Personal Growth - Setting Priorities
by Suma Varughese
Though not easy, the ability to live by priorities can help you determine your destiny
Soon after I got a spiritual awakening in 1991, I recognised the key priorities of my life – growth, and staying focused on the happiness of others. Along the way, I added a third, being in the moment. However, for all that I knew my priorities, it was virtually impossible to adhere to them, because my conditioning was so powerful, and had me so much in its grip.
Caught in the powerful mind current, I could not think deep enough or long enough on what my priority should be in each situation. Instead, my instincts and desires carried the day.
Therefore, I fully recognise that it is not easy to set priorities. Many self-help authors will advise you breezily to do first things first, but to do that is not easy. It means that first you need to be clear on priorities. Next you will have to align your mind with your priorities. This is relatively easy if you have will, determination, and clarity. But if you do not, and many of us, let’s face it, don’t, then setting priorities is about as easy as trying to make a sculpture out of mush, while going round and round in a whirligig. The mind simply won’t hold.
Nevertheless, there is simply no doubt that the ability to live by priorities can give you control over your life, and determine its destiny.
In this state, one simply chooses to ignore the innumerable things that can yank one away, and focuses on what is the priority of the moment. Instead of allowing likes and dislikes to settle the issue – write the article, or check mail, snub the irritating person on the phone, or be polite, indulge one’s own feelings about a contentious issue, or see it from the other’s point of view, you use reason to do so. Prioritising requires a supple active state of mind, that keeps factoring in changing circumstances, and facilitates change in one’s stance accordingly.
This leads to peace of mind, minimum stress, and heightened levels of self-trust and confidence. There is nothing that erodes these qualities more than the recognition that you have brought an end to your day without attending to some of its most important tasks, or adhering to your core values.
Prioritising also frees your life of the clutter and congestion that creates loss of control.
Instead of roving across the broad expanse of life, you narrow it down fiercely to the things that are important to you.
In my own case, for instance, focusing on growth means to look at every circumstance only as an opportunity for growth. If illness strikes, it is an opportunity to attain good health. If catastrophe looms, it is an opportunity to grow enough to contain it. In other words one crests above the inevitable tendency to resist, and moan, ‘Why did this have to happen, how will we manage, what was God thinking?’ …and so on. It means refraining from looking at what is going wrong, and focussing determinedly on what one can do about it.
In the same manner, focusing on the happiness of the other, means to shift the vision from the magnetic pull of one’s own ego-based thoughts and feelings, and staying sensitive to the feelings and dignity of the other. It means having enough self-control not to burst out with one’s immediate reaction. It means pulling back enough to see the whole picture, and working towards a win-win solution that is fair to both.
The most difficult of all priorities is to choose to stay in the moment. This can only happen when the pendulum swing of the mind between aversion and craving, is stilled, or at any rate, slowed down. One is then no longer rushing off into an impassioned recollection of the latest Harry Potter saga, or running away from the dispiriting sensation of being rejected for a job. The mind holds steady, and refuses to go up or down the graph of emotions. No elation when one gets a compliment, no dejection when one misses a train. Everything is the same on the emotional thermometer, and so one stays vigilant and focused, moment to moment.