The Importance of Realigning Priorities

by ChristinaPilkington on January 23, 2013 · 12 comments

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Back in the fall, we signed up to be part of a Roots and Shoots group. Its group’s focus is on community service, usually in the form of environmental cleanup or nonprofit fundraising and collections. They also provide a lot of opportunities to get close to rehabilitated animals and do other outdoor activities.

Sounds great, right?

And it was for a little while. We helped at a forest preserve to pull weeds that were overtaking a prairie. We were signed up for bike rides along a canal and to see a hawk presentation. I was happy were part of the group because, although we love being out in nature, we don’t do any formal nature studies or participate in a lot of structured volunteer activities.

I thought by joining this group it would be a good opportunity for us to do those things we don’t naturally gravitate towards but are good things to learn and do.

But it quickly became something we had to do instead of something we wanted to do. We found ourselves frustrated because after two days of swimming and gymnastics (two activities the kids really enjoy), we didn’t seem to have any days where we could just stay home and work on our own projects for the entire day.

Then there was our Monday homeschool co-op group that meets for 3 hours. I found it energizing to talk with the other moms, and the kids seemed to like going in the beginning. But then it turned into something that stopped us from whatever game, project or activity we had started in the morning. (The group meets from 11-2 which could have something to do with it).

Jared started getting upset when it was time to go, and it was becoming a point of tension instead of something fun. I was anxious, too, because it seemed like our schedule was filling up too quickly.  Suddenly, we didn’t have time for the things that brought us true joy: exploring new places, local travel, digging deep into topics of interests by spending long days reading, playing games, doing experiments, watching movies and talking.

It was time for a change.

I took a careful look at our weekly schedule and asked myself a few questions.

1. Are we participating in the activity because we (ok, this usually means I!) think we should do it or because we really want to do it and it fits in with our goals?

I’ve always had a problem quitting things. It makes me feel like I’m giving up…like I can’t be counted on. For some reason, being known as a reliable, responsible person has always been important to me, even when I was little.

That’s not to say that I haven’t quit things before. I’ve quit lots of things before when I was only accountable to myself. For some reason, that hasn’t bothered me too much until lately. I guess that’s the reason why I haven’t seriously pursued some big dreams (although that could become an entire post in and of itself!)

But I have a hard time telling others no or that I quit, even when it’s bringing me unnecessary stress or keeping me from goals and dreams that mean so much more.

While I think it’s important to follow through on commitments, if those commitments are no longer bringing you closer to important goals or dreams, it’s time to let them go. Give others plenty of warning and time to replace you if necessary, but I’ve learned that

Even good things can get in the way of greatness.

 2. Do I want to eliminate something from our schedule or just redirect our priorities?

I faced this question when I considered our commitment to going to our Monday co-op meeting.

We’ve made many friends there, and we do like participating in many of the activities, especially the park days in the summer.

So instead of saying we would stop going, we’ve decided to go twice a month instead of every week. This way we can still hang out with the group and have more time for local travel and trips.

What are the two to three top priorities in your life…..those things that you need each day to make you feel alive? What are the two to three things for each of your kids?

This isn’t to say that you won’t do more than those 2 or 3 things. But if you keep a firm commitment to doing always doing something each day to get closer to achieving two or three big goals, you’ll get closer to reaching those goals and dream much faster.

It may be hard to focus when you have lots of things that are interesting to you. That’s been my problem for awhile. But I’ve learned that when I jump around from thing to thing, nothing ever gets finished. So I have some things that I prioritize every day…things that I do no matter how tired I feel or whether or not I’m in the mood to do them. Then I fill in the rest of the day with others things I need to or like to get done.

I share these details of our schedule to encourage you that you don’t need to stick with things that are bringing tension or stress to your family….even if they were once things that brought you joy.

It’s never too late to change how you structure your weeks. The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate what’s working for you and what’s not, but never let the time of year stop you from changing when things aren’t working.

Photo Credit: Neil T

How is your weekly schedule? Are you committed to things that are not bringing your closer to your dreams and goals?  What about your children’s goals and commitments?

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  • Lori Pickert

    making decisions based on your values and goals is absolutely key. and good quitting is part of that. great post!

