I usually don’t get swept up in social media trends. But, I thought that 2019’s ‘10 Year Challenge’ was fun. I also thought it was a great way to reflect on your life’s journey. When I looked at a picture from ten years ago, it took me back to a different place. I wasn’t settled in my career yet. Sometimes I still contemplate what I want to do with my life. But ten years ago I was also in a different house in a faraway town. My inner circle was slightly different, too — and people have come and gone.

I was younger and less wise, but my priorities haven’t really changed. The things that were important to me in 2009 are just as important to me in 2019. Sure. The specifics might have changed, and they’ve been shuffled around. But, my three main priorities in life were right there starring back at me when I looked at my younger self.

Why only three priorities? Well, as Schoolhouse Rock tells me (and now many things in business) — three is the magic number. And, as author and business consultant Jim Collins famously said, “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”

What exactly are these three magical priorities in life? Well, it’s simple. Your health, relationships, and purpose.

1. Health.

“He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.” — Arabian proverb

It wasn’t until ten years ago that I took my health more seriously. I’m in no way a fanatic. But, I realized that as I was getting older, I wasn’t as spry. I needed to get more active. To feel better about me, I needed to walk up and down a long set of stairs without being winded.

It’s also been beneficial to my work as well. By making sure that I eat a balanced diet, squeeze in some physical activity, and get enough sleep, I have the energy and focus on getting things done. It’s hard to be productive when you’re tired and feel sluggish all day.

Besides my physical health, I’ve also taken measures to address my mental well-being. I used to pretty pessimistic. It made me stressed and anxious. Most concerning, it prevented me from experiencing new opportunities and living the life that I wanted to have. Also, when you’re struggling with your mental health, it negatively influences your physical health, like what you eat, not having the motivation to be active, or getting enough z’s.

Furthermore, when you neglect your health, you can’t be there for others. Just imagine trying to chase your kids around when you’re out of shape. How valuable of a teammate will be you when you’re hurting emotionally? And, because your health impacts your productivity — will you be able to meet deadlines?

Make no mistake about it, my friends. Your physical, mental, and emotional should always be your top priority. After interviewing over 200 ultra-productive people, including seven billionaires, 13 Olympians, 20 straight-A students, and over 200 successful entrepreneurs, Kevin Kruse discovered that a majority of them had a morning routine that encouraged healthy habits. While these varied from person to person, they often included nurturing their body and mind through light exercise, meditation, and journaling.

Healthy tips.

  • Focus on eating nutritious food, including the snacks that you munch on in the office.
  • Drink plenty of water, it’s recommended around eight 8-ounce glasses daily.
  • At least 30-minutes of moderate exercise per day.
  • Get between 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night.
  • Make your mental health a priority by taking breaks from work, doing the things that you enjoy in life, and practicing gratitude.

2. Relationships.

“If you want to do really important things in life and big things in life, you can’t do anything by yourself. And your best teams are your friends and your siblings.” — Deepak Chopra

There’s a famous study from Harvard on the secret to happiness. It’s one of the longest-running studies on the topic. Anyway, the project began in 1938 and followed 724 men for the next 80 years. The research, however, went on to include the men’s offspring and other control groups.

“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships have a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

Close relationships, it was found, make people happier then fame or fortune. It also positively influences your mental and physical health. “Loneliness kills,” said Waldinger. “It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”

“Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains,” Waldinger stated during a TED talk. “And those good relationships, they don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”

Relationship tips.

Yvonne K. Fulbright Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today that you can improve any relationship by:

  • Withholding criticism.
  • Owning your statements
  • Accepting feedback
  • Being 100% present during conversations.
  • Scheduling frequent check-ins
  • Expressing your gratitude and appreciation

One lesson that I’ve learned is to stop wasting your time with toxic people. Those individuals aren’t just a drain on your time and energy, but also your well-being. And, if you spend too much time with them, you’re missing out on quality time with more positive and supportive people.

3. Your “why.”

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost anyhow.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

“Knowing your why is an important first step in figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you and create a life you enjoy living (versus merely surviving),” writes Margie Warrell for Forbes. “Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.”

In other words, your ‘why’ is your purpose in life and business. Identifying this will also enable “you to focus on what matters most.” It will also compel you to take risks and persevere.

Tips on finding your ‘why.’

Not exactly what your ‘why’ is? Here are four questions that Warrell says you should ask to identify your ‘why.’

  • What makes you come alive?
  • What are your innate strengths?
  • Where do you add the most significant value?
  • How will you measure your life?

If you’re still uncertain, then use the Golden Circle model developed by Simon Sinek. It’s a free tool that will provide the framework for identifying your, ‘why.’

Making the time for your top three priorities in life.

The problem isn’t that we aren’t aware of these priorities. I think deep down inside, we realize the importance of health, relationships, and purpose. It’s that we often complain that we don’t have time for them.

That’s baloney.

The reason why you make this proclamation is that prioritizing means sacrificing something else. To improve your health, for example, you may have to put yourself on a strict diet. That means you can’t hit up that new burger joint or lay on the couch streaming movies after work and into the night.

It’s about learning how to say “no” more often. Instead of overburdening yourself by overcommitting at work, you don’t take on a new project or put in a 60-hour workweek. On the flip side, when you’re at work, that means you can’t play hooky and have a Ferris Bueller day off.

Moreover, it’s maximizing the time that you do have. That involves mastering time management skills like batching and focusing on your most challenging tasks when you have the most energy. It’s also getting creative. For example, you could prioritize your health and relationships by going for a daily walk with your spouse or visiting the gym three times per week with a friend.

In conclusion, you know what your main priorities are in life. Now it’s time to stop making excuses and go after them.