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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Monday Morning Check In: Value your priorities

What is a priority? The Merriam-Webster dictionary instructs us that a priority is the state of being before something else: "something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives." I like this last phrase because it sums up nicely how priorities work.

Our lives are filled with competing alternatives at any given time. How do we manage our time and activities so that we get the most return and satisfaction for our efforts? One way is to use the urgent/important matrix promoted by Dr. Stephen Covey. For more information about the matrix and an excellent article about how to use it, visit the Mind Tools website here. Another way is to focus on your values and give them the time and attention that they deserve.

Why did this subject come up today? I was thinking about the state of the studio, which started back up about a month ago. I was thinking back to the progress I observed with my students and parents as they got back into a regular practice routine. I also observed when parents and students got off the regular routine practice track and noted the causes. This reflection led me to thoughts about priorities and how to help parents and teachers set guidelines for turning things into priorities.

The best way to maintain any regular routine is to establish the activity as a priority. This means that the activity takes precedence over other "competing alternatives." How do we determine which activities take precedence over other activities?

I start out my thinking by deciding which activities are important to me. When it comes to children, the question is a no-brainer for me. Children and their activities have the highest priority in my opinion. If the activities are important enough for us to enroll our children, then it seems to me that we should place importance and devote time and attention to the child's activity.

When I consider my priorities, I begin my reflection about what is important to me and about what I value the most. My values are my foundation, and I would argue that this should be the starting point for all of our decisions. When I talk about values, I am referring to those ideas and principles that I hold most dear: children, honesty, fair dealings, loyalty -- the list can be quite extensive. I assume that for other parents and teachers, children would top the list of values, and therefore priorities. And now I have reached the point that I wanted to stress today.

If children are valuable to us, then anything we do that is associated with children – our children – should be given the highest priority. If we have made the decision to enter our children in certain activities, then we should honor our commitment by following through with what the chosen activity requires such as attendance at lessons and group classes and regular practice.

I want parents to spend this week thinking about this issue of children and priorities. Do our decisions about activities, practice, lessons, and group class attendance line up with our values? Are we giving priority to our children's activities? If our actions do not line up with our value system, then perhaps we need to reevaluate our priorities. Perhaps we need to be clearer about what our values really are.

I think it is an excellent idea to revisit the issue of personal values from time to time, as this one area most affects what decisions we make and what priorities we assign to those decisions. I recommend that we set our priorities to line up with our values, and then we should value our priorities.

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