From the moment we’re born, we begin to make choices and determine our priorities.
At first, it’s relatively simple. As a baby, most of my life decisions are made by my parents – otherwise, my priorities are determined by my biological needs. So I eat when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, and so on. Life’s pretty dandy.
When we transit to primary school, we move out from under the protective wings of our parents and into the vast world of shiny and loud things that demand our attention. While previously we trusted wholly in the direction our parents gave, now we have friends who whisper in our ears, media that tells you what’s what in the world, and personal interactions with life outside the four walls of our homes.
Our priorities begin to shift. They spawn beyond simple biological needs. Now I need to prove my worth to others (and myself, though it’ll be a while before I admit it). I need to capture the attention of people I admire. At this stage, my priorities are relatively selfish. I want to be the best so people will acknowledge and befriend me, and so that I’ll have a bright future ahead of me. Nothing else really matters.
In no time at all, school is over. Out into the working world – the real world, as many would put it. Then comes the realization that being an adult is tough. I could afford to be selfish while I was younger only because my parents bore the brunt of everyday problems. Their priority was me.
Then I start to notice how old they’ve become. How, one day, they’ll need me to take care of them instead. How they need (and deserve) to be my priority.
Then my childhood friends begin disappearing, seemingly by magic. Adult life consumed them as well, one priority at a time.
The friends that are left come and go, by chance or by season. But never again will they be a priority.
Then I fall in love. Head over heels. She’s the bright light in my life that I never want to see go off. She becomes family, together with her family, and family is now a priority.
The problem now is that the well-paying job I worked so hard my entire life to achieve is getting in the way of that priority. Work will always be a priority, because it offers meaning and purpose and money and providence. But never above family.
Then I realize that work can never offer enough meaning to life as I want it to. Work is a man-made construct after all, with all the limits that human beings have. God’s Word is the logical place to turn to. What once were simply facts and truths, become life itself. In God I find ultimate meaning to life. He becomes priority uno numero.
And then age sets in. Pains, ailments, sores – the physical body starts to break down as it is meant to. And without a healthy body, I cannot provide for my family nor pursue the purpose I have in life. I start to watch my diet, execise when I can. Health is a pre-requisite to performance, and is a foundation I need to maintain for as long as I can.
I’ve reached an age where I’ve done some stuff, experienced some of the good and bad things in life, and start to understand the limits that life has.
I’ve come to a realization that there’s no such thing as “having it all.” It’s a myth, something young people tell themselves to justify whatever they have in actuality given up.
Life is about priorities.
Ever since leaving Tech in Asia, I’ve thought long and hard about priorities. I’ve always chased after what I consider to be a dream career. Simply by virtue of taking up so much of my waking hours, I had deemed it to be my number one priority.
Now, I see that there are more important things in life. Yes, work is necessary for survival, and can be a key source of satisfaction. But it is nothing if there isn’t anyone around to share it with. It becomes a temporary blip in an otherwise meaningless life.
There’s gotta be a greater narrative tying everything together.
And as cheesy as it sounds, to me that’s love. To love my family. To love the people I work with and serve through my work. To love my body so it doesn’t give up on me prematurely. To love the earth by exploring and appreciating its sights and wonders. And loving God, the source of all these wonderful things.
What’s important to you in life? Focus on these even when everything on the periphery falls away. You won’t regret it.
Thanks to James Clear for The Four Burners Theory, from which I gained inspiration.