Major Life Events Bring Priorities Into Focus

In your everyday life, do you tend to run on autopilot much of the time?

Like most of us, your mind and body has gotten accustomed to dashing around and crossing things off your “to do” list. A certain rhythm has been established, and you’re off to the races.

This is human nature, and we’re all “wired” for accomplishment, although individual ambitions, personality types and life circumstances influence those levels. Sometimes you find yourself at a burnout point and recognize you need to take a break. And, at other times, a major life event rears its head and causes you to stop in your tracks.

Lately, it seems there’s a lot of this going around. Friends, colleagues and those in the community — and on the national stage – are going through lots of challenges.

Life Changes

Job layoffs. A life-threatening illness or accident. Divorce. Just a few of the experiences that rock our worlds.

While we can usually expand our personal “bandwidth” to accommodate extra challenges, sometimes a reordering of priorities is not only called for, but mandated.

This has occurred for me in the past month while I’ve been tending to my brother who was critically ill in ICU for several weeks and recently passed away. A friend of ours lost her husband in the same time period. Any many of you out there are going through similar life events … and continuing to put one foot in front of the other each day.

Digging Deep

Experiences like these cause us to dig deep into our souls. And they can bring out the best in those around us who offer support. I’m deeply grateful for that.

After a crisis, it also helps to take steps back to “normalcy.” Even though it’s a new normal. I’m actually feeling a sense of urgency that’s different from my usual behavioral pattern of “fast forward.” I’m moved to redouble my efforts with those things that are really important to me.

So much of our lives get frittered away –either by external demands or misdirected internal pressures. Sometimes I’ll catch myself and realize I’ve been “frittering.” This is different from downtime and recharging, which are important elements in creating balance in our lives. It’s more a sense of getting caught up in the minutiae.

Living the Lessons

I’m choosing to supplement my renewed sense of urgency with some things I’ve learned from my brother – in an effort to honor his legacy. My brother spent every day doing what he loved and fulfilling his life purpose. He was able to combine his passion with a business that benefitted his community.

He truly lived in the moment and was grateful for each day. In fact, he’s my role model for appreciating the simplest things in nature. He had a curiosity and never ending quest for knowledge, as well as a keen understanding of the mysteries of this life – and a quick wit.

In my renewal of efforts toward my career, family and friends, I’m going to look at injecting some healthy doses of my brother’s philosophy – and tempering my normal inclination toward “fast forward” into a gentler speed that allows for just as much accomplishment in a more sane manner.

Stopping the Juggling

For those of you at a crossroads right now, it may help to step back and reorder your priorities. Major life events have a way of jolting us. And sometimes we need a compass to get us on track.

In order to enjoy a more fulfilling personal and professional life, you may need to give up your juggling act and let a few balls drop, as noted by author Cheryl Richardson:

  • Trying to do everything perfectly
  • Trying to please everyone
  • Relying on adrenaline

As you consider the balls you may be juggling, ask yourself how you’ll need to grow in order to let one drop. Pick one item out from the list and notice where it plays out in your daily life.

If you’re a people pleaser, challenge yourself to say “no” at least once a day to something you normally would have said “yes” to. Although it takes awhile, new behaviors can emerge and replace the old ones.

Pondering the Questions

Here’s a handy checklist to follow when reordering your priorities:

  • What really matters most? As we grow spiritually, it’s essential to discern not only right from wrong – but what is important from what is
  • Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow and evolve, or will I use it to beat myself up?
  • Am I looking for what’s right, or am I looking for what’s wrong?
  • What am I not seeing?
  • Where does it make sense for me to act, and where do I need to step back?
  • Which choices will propel me to an inspiring future, and which will keep me stuck in the past?
  • Am I living my life for long-term fulfillment or short-term gratification?
  • Is this an act of self love or self sabotage?
  • Will this choice add to my life force, or will it rob me of my energy?

Whew – that’s a lot to consider. Chances are, though, that a couple of these questions jumped out at you. Pay attention.

The magic behind questions like these lies in their ability to reveal what’s really motivating your actions. They help determine whether your choices come from your vision and dreams – or from your fears and doubts.

Even though it may not seem like it, major life events take us off autopilot and force us to take a good look at our priorities. They also give us “permission” to make changes – after we’ve taken the necessary time to grieve or give closure to a situation or a mindset.

If you’d like to dive deeper into these topics, some helpful books I’ve found are The Right Choices by Debbie Ford and Creating a Charmed Life by Victoria Moran.

Taking stock of your life can give you the wisdom to transform what was previously unconscious into the conscious realm. And all of us can make better choices when we’re fully aware, rather than continuing in autopilot mode.

If – and when – you’re ready, these questions can help you get out of neutral. And into gear.