inside.” Wow!

If time were not an issue, what would you do—that you haven’t done yet?

The greatest enemy of the “important” is the “urgent”

Which tool do you use to manage your time: a clock—or a compass? Which governs your time?

Most are more focused on the “clock on the wall” than on our “life compass.”

We tend to focus attention on things that are (or seem to be) urgent, i.e., things that demand our time and attention right now. Most managers spend from 45 to 75 percent of their time on the urgent—but not important. They give too little time, attention, and energy to the important. When that happens, they can’t be either efficient or effective.

Most important things really aren’t urgent, especially when we think and plan further ahead.

Most important things should be done when we thoughtfully weigh our options against our values. Then we can make clear-headed, quality decisions. This includes making time for “life planning” (e.g., clarifying our values and establishing our priorities).

We should focus on important things. We have to learn to push many (most?) urgent things to the back burner if we want to accomplish what’s really most important in life.

Remember this: Your decisions determine your destiny.

This is one in a series of columns by University of Mary Washington College of Business faculty on various aspects of finance and economics as they affect our readers. G. Robert Greene is a senior lecturer in Leadership and Management in the College of Business at UMW.

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