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Priorities and other Oxymorons

We hear a lot about priorities these days and their importance in leading healthy lives.  But as Greg McKeown points out in Essentialism, the concept of “priorities” (plural) is an oxymoron (you know, like “jumbo shrimp” or “a new classic”). For 500 years after its introduction to the English language, the word was always singular and meant “the thing of first importance”.  By definition we can’t have multiple firsts, so the recent shift to the plural usage of the term is nonsensical. Basically, it means “firsts”, which means…nothing

So the concept of priorities is meaningless and, in fact, may hold us back in significant ways.  How can we make decisions about what we should be doing when we have multiple “firsts” that govern our decision-making? 

The trick, it seems to me, is identifying the single priority which ought to govern our thinking in a particular area of our lives or at a particular moment. 

 

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