The Key To A Life Well-Lived? Understanding Priority, Urgency, and Difficulty

You’re 98 years old on your death bed. How was it?

For many (including myself), at the end of our road, there exists a subtle fear of not living how we intended to. So we make bucket lists and set goals. Most of us have done these things, but it is actually following through that becomes challenging.

For example, I haven’t posted in…a while. That is something well outside of my intention. I don’t want to stop this blog anytime soon. It is important to me. It is a priority to me.

How then, have I been slacking off so much?

There have been some valid excuses many invalid excuses, but it comes down to my lack of understanding priority, difficulty, and urgency…and how they relate to each another.

According To My Lifestyle…

  1. When I’m off work, I want to watch TV mostly and exercise occasionally.
  2. I am not interested in intentionally seeking out friends or ever getting a girlfriend.
  3. My most exciting life event is a video game (it is Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, but still…)
  4. I don’t seem to care much about blogging or pursing my dreams.

That sucks. It’s so…wrong.

These priorities are raw and real. They aren’t the kind of answers you’d give in a job interview. But they are important to identify because the best way to improve is to start from where you actually are instead of a “photoshopped” self-image.

How I Intend To Change Things

There are two ways to change that I know of – action leading to a change of thought or thought leading to a change of action. In order for it to stick, actions and thoughts must be in sync, or else the weaker will prevail.

For the longest time, I had to constantly remotivate myself to work out. I was taking action, but my mind was rarely on board. I had to trick my mind into seeing it as something fun by creating elaborate point systems and rewards. My workout performance would earn me points that I could “spend” on things I actually enjoyed. Eventually my mind caught up to see the necessity and pleasure of exercise and now it is a part of my lifestyle.

For this one, I want to start with my mindset. Right now it is very narrow and self-focused. If I can zoom out to see the bigger picture and understand the “big three”, I like my chances of success.

The Big Three – Priority, Urgency, and Difficulty

Every thing you want to do in life has these three attributes. They make life complicated. 🙂

Priority – This is the biggest one (of the big three). Priority is what you wish you would have focused on when you’re on your deathbed. What makes it tricky is that priorities constantly fluctuate based on the other two attributes (and sometimes the fluctuation is unwarranted!).

Urgency – Urgency is challenging to incorporate into your priority list. There are urgent things – such as a TV show coming on at 8 PM -that are not important at all. But when it’s 7:55 PM and you’re wondering what to do next, watching that TV show seems like a no-brainer. Since TV is a relaxation activity, you would have to need relaxation for it to deserve the top of your current priority list.

There are other costs to consider – opportunity cost is big (you could be writing a future best-selling novel instead!), TV offers little to no long-term fulfillment, and studies show that TV is not very good for your brain. Many people live their lives giving all their attention to what’s urgent. This is akin to plugging up leaks when maybe you should just turn the water off and find a cancer cure instead.

Difficulty – This one is a red herring. It shouldn’t factor in to priority, but it often does. It is the disease known as taking the path of least resistance (fine for electric currents, bad for humans). My highest priorities right now are (unsurprisingly) the most difficult. Since we only live one day at a time, long-term ultra-important priorities are mixed in with laundry. It is easier to eat lunch and watch TV than train for a triathlon.

The Gameplan

We want to take care of our immediate needs while working towards our dreams and have a great time doing it. Here is what I suggest.

Focus.

While you could make a giant list of all your life plans, I wouldn’t recommend it for a daily reference. In reality, it works best to focus on fewer projects (probably 1-3). Focus is the proven tool for succeeding in anything. Michael Phelps focused intensely on swimming and won 8 gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. Tiger Woods played golf since age 3 and became a legend. Michael Jordan too.

If there is one thing that you’d like to do more than any other, devote yourself to it. Make it an urgent priority. This is the best way to be successful at it. What stops me from doing this is usually fear.

What if we don’t choose correctly? This blog has taught me something about the fallacy of that way of thinking.

When I started this blog, I wanted to make a living off of it. I poured myself into it for months. Through my experience, I found that it is very difficult to make money from a blog. The book that I worked hard on to make entertaining, useful, and polished is free and not too many people have read it (those who did enjoyed it).  How would I sell one? There are several answers to that (the main one being exposure and marketing), but I won’t go into detail.

I find the time between posts has increased (I’m working full-time now) and that I make more in one day at work than my several months of blogging. That makes it difficult to merrily continue on the “blogging for income” path. But I’ve found that even if I don’t make any money doing this, I have cherished the experience and love doing it anyways. This is why it doesn’t hurt to go down the wrong path – because there are no wrong paths when you pursue your passions.

As for blogging, I’ll keep doing it. It’s good. I’m not sure I can muster up the effort to try to make it into a money-generating blog quickly, but I might slowly begin to work on a book to sell (I have some ideas). If the book sells zero copies, that would be ok…because I want to write another book anyways.

