Karen Horneffer-Ginter
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Remembering What's Most Essential

When our lives are busy and our calendars are full, the things that matter most in life can get lost in the density of our daily obligations and activities. It can help to have a strategy, not only for remembering what's most important, but also for remembering to remember what's most important. Here are five strategies to consider:

#1 Naming Our Priorities

Aside from Near Year's resolutions, we're not often asked to think about our priorities and intentions. For many of us, even if we do write something down on January 1st, we can forget what that something was by the time spring rolls around. It's helpful to set aside a little time each month to reflect on what feels most essential right now in our lives. Sometimes, this might be an outward action, like spending more time with our children or exercising more. Other times, we might want to focus on thinking more generous and compassionate thoughts, or stopping to take intentional, full breaths throughout the day as a way of being more present in our life. Chose one or two areas to focus on, and write down your intentions as a mission statement of sorts for the month ahead.

#2 Creating Reminders

It's helpful to have a method for reminding ourselves of the priorities we've named. We can create prompts that we'll literally bump into as we move through our day-to-day life. Sticky notes on bathroom mirrors and refrigerator doors work well, as do notes in our planner. We can even set our cell phones to sound reminders throughout the day. When what we're trying to remember involves our thoughts, or our way of showing up throughout the day, having some object on us-- like a piece of jewelry, or a stone in our pocket-- can also serve as a useful reminder.

#3 Creating a Special Space

In order to help ourselves remember what feels most essential, it's useful to carve out a space in our home that can hold special objects, photographs, or whatever else might inspire and remind us of what we most value. This space can be a shelf on bookcase, a small table, or a window sill. There's something metaphorically rich about giving space in the outer world to that which we want to give space to within ourselves.

#4 Taking Field Notes and Gathering Inspiration

Given that our lives are continually evolving, the gesture of naming what's essential can be viewed as more of an ongoing process than a one-time, or even an occasional, activity. Staying in conversation with ourselves about what needs attention in our life and in the larger world around us is a valuable practice. It's useful to carry paper and pen with us so that we can jot down thoughts and insights that might arrive at random times during the week. It's also helpful to notice any images or words we encounter that speak to us in some way. I know, for myself, these sometimes take the form of a quote I come across or a photograph that's been shared on the internet. These discoveries can feel like small treasures, offering inspiration about where we'd like to invest more time and energy, or what might bring greater balance to our lives.

#5 Taking Time-Outs

Although it can feel difficult to carve out time out for one more thing when our lives are busy, it's worth periodically taking time to sit and reflect on how we're spending our time and if our choices feel consistent with what we most value. When we've been on-the-go for long periods of time, we can lose track of our priorities. It becomes all too easy to get lost in our to-do lists and to forget the larger picture of what brings meaning to our lives. Stepping back from life, every now and then, helps us reconnect with our clarity and wisdom. Even if we don't have opportunities to do this in some formal way, we can at least take several minutes to sit down and turn our attention within-- allowing ourselves to remember what we most want to remember.

(written for www.Beliefnet.com)

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