How to prioritise what matters
Three years ago, a friend died in her early fifties from cancer. It was sudden and a shock to us all, a shock that prompted many of us to re-evaluate our lives. We vowed to focus on the important things – our hopes, dreams and deepest longings – and to stop sweating the small stuff. I said I wanted to get a dog, something I’d been talking about for a decade or more. Another mutual friend said she wanted to travel the world. I met this same friend a few days ago and we noted that, three years on, I still hadn’t got a dog, although I’d begun my search in earnest, and she hadn’t travelled the world (or found a way to do so once the pandemic eases). It happens, doesn’t it?
We set intentions, make resolutions and create vision boards. We acknowledge that life is short and we make a promise to ourselves that we’ll prioritise what matters and make time for the things that will make the biggest difference to us as individuals: love, a healthy relationship, a bigger family (be that of children or animals), more community, a career change, a move to the coast or the countryside, a dream adventure.
But then a month passes or six months or a year and we realise that we haven’t moved forwards as much as we’d have liked to. We fall into a comfortable routine. We put things off. We make inroads but then we backtrack, or our plans fall by the wayside. Until another seismic event shakes us up and prompts us to re-examine our priorities.
The global coronavirus pandemic has reminded us once again of what matters: health, love, family, friends, belonging, community as well as some other life goals we may have put on the back burner. No matter how much or how little the pandemic has touched our lives, it’s given us a healthy dose of perspective.
So how can we take this perspective and run with it so that we don’t neglect our dreams going forwards?
Let’s take love, dating and romance. The pandemic has hindered or scuppered social interactions in some parts of the world but restrictions are lifting, so what steps can you take to reinvigorate your love life and give it the attention it deserves?
The first step might be to notice how you’re feeling about your romantic life. Are you feeling hopeful, excited, depressed, panicked or overwhelmed? How is your mindset? How are you feeling about socialising more going forwards, especially if your social life has been restricted for the last year?
Knowing how we feel is vital information. Being aware of our feelings will help us to date mindfully and consciously, and feeling our feelings will help us to heal them. (Read my Christian Connection blog on how to connect to your feelings here).
The second step might be to ask God for your next right action. Do you feel prompted to sign up to a group event in real life or to contact someone online? And be prepared: if someone asked you on a date, do you have something to wear you feel comfortable in?
You might also want to ask God for courage – courage to overcome the fears that plague many of us when it comes to dating and looking for love. These fears are often deeply rooted in our psyches and connected to our childhoods.
Understanding our fears is vital. We may think we don’t have time to date, or we might conclude that there’s nobody out there to date – that all the eligible people are taken. We might say: What’s the point? I never meet anyone I want to go out with. Or who would want to go out with me?
From my own experience and from my coaching work, I know that these thoughts and beliefs often disguise fear: fear of rejection and abandonment, of loving and losing, of being suffocated and trapped, of making the wrong choice, of being controlled, of hurting others or getting hurt.
Our fear often shows up as procrastination and avoidance. We delay taking action or we make excuses and find reasons not to go after our heart’s deepest desire.
I did this when I was dating. My work was my primary way of avoiding spending time on my romantic life. My busy career gave me an excuse to avoid facing my fear of loving and losing, of hurting and getting hurt, of feeling trapped.
Fortunately, I eventually understood the truth – that I was afraid to love – and with this understanding, I could work through my fears in order to find and form a healthy relationship and commit to marriage.
I see now that I’ve allowed my fear to block me from getting a dog. I’ve come up with lots of rational reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea. But beneath them all, there are similar fears to the ones that kept me single for years – fear of commitment, of feeling trapped, of not being able to love or perhaps of loving it so much that I’d be terrified of losing it.
But when we allow fear to run our lives, we miss out on love, and this is such a shame because, as coronavirus has taught us once again, life is short and love is the most precious thing.
I hope this inspires and motivates you to prioritise your dreams and to understand and walk through your fears. It will be so worth it.