“Whoever would have freedom
must win it each day new.”
Priorities - Johann Friedrich von Schiller
The big picture
What values are most important to you ? What goals do you have for your life ? What do you hope to do - or be - for other people and the world ?
The world we live in is immense, and has powerful currents. Though we may have plans and dreams for ourselves, it seems to have its own ideas, and at times pushes us where it pleases. How do we navigate life, and not just get swept along ?
A very wise person once suggested that in ordering our lives, we first give attention to our relationship with God, to "a power greater than ourselves" ; next to our relationships with other people ; and only then to our work and career. This seems an interesting and healthy way of life, as it allows from the start for factors beyond ourselves. It doesn't negate our own interests or initiative, but is open to what else there may be. This may help not just in the big picture, but in how we shape our daily life.
Man and woman
This perspective has interesting implications for relations between men and women, concerning certain "default" tendencies in each, and the kinds of errors they're inclined to make.
Although each man may have female qualities and each woman male qualities, it's characteristic of men to be inclined towards the earth in their interests ; to want to know and explore the earth, to grapple with it and transform its substances. Failure with this can be a source of despair - and great success, a source of temptation and error. Women, for their part, tend to take more interest in relationship. A sense of failure here may be a source of anxiety and shame ; success or overconfidence, a source of temptation.
In either case, this perspective suggests, the identification is unbalanced in a certain way. More helpful might first be a relationship with God ; which established, better prepares each for their natural roles and interests. This is worth considering as men and women, as we seek to establish priorities in our lives.
Priorities in relationships
In relationships, every situation - and especially every conflict - faces us with choices. We need to see clearly what these choices are. Knowing our priorities in a situation supports the process, and helps us make our choices well.
Priorities in relationships fall typically into three categories :
- Obtaining objectives. Objectives are things we seriously need or want for our own well being. To obtain these, we may have to ask someone for something - something they may possibly not want to give. Or we may have to refuse someone something, and tell them “no” - again with the potential they won’t accept our boundary. In some cases, what we want or need, or saying "no" to a demand, may be our highest priority.
- Preserving the relationship, especially in cases where there's conflict. Here, protecting the relationship is our first priority.
- Maintaining self respect. There may be moments where keeping our dignity and positive sense of ourselves is most important to us, even in the midst of a conflict.
In truth, each of these priorities is important, in every situation. But in any given moment, there will always be one priority that’s most important. Choosing which priority to focus on is a matter of observation, insight - and practice !
To skillfully identify and deal with priorities in relationships, it can be helpful to explore Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills, as taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Priorities in everyday life
Establishing priorities has many very practical aspects ; methods and skills that make us more effective in our actions of daily life. For ways to better shape and structure your efforts in practical life, consider these additional articles :
Personal Effectiveness : How Change Happens
Thirty Ways to Waste Less Time
Article by : Jeff Smith RN
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