Language adapts to its time, and mutates in many funny ways. The way we use certain words directly reflects on the time that they are written in.
A good example for that, is “priorities” and is a good reflection of today’s rat race.
The word priority was first found in the english language in the early 15th century. Its definition was quite simple: the very first thing, the thing priorto anything else.
And then, we started becoming…. busy.
So busy in fact, that society changed 180º.
We started to become sicker and sicker. And we started to adapt better and better to that sickness, which, by the way, is no measure of health.
We started to sleep less (from 10–12 hours (plus a nap at the 6th hour (siesta) ) down to 6–8 hours).
We changed our diets to a cheaper and more caloric SAD diet (the biggest killer still today).
And of course we changed the way we worked.
The promise of the new, modern 20th century, came with a lot of hope (at least for the very privileged). We developed technologies that enabled us to produce more, faster and cheaper than ever before.
At that same time, we started to pluralise the term priority: priorities.
Now you might think to yourself, well how can that be? That does not seam logical at all. If a priority is one thing prior to all others, how can there be 2, or 37?
Well, there can’t.
Somehow, we believed that by changing the sense of the word, we could create an alternative reality. We are still stuck in there today.
How many times have I heard someone say: “This is our list of priorities. I would actually like to get priority 19 before priority 12”.
Let me talk frankly, and if you read this and feel concerned or targeted, I cannot apologise.
Setting more than 1 priority, which is both illogical and un-reasonable, comes from cowardliness. The inability to make important decisions comes from the fear of making the wrong one.
A few days ago, I wrote an article on how it takes courage to eliminate the non-essential. Likewise, it takes courage to set your unique priority. You might be scared to mess up or you might be scared to forget something. That’s understandable.
Is this the way we want to lead? Is this the way we want to drive our company, our business and our lives?
With fear? With deficiency of courage? With the inability to act in the face of fear? With the lack of trust within ourselves to know that we have the capability to make the right decision? And if we make a bad decision, to change our paths and make the right one?
When someone is lost in his or her list of “priorities”, you can sense the stress and anxiety. The fear, the angst. Most of the time, it doesn’t get better. It gets worst. The list grows multiple times per week, per day even. The anxiety grows with it. It becomes a vicious spiral, a turmoil of events moving uncontrollably. It gets harder to calm it down. We start losing the little strength we had left, we burn out and quit.
You see, making courageous decisions, such as eliminating the non essential and prioritizing creates strength. Courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to act in the presence of fear. And like most adversity we face, that builds strength. The strength needed to continue making productive and creative decisions.
If we start slacking up on courage, we start to lose strength. And if we lose strength, we lose control.
We get thrown into the abyss of “priorities” and todo list items, that suck uncontrollably like a litter of sick puppies, on the tit of our sanity.