The Priority Parallax: Everything is Not as Important as It Appears
For most of my life, being ‘right’ was my single greatest priority. Years ago, I believed I knew everything. Okay, that’s a lie. More like a couple weeks ago I believed I knew everything.
More lies. Dang it!
Truth is, this morning I knew everything then got some caffeine and realized I was completely full of it. It takes work for me to stop and ask the hard questions daily to keep me grounded.
What if I’m wrong? Why am I really doing X? What is my motive? Am I afraid of something? Do I really believe what I’m saying I believe? Where are my pants?
I don’t spend vast amounts of time gazing into my navel searching for the Lint of Truth…especially since everyone knows the dryer has the Lint of Truth (left by socks who’ve achieved enlightenment and thus shed corporeal form).
Self-examination is still important. Alas, it’s also a tricky tightrope to walk, and takes years of practice not to fall on your head with a pole jammed somewhere painful.
We can lean toward questioning everything so much we become paralyzed neurotics incapable of making any decision. Conversely, if we don’t stop to examine what we’re doing and why? Let’s just say…
Persistence is a noble quality, but persistence can look a lot like stupid.
The Priority Problem
If I could boil down the essence of modern human angst into one core idea, I’d say we’re all facing a priority problem. We’re being relentlessly told we can have it ALL, when no…no we can’t.
I’m from Generation X, and people my age have lived fully in two completely different worlds. We were the bridge generation from the industrial world into the digital world. We played the first video games, but also remember being…bored.
I’m old enough to recall a time when if you missed a T.V. show, well sucked to be you. Television stopped at midnight only to resume at 5:00 a.m. with morning news, faith healers, and Captain Kangaroo.
Back in my day *waves cane* the phone would ring and we had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA who might be calling. The highlight of my preteen life? When I got a phone cord long enough to extend the ENTIRE PHONE SYTEM UNIT into my room.
Cordless phones? Witchcraft.
I mostly played outside in the dirt. We slinked through barbed wire to traipse through rattlesnake infested fields searching for buried treasure—finding only fire ants, rusted tools, and the joy of bull nettle.
Under my cult-leader-type influence, we set way too much stuff on fire (using that Chemistry set I got for my birthday). Being a super non-PC generation, we killed a lot of imaginary Russians, made ashtrays in art class for Mother’s Day, and we all wanted to be Bruce Lee.
***True Fact #1: Once knocked myself out with nunchucks. True Fact #2: Eventually got pretty good at nunchucks. True Fact #3: We all wanted ninja throwing stars for Christmas, and 98% of parents did not find this at all odd.
Yet, I also played a lot of Atari. I even created multiple small business ventures using child labor (little brother and friends). We pulled weeds, washed cars, picked up dog poop all to score enough cash to imbibe in Pac Man and ice cream at the corner store….
Until we ran out of money and the clerk kicked us out. Then we had to resume being bored.
In school, teachers introduced us to computers that didn’t do much of anything useful…except allow us to die of digital dysentery.
Life was comparably simple for kids and adults. Get up, do your job, stay out of trouble, and go to bed. Rinse, wash, repeat.
Mom was awesome keeping up with bills because there were only like…five of them. Television had three channels. People didn’t expect you to be accessible 24/7. If you called and no one answered?
Contrast my life in 1988 with 2018? It takes everything for me not to pack up and move to Alaska. Except I’m too lazy to pack, hate being cold and never developed a taste for moose.
But seriously. Not only are we bombarded with calls, ads, emails, real mail and junk mail, but we can’t seem to escape.
Which is not exactly what’s so bad. What’s insane is we believe there’s a way to actually keep up with all this crap. But we can’t, because our world isn’t real.
When I was a kid, I spent time at other kids’ houses daily. Not BS ‘play dates’ where everyone dresses in ‘real clothes’ and cleans the house like it’s friggin’ Thanksgiving. All this so two sticky kids can whack each other with Jedi light-sabers that LOOK like actual light-sabers…instead of a stick.
The on-line world is filtered. Since websites thrive when people click, only the extremes are ever represented. Extremes get more clicks.
We’re deluged with the extremely beautiful, thin, fit, smart, talented and the teenager who’s now a billionaire because he invented an app that makes a thousand unique fart noises.
On the other end of this spectrum sits the nine-hundred pound man, the hoarder whose home is crammed with toaster pizzas and feral cats, and the dude who believes he’s really a unicorn and suffers profoundly because he needs an implant (a horn) in his forehead to feel ‘whole.’
I have no idea what should be important when everything is important.
I’m supposed to make millions of dollars, write books that fundamentally change the global culture, never age, have six-pack abs, a perfect marriage, rescue animals, save the rainforest, all while keeping a house so clean one could perform surgery in my bathroom.
The bathroom I refurbished myself using recycled tires, wire hangars, and wooden pallets. All held together with unenlightened dryer lint and non-GMO, vegan, eco-friendly glue I made…in my ‘free’ time.
Priority? Save the planet THEN show off on Faceplant, Flitter, Sintrest and Instasham.
Busy, Busy, Busy
I’m from the buckle of the Bible Belt and we have a saying. If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.
