Translated into practical action, the first step of prudence is to set your priorities, objectives, goals and actions. Let's take a look at each of these steps to exercising prudence.
The first step to exercising prudence is to clarify your priorities. What do you hold as most important in your life? What will make you truly happy?
This is not just a subjective question. We really do need to have our priorities in the right order. The more disordered our priorities, the more energy we waste and the less fulfilled we are.
Once we set our priorities according to what will truly make us happy, we then need to live by those priorities. That's where the real challenge comes in.
The next step toward living our priorities is to set goals that align our lives with our priorities.
Goals are very general statements about the direction you want your life to take. They are based on your priorities - what is most important in your life. They lead you to create specific objectives.
|General directions.||Specific targets.|
|Help us to orient our lives according to our priorities.||Help us to advance our goals.|
|May be observable but they are not measurable.||Usually measurable.|
|Can never be completed or met.||May be ongoing (such as doing something every day), there is a specific end that tells you if whether the objective has been met or not (I did or did not do this task today).|
So, for example, a priority is to grow in my relationship with God. In order to do that I create a goal for myself of "improving my prayer life." To help advance that goal, I create a specific objective of "praying Morning Prayer before breakfast every day." Every time I accomplish my objective I advance my goal and therefore stay true to my priority.
It can be very helpful to set up an accountability system for goals and objectives. This can be a loved one with the ability to be brutally honest with you. Or you can use a technological solution. Personally, I use Toodledo as my task list, which helps you set goals and track how many of your completed tasks have contributed to each goal.
Setting the right objectives is really important. Here is where the rubber meets the road. Meeting an objective is the only way you know for sure that you are really living your goal and therefore are oriented to your priorities.
Here are some guidelines for setting good objectives:
1. Create each objective directly from a goal.
2. Don't go overboard! Set a few at a time. If your objectives have a point of completion, set new ones as you complete your current objectives. If they are are ongoing, wait until you have firmly established a habit before adding more objectives to your list.
3. As much as possible, make your objectives measurable. They should at least be observable and specific so you can definitively track if you've done them or not. It's even better to make them measurable - losing x amount of weight by a certain date, praying the Rosary x number of times in a certain time period, etc. That way you can get a sense of progress, or a specific plan for improvement.
4. Write your objectives down! Make them concrete. Writing them down also gives you the opportunity to review them on a daily basis. Keeping them fresh in your mind helps develop the willpower to follow through on them.
5. Identify possible obstacles to achieving each objective. These can be personal obstacles (the tendency to procrastinate) or external obstacles (having young children in the home). Then make a plan to overcome or get around these obstacles.