Why It’s OK If Your Goals & Priorities Don’t Line Up

Yesterday, I wrote out some lists of things that are important. It’s what I do when I’m feeling confused and conflicted and my husband isn’t around to listen. First, I listed the things and people that are most important in my life, then I listed the things I want to accomplish. After it was all typed out, I re-read it several times.

You know how your goals and priorities are supposed to “match up”? How, if you want to be successful in life, you are supposed to make sure you work toward your goals everyday (thereby making them priorities)? Well, mine don’t really match at all. And that’s okay.

It’s okay because my top three priorities are relationships. My husband, my children, and the rest of my family will always be more important than anything else. None of my goals involve other people – they are, after all, personal goals. I can’t set goals for anyone but me.

By making relationships your top priority, you end up feeling conflicted.  You can’t “work on” your relationships everyday, at least not in the make-a-list-check-everything-off-by-the-end-of-the-day kind of way. Of course you can make sure to say “I love you” or to kiss your kids each day, but those are things that most of us do the way that we brush our teeth. Maintaining our important relationships is usually a built-in part of everyday and doesn’t require the kind of carefully planned work reaching a goal might.

It would be pretty weird to map out a week-by-week, month-by-month plan for making sure your children have happy lives (a priority), but that is exactly what you do if you want to run a marathon (a goal). Priorities and goals are different, and they don’t have to match up.

The real revelation that hit me while re-reading my lists yesterday is that sometimes priorities actually hinder the progress towards reaching a goal.  For the last couple of months, my grandfather was gravely ill, and needed someone with him all the time. I live the closest, and have the most flexible work schedule, so spent quite a bit of time with him. Some of that time I normally would have spent running because eventually I WILL be able to run 13.1 miles. (It was also time I would have spent cleaning, but that is a different story altogether.)

I can resume running any time. Yes, I will have lost endurance, and it will take (even) longer to reach my goal, but so what? I can still do it. There will not be more time to spend with my grandfather. I’m glad that I put most of my goals on hold for a couple of months.

Have you ever experienced a conflict between your priorities and goals? Which one was most important for you?

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