Best quotes on having the right priorities

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Action expresses priorities,” Mahatma Gandhi said. This means that what you do reflects what you prioritize. If you search deeply, you would discover that where you are today is as a result of your actions. These actions may have brought you closer to your goals or distanced you from them.

“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.” 

— Dallin H. Oaks

Notebook with priorities

For example, you may move towards your entrepreneurial goal by building your leadership and managerial skills. However, you may be taking yourself away from your health goal when you take soda and sweets instead of water and fruits despite your decision to eat healthily.  

If you come down with a disease because of your unhealthy eating, you may not run the business you have dreamt so much of having. This means that having the right priorities is a holistic decision. You cannot make wise decisions in one aspect of your life and set wrong priorities in another aspect. As a human being, you are complete and your life is a net effect of your decisions. Therefore, you have to get all your priorities right because they can either make you or mar you.

As usual, I will use the best quotes made up of a blend of inspirational quotes, life quotes, motivational quotes, and general priorities quotes to guide you towards setting your priorities right.

How to set priorities right

Setting your priorities right starts with asking three important questions. What is my purpose? What steps should I take towards fulfilling my purpose? Which actions or activities of mine yield the greatest results?

1. What is my purpose?

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” — Stephen Covey

What is your life’s mission? What impact do you want to create in the world? Your answer to this question is your purpose. People who understand their purpose always make decisions that are in line with their purpose. These decisions take first place in their life no matter how difficult.

Bruce Lee, an actor and one of the greatest martial artists ever known, was sent off to the United States by his parents because they were bothered about his street fights and police troubles. Bruce Lee got to the United States, studied philosophy and drama, and opened a martial arts school. He landed an acting role in a television series. When the series was canceled, he supplemented his income by giving Hollywood stars martial art lessons. When he could not land suitable roles in Hollywood, he moved back to Hong Kong and starred in two movies that broke box-office records in Asia.  

Despite his challenges — no parental support, a canceled series, no movie roles — Lee understood his purpose and made it his number one priority. Many in his shoes would have questioned their purpose. When his parents shipped him off to the US, he had the choice to study a course other than philosophy and drama, he had the choice to give up martial arts. When the series was canceled, he could have sought other jobs outside acting, especially since he could not land any other role. But he never did that. At each point, he found a way to maintain his purpose. He never lost sight of it. He chose to prioritize courage and hope over disappointment and despair.

“You gotta make it a priority to make your priorities a priority.” — Richie Norton

When you understand your purpose, prioritizing your life becomes easy. Every goal, every decision, every desire would be tailored to your purpose.

2. What steps should I take towards fulfilling my purpose?

“The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome.” — William Arthur Ward

Another way to put this question is: If my purpose is my top priority, what sub-priorities would I have that would lead me to fulfill my top priority? What would I do daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly that would take me closer towards fulfilling my purpose?

Notebook with ToDos

Albert Einstein became one of the smartest humans that ever lived because he prioritized habits that boosted his intellectual capacity. Einstein understood that the key to becoming a person of intellectual grit lay in his daily actions. He questioned everything and surrounded himself with brilliant, educated people. This didn’t mean that he discriminated against uneducated folks; it only meant that as long as his love for books and physics was concerned, he had to prioritize the smart, educated people over the uneducated ones. Also, Einstein got his classmates to take notes for him in class while he was out studying physics and math. Physics and math were his first priority. He was not ready to relegate them to second place just because he had to be in class. Aside from studying, Einstein engaged in activities that boosted his brainpower and problem-solving skills. Sleeping and daily walks topped this list. He slept for at least ten hours and walked up to three miles every day.

Once you figure out your purpose, every aspect of your life should be tailored towards fulfilling your purpose. Your purpose may be to reduce poverty levels around the world, find a cure for cancer, or foster world peace. Whatever it is, know that it takes engaging every aspect of your being to achieve it. Do not develop your intellect and neglect your health. Do not improve your social connections at the expense of your mental health. Every aspect of you must sync together to achieve your top priority.

3. Which actions or activities of mine yield the greatest results? 

“Take a look at your priorities and your values. Spend major time with major influences and minor time with minor influences.”  — Jim Rohn

Although your actions all contribute towards fulfilling your goals and, ultimately, your purpose, some of these actions contribute more than others. And it is best to give more time to these actions for they are the root of productivity. This is popularly known as the Pareto Principle. Also known as the 80-20 rule, this principle states that 20 percent of your activities account for 80 percent of your results.

Many — including bestselling author, John C. Maxwell — have built their lives around this principle. For those who do not apply this principle, they end up where Maxwell once found himself: doing too many things and doing the wrong things — and doing too many wrong things is a recipe for disaster. Those who complain of lack of time and being too busy may not have a problem with time management; the problem may likely be that they do everything themselves, both the important and trivial stuff. There is a lack of priorities. In his book, Developing The Leader Within You 2.0, Maxwell pointed out that if you got ten things to do, you shouldn’t be doing all ten, instead, you should be doing just two.

