The start of the year is when many companies, organizations, families and people review their plans and their priorities. This process often includes deciding where they should focus their time, energy and effort, and how to judge, at year's end, whether they have succeeded.
Planning is most successful when it is built on the priorities, opportunities and problems that need to be addressed. If the biggest problem one has is health, then health should be the focus. If a person is in good health, but cannot meet his or her financial obligations, then the key priority would be finance -- making more money or cutting expenses, or both.
People's priorities and plans should be aligned so that they not only get what they want, but can use it in the way that they want. Otherwise, one could have more of what one already has (money), but die of a heart attack.
While the Democrats and Republicans have seemingly staked out their 2014 campaign lines -- income equality (Democrats) and opposition to the Affordable Care Act (Republicans) -- both parties might want to use the new year to reconsider their priorities and plans based on real information -- from Americans.
According to a Gallup poll release this Wednesday, the problems listed by Americans do not match with current party lines. (Telephone interviews conducted January 5-8, 1,018 adults, sampling error plus or minus 4 percentage points, 95 percent confidence level).
"Although none is dominant," Gallup noted, "the government, at 21 percent, leads the list of what Americans consider the most important problem facing the country. The economy closely follows at 18 percent, and then unemployment/jobs and health care, each at 16 percent. No other issue is mentioned by as much as 10 percent of the public; however, the federal budget deficit or debt comes close, at 8 percent."
The top problem listed by Americans -- government -- includes "dissatisfaction with government/Congress/politicians; Poor leadership/Corruption/Abuse of power."
While that figure is at roughly the same level as it was a year ago, it is down from a high of 33 percent in October, when the government shut down.
But the shutdown was not the only source of dissatisfaction with this government. Other areas include NSA surveillance methods, continuing revelations regarding Benghazi, the IRS's review of politically affiliated non-profits and the ineffective rollout of the Affordable Care Act.