The Top 2 Things to Prioritize in Life: Family & Health

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the most important things to prioritize in life? How should you re-examine your priorities?

In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes dives into how she conquered her fears and made her life more fulfilling. One of the main ways she did this was by figuring out what her true priorities were and focusing on them.

Keep reading to learn what things you should prioritize in your life.

Re-Examine Your Priorities

Rhimes loved her career. Before her life-changing year, she happily gave it most of her time and attention. But during the year, she realized she had bigger things to prioritize in life: her family or her health. She started prioritizing playtime with her children and rethought her relationship with food. With these changes, she felt more alive than ever.   

Prioritize Pleasure and Play

To prioritize her family better, Rhimes committed to playing with her daughters more, which brought her immense joy and happiness. This meant that whenever her daughters asked her to play, she dropped everything and played with them, no matter what. Uplifted and refreshed by the joy of connecting with her children and the love they shared as a family, she felt more relaxed, creative, and grateful in all areas of her life.

Achieving this shift in priorities was not easy for Rhimes at first as it required that she create parameters with her job that she didn’t have before. Instead of letting work seep into her off-work hours, she committed to turning her phone off after 7 pm and avoided working on the weekends. Eventually, she found that her new relationship with work did not diminish her engagement with her job. In fact, she found the opposite—the more she prioritized playtime, the more energy and creativity she had for her work.

Key Takeaways

Anyone can prioritize playtime with their children, regardless of their life’s circumstances. For busy working parents, it might seem impossible, but Rhimes insists that it will not involve a significant time commitment. She found her daughters only wanted about fifteen minutes of playtime with her before they moved on to other things. 

(Shortform note: While Rhimes insists that every family can prioritize playtime in their schedules, this may be an overly optimistic and unrealistic expectation for many. Families with low income are not just commonly short on free time, but they also often struggle with having their fundamental needs met, like providing their children enough food. Experts estimated in 2021, more than 9 million children (one in eight) faced hunger. These families might find it hard to prioritize play.)

Play is not just for people with kids—play is about carving out time daily to do what brings you pleasure and joy. Prioritize your version of playtime and you’ll feel more centered, recharged, and fulfilled in your day-to-day life.

(Shortform note: In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown expands on the definition of play: Not only does play bring you pleasure and joy, it has no other purpose but to bring you pleasure and joy. This distinguishes playing from other fun activities. Research shows that playtime, no matter your age, can increase your ability to connect with others, boost your creativity, and decrease your stress.)

Prioritize Your Health

As courageous as Rhimes was in facing her social anxiety, she also took a brave and honest look at her relationship with her health and body. She decided that she would feel healthier and happier if she lost weight. By fully committing to the challenge, she succeeded in her goal, which connected her more to her body, boosted her confidence, and made her feel better physically. 

In choosing a healthier lifestyle, Rhimes worked to change her relationship with food. This was not an easy decision for her—eating was one of Rhimes’s greatest joys and main ways of coping with stress and uncomfortable emotions. However, she could no longer deny how unwell she felt physically, so she decided that choosing weight loss was more important to her than choosing to continue her eating habits. To successfully do so, she tapped into her strong work ethic and committed to being healthy.

Key Takeaways

Everyone’s body is their own, and everyone has the power to choose what health and happiness mean to them. If you are unhappy with your health and body, you can make different choices and commit to them fully. However, if you choose not to make those changes, then you should accept the outcome of that choice. For example, if you choose to play video games all weekend, don’t be upset about your stiff muscles on Sunday night. Accept that that’s the outcome of your choice.

Changing your relationship with your health is never an easy journey. If you recognize that it will be challenging, you’ll be better able to accept the difficult times and stay motivated.

The Top 2 Things to Prioritize in Life: Family & Health

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Here's what you'll find in our full Year of Yes summary:

  • The story of a woman who said "yes" to every opportunity for a year
  • How to go from surviving to full-hearted thriving
  • Why you shouldn't be uncomfortable with receiving praise

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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