by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

My husband inadvertently taught me a lesson this weekend on how to set priorities and keep them.

It’s rare that two social events capture my husband’s interest in the same weekend. The first was the premiere of a movie he wanted to see and the second, a concert by one of his favorite musicians.

The problem with this scenario was that this weekend would also be a busy hay baling weekend. For anyone not familiar with what this means, he would have days so full of cutting, raking, baling and picking up hundreds of hay bales that he would have little time to think about adding more activities to his schedule.

During hay season he generally tells me he can make no promises on our social agenda. But this weekend was very different because our social agenda concerned him more than it did me!

Now don’t get me wrong. I was interested in doing these activities almost as much as he was. But I would not have been as disappointed if we didn’t do them. This brings me to the title of this column. It became clear as Friday came around, that come hell, hay or high water, we were going to the movies that day. And indeed we did, as well as the concert on Saturday evening. He finished baling on Saturday thirty minutes before we needed to leave. He cleans up fast when highly motivated! Who doesn’t?

I’ve decided that perhaps the best way to determine how to set our priorities in life could be to ask some questions. What matters most to us or what will we make time for — no matter what, in any event, in any case? What are we determined to do even if it is difficult? In other words, come hell, hay or high water, what ranks at the top of our preferences, what takes precedence, what has our highest regard, what is our greatest concern, what will sway us into immediate action, what is so paramount that we can’t live without it? I suspect you get the idea.

I can see how this type of questioning and reasoning can help us set priorities that are truly significant and important to us. And with priorities that have our utmost concern, we will be prompted, aroused and fired up into action. We will set goals that we are impelled to accomplish, yes, come hell, hay or high water. I suspect our time management skills would also greatly improve.

It’s interesting that it seems the source of the phrase “hell or high water” may have had its beginnings in the early 1900s during the cattle drives, when cowboys were herding their longhorns through high water of rivers and endured the hell of trail conditions between rivers. The original phrase was “in spite of hell and high water”.

Perhaps in spite of hell and high water speaks more about the determination required to accomplish a mission, reach a goal and maintain priorities. This brings to mind a long list of needed qualities such as persistence, perseverance, firmness, tenacity, resolve, fortitude, courage, boldness, stamina, steadiness, drive.

I can’t help but also think that a person striving to accomplish his goals and dreams or reach his destination, in spite of hell and high water, also has clarity of intention, purpose, reason, motive and rationale. Consequently, this person will be able to stay focused on his direction, mark and objective, and he will let nothing stop him from doing what he must — again, come hell, hay or high water!

No doubt these attributes were demonstrated by such Biblical characters as David when he conquered Goliath, Nehemiah when he rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem and Moses when he led the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness.

And as I said, I’ve learned a lesson this weekend about setting my own priorities — and also what it means to maintain them. Our priorities are important. And they need to be preserved and at times defended, come hell, hay or high water!