Who Sets the Priorities in Your Life?

The older we get, the more we tend to think about priorities. Why? Because no matter how long we will survive in these earthly bodies, baby boomers as a group are playing in the second half of life and maybe even the fourth quarter. I have been reading and thinking a lot about this issue in recent years. I have also taken action by setting boundaries against external influences on my priorities.

It became apparent to me several years ago that my work had too much control over me. My time and mental health were excessively bound up in parts of my job.

The conventional reaction to such a realization is to blame your work, e.g., your boss, your customers, or your fellow employees. We get upset with them for controlling what work we do and when we do it. Finally, I learned just how wrong that thinking is.

After experiencing a severe bout of judges, clients, and other lawyers determining my schedule and negatively controlling my stress, I redesigned my work life. I did not ask anyone else to make changes. I made the changes. My schedule, my time, and my stress belong to me, not to others. If I have problems in those areas, those problems belong to me as well. If I want those problems fixed, I have to fix them. In some cases, fixing them requires setting boundaries against actions that you are unwilling to accept from others.

More recently, I have come to understand that I have to own all of my priorities. If  my life priorities have been re-shuffled by the actions of others, it is of no benefit to blame them. The problem of my priorities is mine alone.

For most of my life, I did not comprehend the fundamental problems associated with a lack  of  “boundaries.”  This is a term often used by therapists to guide those who are being negatively affected by the actions of others. Boundaries may need to be set in all aspects of your life to help define and maintain your own identity.

In retrospect, I realize that part of my work re-design was  setting boundaries against the actions of others.  If that was not possible (e.g. you generally can’t say no to a judge), then I had to remove those boundary crashers from my life.

Today, my work is much more enjoyable because it fits more closely with my personal priorities.

A few weeks ago I borrowed an audio book on “boundaries” from the library and listened to it in the car.  It opened my mind to understanding why blaming others for controlling our priorities is counter-productive and futile.  If you are curious, the book is “Boundaries” by psychologists Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  This book is heavy on Christian doctrine, including citing Bible verses for support.  If you can handle that part, the actual substance of the book is quite helpful and easy to read. (More info about the authors can be found here.) I have taken many of the authors’ ideas to heart and am trying to carefully apply them.

I have even started meditating but that is a topic for another day.

Perhaps you haven’t spent much energy even thinking about your priorities? You probably want to change that so as to avoid having death bed regrets.

So, my fine readers, who sets the priorities in your life?


  1. Robin says

    I understand exactly what you are saying and have gone through a very similar metamorphosis in my life in the past 9 months. The results of taking control of things that I blamed on everyone else has been nothing short of miraculous! My life has turned around 100% and I am so much happier for it. Thanks for a great article.

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