Living with Priorities

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Jesus, from a very early age, had a sense of his life’s purpose. When he was only twelve years old, scripture shows us a child teaching the leaders of the temple in Jerusalem. As he grew to adulthood, this sense of purpose led him to seek out the disciples, put together a team that would continue the mission after he was gone, and equip them for that responsibility, even though they didn’t understand that was what was happening!

As a family caregiver, what’s your why, your reason for getting up every morning, for going through your day with purpose and intentionality? Do you have a sense that you are on a mission, or do you drag yourself from slumber dreading what the day holds? If purpose drives you out of bed each morning, your day begins with positive energy that pulls you forward. If, on the other hand, your day is weighed down with fear or dread, that negative energy will increase the gravity that holds you down and resists your day’s beginning.

We all need a sense of direction to frame our day, define our achievements, and give ourselves a sense of accomplishment in the overall scheme of things. Without this map our days lack meaning. Family caregivers who face daily uncertainty, challenges, or even monotony may find themselves struggling to define clear, quantifiable accomplishments by which to measure their progress, but these metrics are essential for finding that sense of purpose that will give you momentum. These can be as simple as doing an online yoga class, reading a scripture passage, writing in a journal, or posting to a blog. They might include doing a load of laundry, giving your loved one a bath, or taking a break while someone else pitches in to provide care.

The critical thing to remember is to start small. Don’t set five or six accomplishments daily! Start with two or three, or maybe only one. Accomplish just this for several weeks but give yourself rewards for every day it happens. Perhaps post it to Facebook to provide yourself with accountability and a platform from which to toot your horn. Celebrate each time you achieve your goals!

Chris and I wear Apple watches, and since January we’ve been working to close all the Activity rings each day. There are 3 rings: one measures 30 minutes of exercise, another measures how many calories are being burned, and a third encourages me to stand and move around every hour for at least 12 hours each day. The watch keeps track of most of this behind the scene, without requiring me to do much. I do tell it when I am exercising, but that’s about it. For the “stand” goal the watch will remind me each hour if I have not met the requirement for that hour. I have closed all three rings every day since early January, and now it’s a priority in my life. No matter what comes along in my day, I know I must find a way to get 30 minutes of exercise, burn at least 400 calories, and stand and move around some at least 12 hours in the day. Some days this means I’m walking fast laps in my house at 10 pm, or getting up at 5:30 am to go to the gym, but every day I’m committed to making this happen. It literally gets me out of bed each morning!

We all need clearly defined priorities that guide our actions each day. Our priorities give our lives foundation and structure; they identify who we are as individuals, as sons and daughters, as friends and family members, and as family caregivers. With that in mind, what are your priorities as a family caregiver? Do you want to enhance your loved one’s life by improving their hygiene, or help them re-engage with old friends, or involve them more in their grandchildren’s lives? And what about your personal goals? Do you want to lose 15 pounds, or exercise daily, or go to lunch once a week with friends? If you haven’t already defined your priorities for yourself or your loved one, spend some time in the next few days exploring what is important to you. Make a list and then whittle it down to what is realistic. Ask a couple of friends who know you well to help you with this, because they might bring clarity to a difficult task. Number your priorities first as 1-5, with 5 being most important. Remove all the 1’s and 2’s. Now take your remaining list and look at the 5’s. Prioritize them by importance. This is the list you will start working with, building priorities that will launch you each morning with purpose and energy for whatever the day holds!

Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how living with priorities helps you as a family caregiver.

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