Wired for More – Prioritizing in 2024

I am currently sitting in front of a fire in the mountains during the twilight zone between Christmas and New Year’s. I will admit that I have worn the same athleisure wear for two days and done more cooking this week than I did all year. Outside the windows of our cabin, the snow glistens in the moonlight, and inside, a hypnotic fire keeps me warm. This scene of domestic tranquility is in stark contrast to my normal life.

Like many of you, my days are typically filled with zooms, calls, meetings, errands, and appointments. My calendar feels like a bad game of Tetris, and Sunday night dread is often real as I prepare for the week. I complained about this to my best friend, who is brutally honest with me, and she said – “you wouldn’t have it any other way.” I didn’t appreciate her comment at the time because I could argue that I do “all the things” because I have commitments, goals, and a job. Yet, in reality, I set up this life and doubt I could operate at any other speed.

For those of us who are wired for more, we struggle to let opportunities pass us by. We are hungry to do more, to accomplish, and to succeed. It is no wonder that most of the women in my life are typical type A’s. The Policy Circle attracts doers and women eager to be positive changemakers.

I recently had a conversation with a powerhouse friend and Policy Circle partner who had an incredible opportunity presented to her, and she called to discuss it with me. It was a role that could be a game changer for her career, but it required tons of travel. She was torn because her son is 12 years old and struggling in school. As someone who has wrestled with this for 22 years, I asked her to consider the timing and how her son would need her only for a few more years while her career will likely go for another 25-30 years. I shared advice I received from a wise attorney mentor of mine who said there are windows of time with children, parents, and dear friends that are limited and finite, while our career is a series of horizons. My friend decided to let the big opportunity pass and focus on her existing work and son. It was painful, and she still questions if she let a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip through her fingers. Sound familiar?

So many of us struggle to reconcile our inner compass that points to new challenges and opportunities while honoring that core instinct to mother or care for others. It’s the conundrum without easy answers. I have a quote on my desk that says, “Say ‘Yes” when you can.” How does that line up with having a special needs child or a sick parent who needs you? How do we reconcile our hard-wired ambition with the demands and expectations of motherhood and being caregivers?

As we evaluate what worked or didn’t in 2023 and make our goals for 2024, perhaps we should carve out time for care – of others and ourselves. Maybe we leave margin in these lists of resolutions, rocks, and quarterly targets to simply be human and pay attention to the windows that are closing. Let’s dare to imagine that it does not make us any less interesting or accomplished if we become more discriminating and selective about where we spend our time and precious energy.

I joked last month that I would lean into “NO-vember” and finally stop jumping at every opportunity professionally. No surprise to my Policy Circle teammates – I failed miserably. That doesn’t mean I cannot try again – it is a new year, after all.

So, I encourage you to join me as we embrace the paradox of wanting more and less simultaneously. Let’s embrace the fact that we deeply desire to do more for our families, community, and, yes – ourselves. It is okay to seize opportunity, but let’s consider the costs – time, money, brainpower, and emotional energy. Let’s become savvy investors – those who know when to pass and when to jump.

Here are some helpful questions to ask when presented with a new commitment or opportunity:
-Does this fill my cup or drain my energy?
-Is this a non-negotiable activity – if yes, is the timing flexible?
-How does my “yes” impact others – my team or family?
-Does this commitment align with my goals for the year, or is it “extra”?
-What is the return on my investment of time, or will this help strengthen my relationships?

So, I lift my dry January glass and wish you a productive, peace-filled, and prioritized New Year! May we all lift one another up as we navigate the more, the less, and the just right!