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July 7, 2014

The Perplexing Fallacy of Priorities

Image: Flickr/Fabiana Zonca

Image: Flickr/Fabiana Zonca


What are your top five priorities?

Go on, name them.

Right now, my top five are:

  1. Keep my kids quiet.
  2. Keep my kids from knocking on my office door so that I can write this blog post.
  3. Keep my kids from jumping off of their beds and hitting the floor loudly, for I find it incredibly distracting as I try to write this blog post.
  4. Write this blog post.
  5. Find a way to have pizza tonight.

Now, this list of priorities differs from my “real” list, which includes being a good husband and father, being a better steward over all that God has given me, and other such grand and ethereal things.

That list is unlike my professional listing of priorities, which has me doing more, being more, and earning more.

Now that I think about it, that’s a lot of priorities. No wonder I feel like I have so many plates spinning, and my life often feels somewhat out of control!

My guess is that you are like me — not the trying to keep your kids quiet part, but the idea that you have a lot going on because you have a whole bunch of priorities.

Having so many priorities leads to feeling overwhelmed, and when we feel overwhelmed, we scream. Maybe not out-loud, but we emotionally react in one way or another. Getting really quiet for very long periods and escaping into my Batcave is my emotional reaction of choice.

Managing my priorities is commonly a Herculean task that repeatedly works against me.

Here’s the truth: There is no such thing as priorities. I recently read that the word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It wasn’t used in the plural, but in the singular. It was defined as the very first thing. By definition, there could be only one.

Somewhere between the 15th Century and now the word took on a plural form — priorities.

But the plural version is an impossibility. You can’t have more than one very first thing.

And yet…we try.

And it doesn’t work.

It was never meant to work or be effective.

This is what frustrates us when we try to manage our priorities. We are seeking to manage the unmanageable.

Instead of seeking to be everything and do everything, why don’t we simply decide what the most important thing really is and build our lives around that? Is that impossible in this day and age? To have just one priority?

Maybe. But is sounds so much easier than trying to have several very first things.


What is your one priority? 

Kelvin headshot Oct2013 HDR

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