What are your priorities in life?
In other words, what means the most to you?
Even more important: why does it matter to you?
The disturbing truth is that many of us are focused on goals and priorities that are harming us and other people.
Whether it’s society’s values we’ve been conditioned with, our own choices or a mix of both, it’s all too easy to slide into being motivated for all the wrong reasons.
13 signs your priorities are toxic (and what to do about it)
1) You’re focused on outside approval
Many of us live our lives for others.
I don’t mean that in a good way like Mother Theresa or serving the downtrodden.
I mean that we spend our mental and physical energy trying to live up to ideals that have been foisted on us by popular culture, friends, family or even strangers.
We are so concerned with what others may or may not think or feel about us that we forget what we think and feel about ourselves.
Common signs your priorities are toxic often tend to start with this issue.
2) You’re stuck in a dog-eat-dog mentality
You may have heard it said that we live in a dog-eat-dog world.
And you know what? It’s at least somewhat true.
Life is brutal, and only the strongest survive.
Religion tells us that love is stronger than death and that life continues in glorified form after our physical body is gone.
But there’s no doubt that this mortal life kicks everyone’s ass in one way or another no matter how strong their faith is.
The problem is that a dog-eat-dog mindset isn’t the only response to the hard reality of existence.
You don’t need to see life as always having a winner and a loser. It’s not a zero sum game.
Somebody doesn’t always have to lose for you to win, and in many cases a collaborative effort and solidarity can tender much better results and progress.
If you are stuck in the idea that there can only be one winner and one person who comes out on top, it’s a good marker that your priorities are toxic.
3) You basically hate life
If you’d asked me even six months ago what my priorities were I wouldn’t have even understood the question.
I was coasting, in the worst sense.
I wasn’t relaxed, I was just disengaged and done trying in life. I was convinced that it was all too much to figure out.
I felt a deep sense of frustration and disgust with all the overwhelming demands of life and my career.
I didn’t feel a desire to work harder or commit, I just wanted some miracle to come “save” me and give me the motivation and answers I’d been looking for.
This frustration kept building until I took part in a program called Life Journal.
Created by a teacher and life coach Jeanette Brown, this was the ultimate wake-up call I needed to stop dreaming and start taking action.
Click here to find out more about Life Journal.
So what makes Jeanette’s guidance more effective than other self-development programs?
Jeanette created a unique way of putting YOU in control of your life.
She’s not interested in telling you how to live your life. Instead, she’ll give you lifelong tools that’ll help you achieve all your goals, keeping the focus on what you’re passionate about.
And that’s what makes Life Journal so powerful, especially for those who are training to be life coaches.
If you’re ready to start living the life you’ve always dreamt of, you need to check out Jeanette’s advice. Who knows, today could be the first day of your new life.
4) Your priorities involve manipulating and lying to others
Is it OK to lie sometimes?
I believe it is. I believe that sometimes a white lie is preferable to the truth.
But then again, I’m a journalist.
Speaking more seriously, manipulation and lying can get you a lot of benefits: money, reputation, contracts, power, entertainment, sex.
Here’s what they can’t get you: self-respect or true love and friendship.
If you manipulate others to succeed in life, love and career, you’ll eventually end up empty-handed and out of luck.
All the wealth or power you might manage to get will be worthless, because nobody will truly trust you or love you.
Is that worth it? I’d say no.
5) You’re overly focused on material success
Many of us have very strong emotions around money and material success or failure.
I know I do.
The problem occurs when your whole life becomes oriented around making money and “getting yours” no matter the cost to your relationships or friends.
It’s surprisingly and depressingly common that people fully buy into a materialist mindset.
You want to grind and shine and get your bread no matter what it does to others.
But the truth is that money’s not inherently positive or negative.
It’s all about what you do with it.
I’d also venture to add that it’s all about what you do to get it.
So think hard before you structure all your values off paper chasing. You might find that you get lost in the process.
6) You let others mistreat you for benefits
There are many situations in life when you can get ahead by taking shit and mistreatment from others.
Whether it’s a boss, a lover or a random member of the “system” who disrespects you, the stakes are clear:
Shut up and take the hit or walk away and refuse to be part of the lie.
I’ve had this situation myself.
And it ended up all turning out for the best.
Although I never would have known it at the time.
Let me explain in point seven.
7) You seek status at all costs
There’s nothing wrong with having a high status in society.
Power and prestige can be used for good just as much as for ill.
But if your priorities are structured around getting status then they’re toxic.