In the meantime, I am going to be thinking about a bigger project. I have a lot of crazy ideas that I need to narrow down into fewer, actionable ideas. This post was very journal-like, but I hope you found it useful. Oh, I’m not going to include pictures in every post anymore. I have to pay for them and find they are often a reason for not blogging (“Oh great, now I have to find a relevant picture add in”). I’d rather blog without pictures than not blog at all!

Until next time,

Stephen

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Scrollwork: Quirkyisms from a Tropical Transplant

Glad you’re posting again, Stephen. We’re more blessed than most, in that we know what our passions are and would do them anyway, urgencies and difficulties aside. The ones who’ve reached a crossroad and don’t know what would make them happy in life are experiencing misery of a desperate sort.

Two days ago I posted a picture on my Facebook biz page to spur me on, and I think you’ll find it relevant to you:
https://www.facebook.com/ShopatSwoosh

Take care.

Martyn Chamberlin

Hello from the dead! Glad to see you back.

Funny, I’m getting as sporadic as you: somebody left a comment on my latest post that looked remarkably similar to the former sentence. 😀

Seriously, we should both keep our blogs. I like this journal-ish entry. You’ll treasure it years from now.

No images!!? Hey, Flickr is free, you know. Oh dear.

The Biz Blogger

Stephen! Always good to see a post from DE in my inbox!

Man you are one intelligent guy. How you break down “a life well lived” is just awesome, and I can certainly relate to how you have been feeling recently.

That’s just the thing – the big goals and priorities seem 1. long term 2. hard to achieve and 3. rolled into the other daily laundry; which basically means that it is very easy not to work towards these goals on a daily basis.

Plus, thanks for being so honest in this post. I know it takes guts to write such a ‘frank’ post, but it definitely makes people respect you more.

It’s easy for us all to say that we don’t want to be one of those people who has a load of regrets on their deathbed, but it’s harder to do in practice.

The brain wanting to take the “easiest route” is certainly a huge problem for most of us. It’s important to acknowledge that and overcome it.

Oh and when it comes to business and blogging – as far as I’m concerned a blog is never a business, merely a business tool. There are an absolutely minute number of people who make money actually from their blog, but a blog seems to be a good way to indirectly advertise and talk about your expertise and the services you offer – like Marcus Sheridan does on The Sales Lion.

Speak soon man,

Robert

PS Sorry the comment is a bit scrambled lol. Just had lots of points to pick up on!

Stephen Guise

I “liked” that picture you posted. It is very relevant to me right now!

I see myself as being between the two types of people you described. I know many of my passions, but I’m anxious to focus on and pursue a select few. When you have a world of possibilities, it becomes easy to remain motionless because of how difficult the decision is.

As for blogging, it is great and I’m happy to do it for free.

Stephen Guise

For me, it’s been the combination of having much less free time now and the time investment it takes to write a post. By not adding in pictures, I know I can just write and I’ll be less hesitant.

Yeah, we should keep our blogs. I agree.

I might add images sometimes…

Stephen Guise

Thanks very much for your comment Robert. I appreciate it.

Taking the easy route is always a major struggle for me. I feel as if I’m possibly turning a corner now though. I’m ready for action and now the question is “what action?”

Yeah, making money blogging is a ton of work…or play if you enjoy it. It does work very well for supplementing a business…especially if you can show off your expertise.

Thanks Robert.

Santu Mahapatra

Hi Steve,
It is really good to see you back. I was wondering what happened. I started reading you about six months back. You were quite frequent then.

You were really an inspiration for me to get started as a blogger.

And now I am facing the same problem. I started my blog and then started on a full time job weeks later. It was good for two weeks and then it got tough. I have to focus on the job. 🙂

Now my blog has no updates for almost a month.

A big thank you for such a big inspiration and your awesome blog posts.

Keep writing. 🙂

Denys Yeo

Hi Stephen

Yes keep posting! You have a gift for blogging and obviously people appreciate what you have to say. I believe that if anyone has a talent in some area, if they do not exercise it they will look back with regret at having not utilised their gift more: it’s not about the money, it’s about following a passion and an interest. I look forward to more of your posts.

I live with a life threatening illness, and sometimes it is really hard to get focus and work on my web based projects: but I have a real belief in the idea of a digital legacy and I work away at this even though at times I would rather find diversionary activities or just avoid making an effort with anything at all. I have found your posts inspiring and they help me to keep going. Thanks for that, and keep on thinking about your life and keeping us up to date with these thoughts.

Denys Yeo

Stephen Guise

Yeah, it’s tough working full time and blogging! I’m seriously honored that I was an inspiration to you – that means a lot. I’m trying to get more frequent as I get settled in (new post up now!).

I’ll keep writing and you do the same!

Stephen Guise

Thanks so much Denys. I remember about your illness and I still love how you’re handling it. My health has been sub-par lately and I’ve thought of you. You’re a big inspiration.

I have been thinking about how awesome a digital legacy is. To think that my kids (might) read this someday is really cool. To think that someone could read this in 100 years and gain something from it is even cooler.

I think you’ll be able to relate to my new post that’s up now. My recent health issues were the inspiration for writing it.

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