The ability to quickly assess your priorities is not just helpful for your sanity, it’s also good for personal branding, too. Having a toolkit for how to understand yourself and your needs in any situation helps you to be clearer about who you are and how you approach life.
This means taking the time to ask the right questions. Only when we know what our priorities are can we make authentic decisions that resonate in our lives and take us, ultimately, to where we really want to go. Ask yourself these five powerful questions to clarify what is important to you and what informs your decision making.
1. Is this in alignment with my values?
You might not instantly know what your values are or you might repeat them to yourself like a mantra every day. Knowing what your values are can help you define your priorities though. And when your life choices match your values, you feel good. When they don’t, you can feel confused and rudderless.
This can be as simple as saying, “My family will always come first”, “Nothing is more important than my career” or “work-life balance is what I’m aiming for.” If you consider these each time you make a decision, then you can be sure you’re along the right lines. It’s also worth remembering that values can change, so check in with them now and again just to be sure. Remember, these are your values and shouldn’t be externally dictated. If climate change is a cause dear to your heart, then stick it at the top of your values list and use this to inform decisions on who you work with. However, if you couldn’t give two hoots about it, then it’s not something that should inform your decisions. Your values are your values.
2. What is the likely outcome of making this a priority? And of not making this a priority?
Simply put, what will happen if you choose this thing over all others? If you’ve nailed this, you can probably sleep a bit easier on your decision. Thinking through the consequences clearly can help you see whether your priorities are likely to put someone else at a disadvantage or impact your other decisions in any meaningful way. If you always make your family a priority in your work decisions, what is the likely outcome of this? Will it affect your chances of a promotion? Will it result in a better work-life balance and less resentment on your part? Weigh up the likely outcomes and let them help guide your decision. If you choose to take a three-week Caribbean holiday in the middle of your busiest period, what is the likely outcome of a decision like this? Does this outcome seem worth it? Then go for it.
3. Will it help me grow?
Of course, every tiny thing you do doesn’t have to help you achieve nirvana but if you’re struggling to make a decision about something, then look at how it will affect your development if you do it. Will it add purpose to your life? Are you likely to learn something significant? Is it likely to set you back? Look at how different you might be at the end of it. That five-week project in Morecambe might not get you any extra money and you might be away from home for a while but if it helps you develop a whole new skillset and make a bunch of contacts, it could well be worth it.
4. What invigorates me?
If you’re trying to make a decision that affects you and your behaviour, try putting yourself in your own shoes six months down the line. Are you going to be bored by the result of your decision? Are you choosing something that invigorates you, or are you plumping for something you think is the right thing at the expense of your own interest? Are you going to be able to maintain your enthusiasm for the duration of the project? For example, you might have been offered a lot of money to head up a project in a very hot country (well, we can dream). This sounds like a no-brainer but if you have your questions in place up front, you might soon realise that the job is going to bore you to tears and you’ll end up feeling unfulfilled. Having this as a key question will help you consider your options properly instead of jumping in with both feet.
5. What do I want to be remembered for?
They may or may not want to erect a statue of you at the end of your life (you just never know), but when you’re trying to decide what to do in any situation it’s worth thinking about how you want to be remembered. What do you want your legacy to be? If, for example, you have to make a series of hiring (or firing decisions), then a key question you could ask yourself, along with what you think the impact of your decisions might be on the individuals, is “How will I be remembered?”