What is Really Important in Life? A Look at Real and Imagined Priorities

The other day I read a statement made by Benjamin Franklin:  “Drive your business.  Let not your business drive you.”  That got me thinking.

Business people, more than any other group, tend to lack balance in their lives.  Their businesses frequently become all-important, crowding out other priorities such as family, friends, hobbies, and leisure time.  However, keeping our lives in balance is one of the keys to avoiding burnout.  It is also the key to real success in life.

Many business people know how to manage millions of dollars and hundreds of people at work, but fail when it comes to their families, friends, hobbies, and leisure time.  They have let their businesses run them instead of learning to run their businesses.

A typical entrepreneur will tell you the following:  “I always wanted to own my own business because I wanted to be in control of my time.  I wanted to be able to take time off without having to get someone else’s approval.  I wanted to make my own decisions and be my own boss.

“Now I own a successful business.  I have the money to travel anywhere I want to go, but I am so tied down with this business I can’t get away.  I haven’t had a vacation in three years, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to take on this year.  I think I work for the business instead of it working for me.”

This statement reflects a life that is out of balance.  He is devoting all his time and effort to the business and making money, and in the process he does not have any time left for himself.

Most business people don’t want to admit their lives are out of balance;  but when a person spends ten to twelve hours a day, six days in his business, his life is unbalanced in favour of business.

What is really important in life?

There are two kinds of priorities:  real and imagined.  We know our priorities are real because we give them our time.  On the other hand, things we talk about doing, plan to do, want to do, but don’t do, are imagined priorities.  Imagined priorities may be written down and discussed regularly, but if we never do them they aren’t actually priorities.

If you want to know what your real priorities are, look at where you spend your time – not what you say or how you spend your money!

Getting your life in balance

It isn’t always easy for business people to keep their lives in balance. Some tips are below:

  • Remove the garbage and insignificant rubble from your daily routine.  Identify the things that are really important and focus on them.
  • Make time for the right priorities.  Unproductive activity is robbing us of time that should be spent on important priorities.  Insignificant activities that take up time but contribute almost nothing to our success must be weeded out and thrown away.  Focus on the significant, letting the insignificant die from lack of attention.
  • Learn to say no to some worthwhile causes.  Most business people are high achievers.  They have a knack for getting things done quickly.  As a result, they are constantly bombarded by people who represent all kinds of good causes wanting “just a little”  of their time.  To have the best things in life, we must practice “selective involvement” – and learn to say no to most of the merely good things. If you don’t know what is most important in your life, you will always wind up doing the things most important to other people.

If you want to know a person’s values, look at his priorities.  If you want to know his priorities, look at how he spends his time.  Your own actions are a statement to others concerning the most important things in your life.

Priorities keep us on track.  They also keep us from getting bogged down in the mire of ineffectiveness.  How far and how fast you travel in life will depend on how faithful you are at developing and maintaining your priorities.

Next steps

  • Evaluate your priorities.  Are they real or imagined?
  • Write out your priorities.  Develop a plan of action for pursuing these goals.
  • Make a list of necessary tasks that you can delegate so that you can spend your time on what is most important to you.

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