I’ve noticed that, unless I am mindful to unplug, get quiet and recalibrate, it is super easy for me to lose my way. Why? Everything is overwhelming. I hate my phone, am afraid of my mail and won’t shop until we’re down rationing toilet paper.
Every store is a mega-store with a zillion choices. This means I go all white girl and ‘literally can’t even.’
As an introvert, I’d choose being water-boarded to shopping. This puzzled me, but then I thought about how it was when I was a kid in the 80s. Stores were smaller and there weren’t a hundred choices in pasta sauce.
Michael’s (a craft store) was the size of a CVS (corner drug store). By the time I wended through sixty-two aisles to find ONE pair of knitting needles, it was time to go to Costco…which is the size of an aircraft hangar.
Then there’s the grocery store (for the stuff I don’t want to buy in BULK) and it has fifty aisles which include toys, clothing, and shoes.
SHOES? IT IS A GROCERY STORE.
Sure, I went out to do five things. By the time I got home (nine hours later) I’d walked seven miles. I was exhausted from the mental onslaught of trying to pick between seventy-five varieties of gluten-free rice. All these stores, in order to provide everything and save time…are the largest time-killers I must contend with.
Though if I grew my own tomatoes this wouldn’t be a problem. TP is a definite priority, yet a tad more challenging. Corn cobs? Maybe grow corn, too.
Objects on ‘To Do List’ might actually appear more important than they really are. When everything is a priority, nothing is. Ironically, I actually don’t engage in a lot of social media, which is weird because I’m an expert and write blogs and books about it.
Yet, unlike other experts who claim we must be everywhere all the time and endlessly entertaining (and promoting), my priority is to write more books, not be a mega-marketer.
It’s why I created a social media/branding system based on quality, with a focus on meaningful interactions. Author engagement over author omnipresence. A brand is vital and so is social media, but our PRIORITY is to build a brand and still have time to write great books.
But social media isn’t the only place insanity can take over. I can have a Pinterest worthy home…or go to jail for murdering my family. Life is about choices and I’m pretty sure prison white not my color (and I’d miss my family).
Every day is a habit or waking, taking QUIET time to reflect, then whittling everything down to what TRULY matters.
Because ‘having everything’ is playing life like Pac Man instead of chess.
In Pac Man you never win. It just gets faster and faster and harder and harder UNTIL YOU DIE. Chess? There is strategy, patience, willingness to ‘let go’ of even ‘important’ pieces to protect the most crucial one. In chess, you CAN actually win!
Entropy is real and alive and a beast in the digital age. Much we can’t control. Trust me. Target gives no figs I really don’t want eighty aisles of STUFF…especially when they only ever have two checkout lanes open, despite having forty.
*wonders if thirty-eight of the registers are real or props*
Only So Many Figs to Give—If It Isn’t TRULY a Priority?
We might want to have everything, but everything is a lie. We can’t make all things a priority because then, well…welcome to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl.
Back to those crucial questions I mentioned in the beginning? If we’re exhausted, strung out, and feeling like losers, it’s time to stop for a priority check (and a dose of reality).
The media is a lousy measuring guide because we will never be enough. If we were, they couldn’t sell us more STUFF. They sell us crap we don’t need by making us feel like losers, that we are missing out on the AMAZING…when we really aren’t.
Most of life is in the average. We’re only capable of being remarkable in a couple places. Why? Because being remarkable takes focus and a LOT of hard work. So choose the PRIORITY, then learn to be cool with the rest.
My home is clean…enough. It’s covered in cat fur but that’s because I value my pets more than the opinion of others. If they don’t like the cat fur, feel free to come over and clean. I’ll cook 😀 .
A final caveat on this? If I want my writing to be exemplary, where does it rank on my ‘list?’ Is it a priority? Since I’m OCD and a neat-freak, I know NOT to clean anything until I write. I must do this because my PRIORITY is to be a superlative author/blogger, NOT Martha Stewart for an hour before my kid and cats destroy everything.
If my writing keeps ending up at the END of my list, more hard questions.
Why am I procrastinating? What am I afraid of? Is my writing always last because I believe I don’t have what it takes? Remember noble distractions can mask as priorities.
Obviously I’m not finished with my novel because my family needed help with *insert crisis here*. Clearly family is a PRIORITY.
Maybe. But might want to do a gut check just in case 😉 .
What Are Your Thoughts? Then GET OFF MY LAWN! 😛
Do you feel guilty about doing NOTHING? Struggle to get of the hamster wheel of To Dos? Does it seem like the ‘easier’ our world tries to make life the harder it gets? Is it an active effort to keep priorities in line? Do you find your writing constantly put off for…later?
Do you miss being unavailable? And people not being ticked off because you were unavailable? Sigh. What do you miss about the ‘good old days’? I get it, modern life does have a lot of good, but I do miss having nothing to do.
Have a hard time doing anything for yourself? Because it feels too selfish. Once EVERYONE else is tended, THEN…maybe…
There are cool classes below if you want to have fun honing your skills. Otherwise? Feel free not to scroll down 😉 . Working to make this easy, y’all.
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