Prioritize what you value

prioritizeIf you’ve read my blog, you’ve probably picked up that responsibility may as well be my middle name. When I take on a project, I stay all in, even if it begins to crush me. As a young mother, one year I decided that I would make the kid’s Valentine’s Day cards. Homemade cards seemed cool and these were 3D, sort of, and exceptionally unique. I have two sons, and each had 20 kids in their class. They were in Preschool. The project took me 40 hours – literally, after work each night for weeks. For emphasis…they were in Preschool. Most likely those cards ended up in the trash within a couple of days, if they made it home at all.

But I finished all of them. Not quitting when I realized the absurdity of the entire project. Were the cards beyond cool? Yes. Will I ever get back those 40 hours? No. Did the kids care about the cards? No. I made them because it started out as a fun creative project, and, maybe, I wanted to impress the other mom’s.

While that project was ill hatched, I still make cards. They’re different now, painted expressions of caring for others. My husband is the primary beneficiary, but if you’re in my life and it’s your birthday, don’t be surprised to get one.

Today I create because I love it, it restores a part of me that doesn’t get to come out and play in my normal day to day. I also write because I love it. I find it to be like restorative therapy, and I want more time for it. Over the last couple of years, as I’ve explored the creative, empathic side of myself, I’ve found a variety of areas I want to explore. Hence, becoming a coach, working to expand that, leaning into that side of myself and seeing what else is out there in that realm.

Which sends me down another path. And, and, and…

I recently attended the Superwoman Summit in Portland. It was an event for women with sessions designed to encourage us to lead others, lead ourselves and make a difference in bigger, bolder, more authentic ways.  One of the sessions I attended was titled, “You can’t have it all: prioritizing what matters.” The speaker, Erin Muntzert – a qualitative researcher at Google – presented a process for prioritizing focused on values. What I loved about her talk was that she emphasized that when you reach peak complexity, it’s time to simplify. The complexity described my experience in having a wide range of interests and resulting rabbit trails. While all incredibly interesting and worth exploring, it’s literally impossible to follow all of them well. That’s the key. I can go down any rabbit trail I want but can I do it well?

I find that when I try to stay engaged in a wide variety of interests, I can’t do any of them well. I put forth a diluted version of myself. Which doesn’t serve me well. If I cull my activities to be in alignment with my values, what would that look like? It doesn’t mean I have to abandon all other interests, but it allows time for what’s most compelling, and that which allows me to be engaged in areas that are most important. When we let go of distractions, rabbit trails, we make space for what needs to be there. The same could be true of people in our life. We can spend time with those who are supposed to be there rather than trying to be everything, for everyone.

Instead of looking at the areas in our life we choose to set aside, what if we focus on the space it opens for what is most important? Space to be a truer reflection of our authentic, brave self. Along with me, will you spend time looking at your values, and how you’re making space to pursue activities that enrich, not detract, from living out your values? Create your priorities around your values and know that it’s ok to prune areas that take you off course. Really, you don’t have to stay over committed. I promise. You’ll feel fulfilled with less, because it’ll be what’s supposed to be there.

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