“Subtracting from your list of priorities is as important as adding to it.” — Frank Sonnenberg

You may be wondering how to know the 20 percent to focus on. Maxwell also provided a solution to this which he called “The 3 Rs of Decision-Making” — Requirements, Return, and Reward.  

Requirements: What is required of you? What is it that you have to do that cannot be taken up by another person?

Returns: What gives you the highest returns?

Reward: What gives you the highest satisfaction?

To set your priorities right, you must ask these questions in the right order. Do not prioritize what gives you satisfaction over what is required of you. By following the order, you would know which of your activities you need to give enough time to and which are the inessentials you need to assign or outsource to others. The world’s greatest people did not become great by overwhelming themselves with every activity; they became great by doing only the most important stuff. Understanding priorities is a mark of a great man or woman.

“Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.” — Scott Caan

It is my desire for you to be great. This is why I want you to understand priorities and how to set the right priorities. In this matter of priorities, there are key points you need to note. People often do not consider or acknowledge these points, that is why it may seem as though setting priorities is difficult.

Three notes on priorities

1. Your first priority is yourself

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” 

— Mark Twain

This is where many get it wrong. They put everything first apart from themselves. This ought not to be so. Make yourself a priority. Understand this: you need to live first before you can make good other priorities.

You want your company to become a global brand. This is a good thing. You are consistently catering to the needs of your customers and staff. This is good also. But if you do this at the expense of your physical and mental health, you may break down and your business may never become the global brand you aspired it to be.

It is good to be hardworking. It is commendable to be selfless. But always remember self-care and self-love. In line with Maxwell’s 3 Rs, you are required to take care of yourself. You cannot assign it to someone else. If you place other endeavors that would bring high returns or satisfaction above what is required of you, then all of your hard work would end up in futility. Take care of yourself. Prioritize yourself. Like Melissa Steginus advised, “Set a meeting with yourself and keep it. Make it a priority. Treat that meeting like you would any other.”

2. The bond of love and family cannot take second place

“If you give up what you want most for what you think you should want more, you’ll end up miserable.” — Brandon Sanderson

This point relates to the first. As humans, we are emotional beings. In mafia or crime stories, you would discover that to break the protagonist, the rival group would attack his family. A businessman may lose millions of dollars in a market crash and he would get over it after some days or weeks. But if he loses his wife or child or friend, he may never recover.

By no orchestration of ours, life has designed that our emotional connections are core to our existence. And we cannot help it.

Family on a bridge with sunset

Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, might have ended up as a hotheaded extremist. As a young boy growing up in South Africa, Arun was a victim of racism. Once, he was beaten up for being too white, then he was beaten up for being too black. These racial attacks ignited anger in him, so his parents sent him off to India to live with his grandfather as a cure for this anger. And he was indeed cured. Mahatma Gandhi taught him how to control and channel his anger. But the striking point about this is that Mahatma prioritized his grandson over other engagements he had. Arun said that his grandfather, despite getting invitations from many important people, would spend an hour every day listening to him, Arun. And he did this for 18 months.

As you strive to achieve your goals in life, never abandon your emotional connections. Robert Louis Stevenson pointed out that “perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.” Your emotional connections should not belong to the “many other things.” Don’t get to that point of regret where you wish you valued the people in your life. Mariska Hargitay said that sometimes things in life happen that allow us to understand our priorities very clearly. Don’t allow life to teach you the lesson of prioritizing rightly.

While prioritizing your goals and visions, know that your loved ones hold a permanent and special place in your life. They are even your first cheerleaders as you marathon towards fulfilling your purpose.

3. Some priorities are not constant 

“Like it or not, the world evolves, priorities change and so do you.” — Marilu Henner

When I wrote about having the right expectations, I mentioned that the secondary layer of expectations can change. It does not mean you are lowering or doing away with your expectations; you are only tweaking the methods by which you would arrive at your expectations.

In the same vein, when it comes to priorities, understand that some priorities change because events are not static. Your top priority more or less remains constant, but your sub-priorities can change. For example, your top priority may be to own a company that would become a global brand. You need funds to start up the company, so you decide to get a job. This becomes a priority. After you get the job, you decide to save and also take leadership and management courses. Saving and learning become another priority. You finally start your company and business is good, but your aim is to be a global brand. You want to expand, you need a new product line, you need a larger market share. To achieve this, you need investors. Finding investors becomes another priority.

As you progress towards achieving your purpose, always bear in mind that certain priorities would change. Know when to change or tweak your priority.

Your priority determines the course of your life. So get to work. Build your priority list. Differentiate the constant priorities from those that can vary. Do not overwhelm yourself. Make a decision to take action at the right time. You cannot separate timing from priorities. In the words of Dan Millman, “…think of your priorities, not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.”