It’s clear that we aren’t always free to choose our priorities exactly how we want them. If we could, every loved-up couple would spend all their time together and hardly anyone would turn up to work anymore. However, we do have control over our lives and therefore it’s worth it to take a look at our actions versus our intentions.
In the following, I’m going to help you gain clarity about your own, deepest priorities in life. If it turns out they aren’t aligned with your life situation, I’m also going to suggest steps to take towards balancing priorities with the demands of life.
Let’s dive in.
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What really matters to you?
Open a new text document, or if you prefer, take out pen and paper. I would like you to take five minutes to write down your priorities. Be sure not to write what you think is expected of you (family, kids and so forth feature on most people’s lists, but please don’t put down anything just because you feel it’s “the right thing” to focus on). Nobody will see this list apart from you, so be completely honest with yourself.
I suggest you start out by brainstorming anything that’s important to you without regard to the order in which you write them down. Once your list is complete, you can try ranking it. You should end up with at least five items (there might be as many as 15, or more) saying anything from “my husband” to “table tennis” and “time spent alone in nature”. Don’t forget to include worldly matters like success in your job or making money.
The moment of truth
Next, start a new page and write two more lists:
1. A list of the things you spend money on each month.
2. A list of where you spend your time every day and week.
The first list will be easy to put together if you’ve done the first part of my free money training series. One of the exercises was to write a list of all your expenses in a month. If you haven’t done the training yet, it’s still there for you whenever you wish to do it, and in the meantime you can simply write down your expenses by yourself.
Number 2 is even easier: How many of your weekly waking hours do you spend at work, doing housework, chauffeuring your kids, following your passions, with loved ones, exercising, etc etc? Rank this list, too, and the money list, by largest amounts of time respectively money spent. Now compare these two lists to your list of priorities, the one you wrote out first. What do you see?
Your result and what to do about it
They say, “money talks”. I say, yes it does, and time talks, too. What does your comparison reveal? Do you spend your money and your time where your heart lies? Or is your life out of alignment with your goals? The truth is that your priorities are wherever you spend your money and your time. It’s good and well to protest that other things are more important to you – as long as your actions, your life, don’t reflect this, your “priorities” remain pretty words.
This may sound harsh, especially since there are realities in life we all face, such as having to pay rent or a mortgage, and needing money for food. Like I said at the beginning of this article, most of us have obligations we cannot simply break free of, especially since they often affect other people in our lives as well, such as children or other family members.
At the same time, it’s still possible to align your life with what matters to you. Work and obligations only take up so much time. The rest of your day is up to you. You may argue that you’re tired in the evenings, but does TV really refresh you or is it just convenient? Look over your list again and find the time- and money-wasters. If you are serious about putting your money (and time) where your heart is, you’re going to have to learn money management as well as time management and be ruthless with anything that keeps you from living the way you want to.
It’s quite a process, and I gently suggest you get some support in the form of a buddy, a mastermind group, or a Coach. Your life is your own, and it’s up to you to shape it into a form you love! Otherwise, what’s the point? The effort is always worth it.