As I said in the last point, I’ve had a situation where I walked away from being treated like a fool in order to be true to myself.
In fact, I’ve had many.
In my early 20s I sabotaged a chance to go to a top law school despite having an easy layup to enter.
After traveling two hours in the early morning in a bus, I arrived at the biggest bank building in a large North American city.
I met with three lawyers who were interviewing me and were alumni of the school I wanted to attend. They were nodding along and all was well. Then they asked me who I’d invite to speak at the law school if I could choose from anyone living or dead.
They wanted their JFK, their MLK Jr., their Gandhi. But I didn’t give it to them.
I said I’d invite a school janitor who could tell us about the reality of being a working person balancing life and career.
They were flabbergasted, humiliated and stunned.
I didn’t get in. But I broke through their bullshit, so for me it’s a win.
8) You crave power more than justice
Power and power relationships are part of life.
Predator and prey, consumer and producer.
But if your priorities revolved around wanting power more than you want justice, then they’re f*cked up.
What do I mean by justice?
I essentially just mean doing what’s right.
Imagine you’re given a choice between a $20,000 payout or saving an innocent person from going to jail for 5 years.
Which would you take?
When you like power and gain more than justice, you’d take the money.
But when you understand we’re all connected and that injustice against one is injustice against all, then you’d take option two.
9) You’re emotionally codependent
Emotional codependence is a really disempowering experience that many of us go through.
It can occur in romantic relationships but also in friendship, family relationships and at work.
This is basically where you have a pattern of toxic neediness and false salvation that replays over and over.
One person is generally the “savior” while the other is the “victim.”
This power dynamic often feeds into anxious and avoidant attachment styles as well.
There’s nothing wrong with being very invested in another person and caring about them deeply.
The problem with priorities that are entangled with a codependent cycle is that they become very weakening.
You begin to doubt yourself and everything you have experienced as you fit into your role of savior or victim.
If your priorities are based around pleasing others and are part of codependent relationships, they need to be rethinked.
10) Your ideology trumps your humanity
We all believe in various ideologies.
Even if you’re an atheist and an anarchist, you believe in those ideologies.
Ideologies and our beliefs can be strongly held, and that can be a very good thing.
But if your ideology trumps your humanity, your priorities are all out of whack.
Common examples include the willingness to physically harm others due to their identity or beliefs as well as the idea that you are superior.
You may have more money, power, strength or beauty than someone else, but this doesn’t make you any “better” than them.
That’s just a way to sink back into the zero-sum game and dog-eat-dog mindset I mentioned earlier.
You can strongly believe in various ideals and ideologies. But never let it make you forget that we’re all human.
11) You can’t tolerate disagreement
Life inevitably leads to many disagreements.
From arguing over an unfair price to feeling unfairly treated at work or disrespected in your relationship, disagreements are absolutely going to come up.
They won’t necessarily be fun or light, either.
Disagreement can be stressful, annoying as hell and tiring.
But sometimes you just need to accept when a disagreement arises and eventually move on.
You can’t always win and you can’t always reach a resolution.
But if your priorities are structured around you having to win every argument, they’re all wrong.
None of us can afford to live a life where everybody will like us or agree with us.
People hated Jesus Christ, just remember that.
12) You keep clinging to what’s out of your control
Life’s a really wild ride, and most of the control panel is completely outside our reach.
For the most part we don’t control any of the most crucial things in our life including when we’re born, when we die, who we fall in love with or what tragedies happen to us.
But we do control ourselves and have the power to make a difference in our own life and the lives of others.
The key is to focus on what we can do every day and the changes we can make, instead of the many things in existence that we just can’t control.
13) You’re trying to be ‘good’
If your priorities are structured around trying to be a “good” person and please others…
I have bad news for you.
You’ve got it all wrong!
Not only are most people who insist on being good often the opposite, they also limit their ability to really do good by being too focused on whether they are good.
Start focusing more on action and less on thinking about yourself or labels to attach to yourself.
You may be seen as a good person, a bad person or just irrelevant by society.
But what’s really important is what you do, not just your perception of yourself or what society thinks.
What’s the deal?
None of us are perfect, so what’s the deal with expecting anyone to have noble priorities?
Well, the fact is that priorities are like the engine inside a car. They make it run.
You can look as great as you want on the surface or have all sorts of alterations or decal work done.
But the heart of the machine is still going to define its value, its abilities and its destiny.
That’s why figuring out and reorienting your priorities if necessary is so crucial.
Knowing your priorities and consciously reshaping and choosing them is a huge part of becoming empowered in life.