Priorities and Nested Priorities: #24 of 28 Big Ideas from the World of Coaching

This article is twenty-fifth in a multi-part series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices* (Everything Goes Media, 2017).


24. Priorities and Nested Priorities

“You can have anything you want, but not everything.”

— Laura Lang

With all that we’re grateful (big idea 23) for fresh on our minds, we move on to those things that matter most to us. As we coach ourselves, working on assorted aspects of our lives, bringing about better results for ourselves, creating desired realities, one area we will butt up against that is rife for exploration is our priorities.

Inherent in the concept of priorities is import, but so is rank. Some things matter to us more than others and, basically, how we order those things also matters. How we layer and nest, integrate and compartmentalize the priorities from different areas of our lives will have consequences — and so will the fact that we have priorities, know what they are, and use them as guidelines.

How about some quick demos? Consider a person who values most their family, financial stability, and community involvement. How different does that individual’s life look depending on which of those priorities falls in the one, two, and three slot?

Try it on yourself. Pick any three things of high worth to you and do some quick snapshots of your life and your decision-making process when you rearrange those in varying first, second, and third positions. What if you drop one of those priorities and slip something in its place? It matters.


Nested priorities refers to the broader picture of how priorities from all the areas and roles of our life fit together. For instance, while we may have overall priorities, we likely have subgroupings of priorities tucked within those or clustered on the periphery somehow: Priorities for home, for work, with our spouse, with our children, with our parents, with our friends. Priorities for our health, for our finances, for our social lives, for our creative projects. There’s how we order things in conditional situations: When “x” happens, then “a,” “b,” and “c” matter, but when it’s “y,” then it’s “b” first, then “a,” and then maybe “d.”

In this series so far, we’ve looked at twenty-four coaching concepts — while some broadly considered were true ideas and fundamental principles, others are better described as tools, frameworks, or skills. This one is in the latter grouping and I’m branding it an out-and-out shortcut. Knowing our priorities and using their relative order provides ease, convenience, order, comfort, and security. It’s a shortcut to satisfaction, productivity, and living on purpose.


You Coaching To-Do’s

⎕ Spend some time in your journal writing lists of your priorities — what matters most in your life, both overall and for the most important areas and roles of your life. Play around with re-ranking those lists (diagrams and pictures may help) and seeing how they fit together. How do your priorities overlap? Where do they not mesh? What changes when the order changes?

⎕ After a walk or meditation session in which you reflect on your priorities as a whole and those specific to particular areas of your life, return to your journal and consider if you’d like to change the order of any of them. Are there priorities to add or subtract from any of the lists?

⎕ Today as you go about your life and daily activities, note where your priorities come into play in your habits and in the decisions you face. Consciously refer to a mental list of priorities to help with your choices. Experience the ease, comfort, and confidence of knowing what your priorities are in a given situation. How does it feel to act in accordance with them?

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