The Gap Between Our Priorities and Reality

We all have the freedom to choose our priorities. Every day we are defining what we value most in life, even if it is happening unintentionally. See, your actions are clear indicators of your priorities. You give time, money, and energy to the things you value most … or do you? Today I want to look at closing the gap between our best laid plans and our reality. How do we align our values with our time, money, and energy so we can live intentionally focused and driven?

Determining Your Actual Priorities

Here’s a quick mental exercise. Think about the actions you took every day for the last week, the time and money you spent, along with the mental effort you exerted. Then bucket them into 10 categories labeled 1 through 10 in order of most time, money, and effort spent to least.

Here’s an example of what one could look like:

  1. At the Office (50 hours)

  2. Quality Time with Spouse (15 hours)

  3. Working on House Projects (10 hours)

  4. Watching TV (10 hours)

  5. Working on Side Job (10 hours)

  6. Quality Time with Kids (5 hours)

  7. Workout (5 hours)

  8. Errands/Shopping (5 hours)

  9. Social Media and Internet Searches (5 hours)

  10. Spiritual Renewal (1 hour)

Next mentally add a title to the top of that list. My list would say, “Chris’ Priorities.” Now, imagine that list is the obituary that will be read aloud at your funeral.

Are you happy with it?

Don’t get discouraged if the answer is “no”. In fact, it most likely is. Heck, it would be “no” for me most of the time too, and that’s the point. We often imagine our priorities and values lie somewhere other than where are spending our resources. It’s one of the byproducts of the busy world we live in today.

Finding Your Top Three Priorities

Now, let’s create the list we actually want for our life in order of importance. If you’ve seen my Life Story guide you’ll notice that what I’m asking you to do is similar to the exercise in the “Priorities” section. Feel free to refer back to what you wrote there or download the guide now and check it out. This list should include the the things that you want in your life; the cornerstones you would want to be attributed to your life after you are gone. There’s not a right or wrong number of priorities to list, but I’ve found that ten is average for most people. However, for this exercise I just want you to list your top three. If you aren’t able to keep your top three priorities, you’ll never get to the rest of your list. These priorities are the three things you value most. Defining your priorities is the foundation to building the life you want. And if you don’t first define what you value most, you won’t know where to focus your time and energy.

Whether in your head or on paper, you now have two lists: a list that shows the reality of what you value based on your time, energy, and resources, and a list of what you know in your heart to be the three most important elements in your life. It’s time to merge these two lists and begin living the life you choose.

How Do I Keep My Priorities in Focus?

Focus on today and today only. What can you do today to make your top three actually your top three? When you lay your head down tonight, and every night, focus on that for the next day. I’ve found that when you make your top three priorities the focus of your day, the focus you want for your life becomes a reality instead of a dream.

When I was newly married, my wife once said she didn’t think she was getting the best of me. She said that by the the time I got home, I’d given the best part of my day to work. And she was right. Ninety-nine percent of us will fall into this same predicament. We will spend a large amount of our daily time allotment at work, and we “have to be on” when we’re at work. For most, this is not one of our top three, but it is a reality.

I want to encourage you that just because you spend a large amount of time at work doesn’t mean you can’t give an inordinate amount of “high quality time” to your priorities. Sure, it takes extra effort after a long day, but your true priorities deserve the best of you. Just like by a simple change in attitude and commitment to give my wife the best, even after a long day, I’m able to make her a priority, you can do the same with yours. For years now, I’ve been getting up early to write and make my dream of being an author a priority. Sure I sacrifice a bit of sleep and sometimes doing things at night that would be fun … but what I don’t sacrifice is my dream.

Sacrifice things that are worth being sacrificed, and live the life you were meant to live.

How to use your Life Question

We’ve talked about the importance of a single question in life. Now let’s dig a little deeper on what having a life question can do for you. A life question is a question that immediately gets to the center of who you are and who you want to be. A well-formed life question will give you focus, inspiration, and satisfaction. It will be a compass for you throughout your life and will guide you through all the highs and lows you navigate along your journey. No matter how many times you ask it, when you answer it honestly, it will point you back to your heart, core values, and true purpose in life. I will briefly give some direction in writing your life question, then I want to focus on what to do with it.

The most important thing to remember in writing your life question is that it is okay to have rewrites and edits. It does NOT need to be perfect the first time around. Your life question should point you to your purpose and help you stay true to what you value most in life.

Here are two starting statements you can finish to help you get an idea of where to begin:

“What if I lived each day …”


“What if the only thing that mattered today was …”

Complete one or both of those phrases and you are off to a good start! Remember, the more you think about this concept of a life question, the more you can refine your question along the way.

So, you have a life question (or you’ve at least begun to work on it), now what? It’s time to make it come to life with a little action. There are three steps you can incorporate into your daily routine that will do just that:

  1. Ask It

  2. Ponder It

  3. Do it

Let’s break it down.