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  • Tee jenkins

    Thanks for sharing your insight. I have done Chalene Johnson’s 30 day push challenge and it’s all about exactly what you describe. I smiled as I read your blog because I’m currently working on this very thing. You would so love the challenge. The next one is February 1st. –Tee Jenkins

    • christinapilkington

      Thanks for the idea, Tee! I just checked out the website. The philosophy seems similiar to Leo Baubota from Zen Habits. I agree that creating positive habits seems to be the best way to reach a dream or goal. I’ve always had the bad habit of trying to create too many good habits at one time. I overwhelm myself and then never continue with any of them. I’m trying now to change just one or two things at a time until it’s become a part of my lifestyle before moving on to doing something else. I’m working with the kids on doing to same, thing, too.

  • Sue Elvis

    Hi Christina,

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment!

    You have a great blog full of wonderful ideas. I will have to explore it more fully.

    This post reminds me of how I hate committing to groups, especially homeschooling groups. I really value our free days and our own time table. We don’t seem to homeschool like any of our friends so I find getting together in an educational way a bit frustrating. I prefer getting together with friends purely for social reasons, and in an informal way. We do schedule some outside lessons into our week like music and sports activities, but we are happiest when a whole empty day stretches before us. The possibilities are exciting!

    • christinapilkington

      Thanks for stopping by, Sue! I was so glad to have found your site since the way you homeschool is very similiar to how we do things, too. I find that we are most happiest when we have at least two days where we stay home for most of the day. It’s those days that I notice how really creative my kids are. They’ll spend 3-4 hours developing the same pretend game. When we’re rushing all the time, they seem tense. They need that time to be creative. And I agree that, especially in the younger years, kids just getting together for play is the most important thing. They like their book group where they can talk about similar books they’ve read, but science time and even writing workshops at this age don’t work well. They have their own pace and things they like which dosen’t work best in a big group environment.

  • Jessica

    I never plan whole year activities. I look at our year as two semesters (even though we work through most of the summer so we can take August and December completely off) and we re-evaluate what works, what does not work, what we want to add and what we want to drop. The only exceptions to this are music lessons, which we do year round. But since this is a passion for my girls, it is a non-issue.

    Growing with your children means constantly evaluating our activities. Knowing when something is not working is important and making changes mid-stream is far more valuable than suffering through the unwanted stress and anxiety.

    • christinapilkington

      I so agree! It’s hard to get out of the mind-set sometimes that you don’t have to continue with something even though you had planned on doing something. When I make plans and don’t complete them, I usually feel like I’ve failed somehow. Having kids is helping me change this way of thinking, especially after all the research and first-hand experience I have with how children, and everyone really, learns best. We learn all year long with no breaks, because they works really well for us. I don’t plan any breaks. We just take days off to do things outside of our ordinary weekly routines and activities as the opportunities and moods come up. What this means really is that we set aside two hours a day to do activivties with each other. Before six months ago, I would try to do things as the kids wanted to, but it got to be frustrating because I never knew how much time I would have to get my things done during the day. Now we usually spend those two hours in the morning, but not always, and the kids know they have 100 percent of my attention to work on projects or learn new skills. It’s working for now, but I’m sure things will shift and change the older they get.

  • Katie

    This is so true. It is hard to leave things. As home educators it is several years since we have had a regular group commitment as we got to the ‘chore’ stage with several things that moved from fun to obligation.

    I understand your point. It is like you are the CEO of the family and no one else will say “Webare overcommited / overstretched” Clubs and groups are expensive too leaving less money for spontaneous days out.

    One thing I’ve found helpful is meeting adults in the evenings without children so that when we go to museums / galleries together we can focus on talking with our children knowing that we have adult chances to chat.

    We need to be home for home education to happen in a way and in addition I find our family sibling dynamic really suffers if we don’t get the in / out social / family balance right.

    • christinapilkington

      My kids are still young, so I know this will be a challenge I’ll constantly have to revisit. Even though we live an unschooling life and really, really love to be out exploring new things, it just gets to be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Ideally, I’d like to stay home (or at least not drive anywhere) for two days out of the week. I liked how you put it- things change when fun moves into chore or obligation. I don’t want us to necessarily quit something when it becomes a little tough, but there’s no point in continuing something that’s no longer helping us reach our goals. I guess the balance is the trickiest part.

  • Katie Kearns

    Yes. Every last word of this — including not trying some big dreams. Having to quit a big dream is hard… I’ve done that, too.

    • christinapilkington

      That is really hard – knowing when to let go of a big dream. I guess in some cases you have no choice. But maybe those dreams change into something else – like the heart of the original dream stays the same, it’s just the form the dream has taken has changed.

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