PRIORITIES: Clouded by Emotions



“Set your priorities right” or “Remember your priorities” are one of the most common phrases we hear, especially when we are being lectured by our parents, teachers, or anyone deemed as “wiser”. It is effortless how those words slip out of their mouths but it is the root of all the I-suck-at-time-management and I-procrastinate-a-lot struggles that we face almost every day (more significantly observed in university students, if I may add).

Now the question is: Why is setting our priorities not as simple as it sounds?


If someone asks me that, my answer would be, “Maybe, we think we know what’s important to us but we don’t. It is as if something important gets tossed in our lives every day and we have to keep figuring out the sequence of their importance.” And so, leads us to another question, “Did my answer even make any sense?”.

I would like to believe that priorities and values are correlated. First of all, we all have different values and we measure ourselves by different metrics accordingly. For instance, if we value honesty, then our metrics will probably be, “I want to live a happy life free from having to manipulate or to trick people.” Or if our value is popularity, our metrics will perhaps look like, “I would like to be the most popular girl/boy at school”. Based on such values, we decide what to prioritise in our life: career or love, honesty or wealth, stable income or creativity, so on and so forth.

To explain further, allow me to bring up the scenario illustrated in Mark Manson’s book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***”. The scenario takes us back to 1983, when a young, talented guitarist was heartlessly kicked out of the band with no solid reasons; he was just handed with a bus ticket home and pointed towards the door. Just like that, Dave Mustaine was kicked out of the legendary heavy-metal band, “Metallica”. With feelings of anger, resentment, and self-pity, he vowed to form a new band that would be more successful than Metallica and would make them regret their decision forever. Therefore, success was his value and his metric was to measure his success and popularity against Metallica.


He successfully carried out his vow; he went on and formed one of the greatest heavy metal band, “Megadeth”. They both were and still are equally remarkable heavy-metal bands (their popularity is subjective to our preferences), but it did not completely take away Mustaine’s feeling of being a failure and being “the guy who got kicked out of Metallica” as he admitted that in one of his interviews. The reason behind this is because Mustaine set his priority to not only be incredibly successful, but to be more successful than Metallica as well. In return, he suffered the fear of recording fewer albums, selling less music, going on fewer tours, etc. Looking back, he would have lived a happier life and appreciated his accomplishments better if he prioritised differently and solely focused on what he loved to do: make music. Instead, he prioritised the competition.

With this story in mind, we sometimes need to reconfigure what is important to us and what needs our attention more. Sure. Finding a significant other is a big deal for us, young people. However, how important is it to us? Are we willing to chase others at the expense of our friends? Or our career? The answer may vary accordingly to each individual, but the bottom line is that our emotions are not very reliable when it comes to making decisions, like how Mustaine made his vow out of anger. Regardless of how overwhelming our emotions are, we cannot let them pilot our lives and arrange our priorities.


Needless to say, going out with our friends and pushing off our assignments until the deadline seems more like an emotionally appealing idea that we feel like prioritising over other things. We need to take a step back, reconsider our priorities and make smarter decisions – it is a tactful habit to keep questioning ourselves of our emotions and actions. To sum everything up, life is all about learning and getting to know ourselves a little better every day. It is best to spread our focus on the important matters in our lives; give less attention to the irrelevant things, and struggle-but-not-give-up our way through this partly exhilarating and partly depressing rollercoaster – life.

#priorities #emotions #reflection