1. Ask It Remind yourself to ask your life question. Put reminders on your mirror or on the fridge. Set automated emails or reminders in your calendar to alert you. Do whatever you can to get this question running through your head daily or even multiple times a day. If you never think about it, you won’t answer it. And, if you’re not answering it, chances are, you are drifting from your true purpose/goal in life. Distractions are everywhere in our technology-driven, busy world, and it’s our responsibility to set the pace for how and what we will live. This life question is meant to bring focus. But it will only do that if you actively choose to ask it everyday. Set yourself up for success here and take some proactive action to make sure you let your life question fall by the wayside, lost in the pace of your daily life.

2. Ponder It: Next, give yourself a few minutes a day to actively ponder your life question. This is where change begins. Don’t just ignore the reminders or simply say the question is in your head. Think about it. Consider your current day and answer it honestly. When you do, you will habitually realign your life to reflect your greatest purpose in life. This is where you make life altering decisions or simple adjustments to your routine that align with the life you want to live. So, don’t underestimate the power of pondering your life question daily.

3. Do It: Finally, you act on it. If you never do anything about the question you have defined and pondered so much, then it will lose all meaning for you. Don’t let that happen! This step can be big or it can be small. The most important thing to remember is to do something. As long as you are making movement toward your life question, you are accomplishing this step. Every day you should give yourself at least one small step to take in the direction of your purpose, whether that’s a phone call, making a list, doing research, depositing money, etc. Whatever applies to your question, do it.

Let your life question serve you and be an active part of your life. Give life to your question on a daily basis and watch it bloom as you follow these three steps. You have your compass. It’s time to start using it!

How Setting Your Course Can Spare You In The Long Run

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

There is something to be said about the process of planning. It can provide clarity and vision to move forward. A plan may change, shrink, grow, come to life, or be eliminated along the journey, but the perspective you gain in the planning process will be a constant. You can return to it through the ups and downs of the path ahead. Overlooking the importance of planning can lead to some pretty epic failures in business and most importantly, in life. However, embracing the process by taking the time to map your course can prove to be the gateway for some legendary successes in your story.

Swissair’s Downfall

Swissair is good example of how a lack of financial planning led to the airline’s doom. Swissair was once known as the “Flying Bank” because it was so financially stable. They set out to expand the company, but after implementing a controversial strategy and ultimately over-expanding, they encountered a fatal future. Swissair’s demise was largely due to the horrific financial strategy, spending over two times its acquired revenue in order to “save” the spiraling airline. And we’re talking on the side of billions of dollars. The airline’s financial management team was dismissed due to their grossly negligent strategy, but there was little to no hope for recovery by then. The poor financial planning weakened the stability of the airline so much that by the time 9/11 hit, they would never recover their losses. Their purpose to grow was lost in the lack of financial strategy.

Heinz Food Company’s Success

On the contrary, Henry Heinz, regrouped after his first canned goods endeavor went bankrupt. Upon pinpointing where he went wrong the first time around, he planned differently as he launched Heinz Food Company. This time he specifically targeted the development of his business around the quality of the product. He concluded that, in order to achieve the highest quality in his products, Heinz Food Company had to have control of the entire process from seed to sale. He devised a plan, and it started with purchasing the farmland needed to grow the produce. Of course, Heinz faced many obstacles along the path to the legendary success the company is today, but when he set his course to achieve quality in all of his products, he marked his path to success. Heinz is still known today for its quality products.

The “Wins” of Planning

What am I getting at with these stories? Planning helps you clearly define a path. Having a plan that represents your true purpose whether it be in life or in specific endeavor, will allow you to steady the course when the waters get rough and challenges come. So, it is worth spending some time to plan your journey. Of course, like every plan there will be rerouting along the way, but the important thing is that you have defined where your focus lies and what you are working towards.

Having a plan does three things for us:

  1. It gives us a path to start down. Sometimes we need a plan just in order to get started. In my book, Step, I write about the fact that we may not be able to figure out every single step in the process. But if we can figure out the first few steps we can start moving.

  2. It gives us something to edit. It’s always easier to edit than it is to create. There’s almost a 100% chance that your plan will need to be edited, but you can’t edit something that doesn’t exist. Don’t focus on a perfect plan or you’ll never get started. Focus on creating something with the understanding that it will get edited.

  3. It gives us something to communicate. Having a plan gives us something we can communicate to others. When you share your plan with those you want to join you, those you want advice from, or those who are closest to you, you’ll get feedback to make that plan better. If we don’t have a plan, we won’t know how to communicate what we’re trying to do, and will in turn confuse those around us. Our little secret: I’ll often share a plan with my team that I know isn’t fully baked, because I know they’ll help me bake it!

Take a few minutes today to create a plan and then start working that plan.