I seem to live my life in decades. When I turned 30, it was hard to accept that I am racing toward 40. However, on my 40th birthday, I felt no different from when I turned 30. Still, heading toward 50 brought its own load of dread. Strangely, as I grew older, I stopped focusing on everybody else and how they need me. Instead, I spent more time analyzing my own feelings and priorities.
These unfamiliar hours of self-reflection and introspection reminded me of a recent conversation. I listened to the wise words of someone who was in her eighties and seemed more relaxed and at peace than I thought possible. She taught me that it is all about priorities, which we usually establish in our late teens or early twenties. By the time we reach 30, have a spouse and children, our priorities are fixed as in stone and never violated.
Changing your priorities is okay — love yourself
According to my friend, the first thing to do is afford myself some love. She said I gave buckets full of unconditional love to parents, siblings, spouses, children and friends over the years. Now it is my turn — I deserve a large bucket of love for myself.
Do your priorities bear you down?
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the guy with the world on his shoulders. His job was to support the pillars that kept earth and heaven apart. I think of all the years of carrying similar burdens, and I wonder why? I am no Atlas, and there are billions of people on earth, so why did I think I had to rest the entire globe on my shoulders.
Do your priorities make you a penny pincher?
I have always worked out the exact amount to tip a restaurant server or the waitress at my favorite coffee shop. After the chat with my elderly friend, I realized that leaving a bigger tip would not leave me in need. Instead, the server works much harder than me, and a large tip might be just the last bit of money she needed to meet her own priorities.
Help the fruit vendor meet his priorities
Have you ever thought about how bargaining with fruit and veggie vendors affects their finances? You might be thrilled to save a buck or two off the price. However, if all his other customers do the same, how would the vendor ever meet his priorities? It could cause a shortage when the rental is due or sink his dream of saving enough to send his child to college.
Should priorities be peace or perfection?
I learned that it is not necessary to correct people when I know they’re wrong. It is about time to stop trying to perfect the world. Soon after that lesson, I agreed that peace is way more valuable than perfection.
Listen to the elderly repeating the same story
Some of the older people in your life might irritate you by narrating a story that you’ve heard hundreds of times before. Essentially, it is their way to relive the past and take a stroll down memory lane. Don’t stop them, listen and don’t lose sight that your life may still take you down the same road.
Don’t be stingy with giving compliments
I know now that nothing enhances my mood, like generously complimenting others. Strangely, seeing another person’s eyes in response to a compliment is something I never noticed before. Maybe it’s because I didn’t pay compliments freely. When I did, I didn’t have time to look into the person’s eyes because I had other priorities to attend to. Here’s a tip — NEVER EVER turn a compliment down, accept it with gratitude and say “Thank You.” You never know how long it will be before you receive another one.
I don’t care how others value me
For years, I used to spend hours wondering about the reason when someone doesn’t value me. It bothers me no longer. I walk away. My priorities have changed, and even if that person doesn’t know my worth, I do, and that is enough.
Bothered about a spot on your shirt?
For years I fussed about a spot or a crease on my clothes if unexpected guests arrived. Nah, no longer. If they came to see me, they must value my personality and not my appearance.
Hiding my emotions is no longer a priority
Showing my emotions used to embarrass me to no end. My friend taught me that my emotions are valuable; they make me human.
Where is your place in the daily rat race?
Why are we so concerned about being winners in the rat race? And then we’re devastated if someone plays dirty to get ahead of us? Time to realize that you are not a rat, so there’s no need to run for first place.
Relationships are worth more than egos
I have lost many relationships over the years. Thinking back with regret, I realize that my ego and my ridiculous priorities caused it. Now, after burning those bridges, I learned that the only reward my ego ever got me was aloofness and estrangement. Now that I am wiser, I know that there is not enough time to make up for all the relationships I lost to my ego. I hope it is not too late to replace some of them because I’m sure to be lonely in old age with only my ego and no relationships.
Where do my new priorities lead me?
Finally, at my ripe old age, after long sessions of self-reflection, I have learned a lot. Enough to know that, from now on, my first priority must be to live every single day as if it is my last day. Most importantly, who knows, it could be!
Wow, it took many years for me to forget about priorities and do what makes me happy. My primary priority is to give back what I owe to myself — unrestricted happiness. Happiness is a choice, and any or every day can be happy day. All you have to do is to choose it.