Over the last few months I have discovered the key to a happy life as a wife, mother, and writer. It was not found in a box, in a book, in a building, or in the bank. It was not in a person, a
place, or a thing. I did not have to buy it. I did not have to wait until it was given to me. The key to happiness was a process that I have since shared with several friends who have, in return, found happiness themselves.
The key to happiness is in finding your priorities and living them.
I started my happiness search by making a list of all the things in life that are important to me including family, friends, writing, coffee, ministry, education, reading, exercising, cooking, taking care of my roses, writing anonymous notes of encouragement, giving to ministries, and living a healthy life. I then narrowed down those priorities to my top 5 list:
- Immediate family
I then looked at my calendar and realized that a lot of my stress and exhaustion comes from me over-committing to all those things that are not on my priority list. I touched on this when when I talked about hitting the pause button, and I have heard from quite a few of you about how you have done this and seen a difference. To me, these priorities are just an extension of the pause button practice.
My husband and my kids are my top priorities. In our house, our faith is our center, so that is included in that immediate family top priority. I will never put my career above my immediate family. If I ever lose that as my top priority, it is time to hit reset.
Next comes writing. The reason this has to be so high on my list is, if it is not, I will always fill my schedule with other things. PTA meetings, dyslexia research, reading blogs, Facebook, iPhone apps, word searches, and random errands that “need” to be run can be time suckers.
The priority of health is more than just weight although anyone who knows my story (if you missed it you can read the basics in my A Perfect Ten story) you know that weight is definitely a large part of it. Health, to me encompasses physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional wholeness. It means exercising and eating right, being engrossed in relationships that benefit me, and in seeking guidance when I need it. It means making sure my kids eat square meals and that they take their vitamins and engage in physical activities. It means that when my son starts running a fever in the middle of the night like last night, I shut down my computer and head for the doctor. It means taking care of me and my immediate family both inside and out.
Extended family and ministry follow after that. This means maintaining healthy relationships with grandparents and raising up healthy friendships that I can both minister to and that can minister to me. This means seeking God’s constant leading in my life and following as doors open. Sometimes this is through writing, sometimes through giving, sometimes through time, and sometimes it is a conversation over coffee.
This priority list has become my essential measure by which I say yes or no to different opportunities presented to me. If it does not fit into one of these priorities, it is not worth my time.
Working the school book fair, for example, seems like a fun way to spend a day, but how does it fit into my priorities? Sure, saying no is probably stepping on toes, but at some point I have to draw a line. Without this priority list, I do not have a reason for saying yes or no so I end up over-committing to frivolous things.
On the other hand I was presented an opportunity this past week that has me giddy with glee at the prospect of a new ministry opportunity. My local school district is looking for a parent to lead the support group for the parents of dyslexic students. This is well within guidelines for health (for both my mental and emotional needs), immediate family, and ministry. I am looking forward to talking more specifically about the needs of the program when school resumes in January. If my calendar was already over-booked, this would be tough to commit to despite its obvious benefits.
I find that when I use these priorities to decide both how I will spend my time and how I will spend my family’s money, I am much more likely to make a long-term wise decision. Sure, people are offended, but those that are bothered are generally the ones that know they are over-committed and they want others to dig them out of their holes.
As the new year rolls around, now is the perfect time to give this priority idea a spin in your own life. You just might find that your key to happiness lies in regaining control of your life.