What priorities does a person have? How can you look at someone, at yourself, and tell what priorities they have. How can you tell if what they espouse is actually what they believe? This seems like a simple enough question personally. Surely a person knows what their own priorities are; right? Surely we can look inside ourselves and know what is important to us.
Perhaps, but what does having a priority even mean? Is it what we think about most? Is it what we spend the most time or money on? Is it is a bullet on a list that we write at the beginning of each year as a resolution? Webster’s claims a priority is something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives, or to put it another way, a priority is something that is given more importance than other things. So, if we take that a step further, having a priority means giving our attention to something before the alternatives that are competing for our attention.
If that is the definition, then in theory we should be able to look at what we spend time on (and perhaps money since we spend time to make money) and that should match what we “say” our priorities are. Does it? If you wrote down a list of your top five priorities, and then made a list of the top five time consuming activities of your day to day life, do they match? It is important to clarify that some things by default take more time, or money than others. For example, our body must get a certain amount of sleep, usually 6-9 hours for most adults. And we would be hard pressed to find a common full-time job that would allow us to work for an average of less than eight hours a day. Mortgages take a huge chunk of our income, so do cars, and so do taxes these days, at least for most of us, but that is a topic for another day.
So what time and money in particular are we talking about? Our free time. “Ha! What free time and money?!” That is the thought going thru many a head right now, but we do have it. For those few of you out there who really do not have any spare time or money, that is a different conversation. For the vast majority of us though, we have time each day, which is not consumed by sleeping or eating, or necessary work. I say necessary here because there is very much something as working too much, working more that we actually have too. For most of us, we do have money that is not consumed by car loans or mortgages or credit card debt. We have the time that we spend on reading books, watching tv, movies, or Netflix, texting or talking on the phone, working out, posting on Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, Youtube, or Goodreads. We have the time (and money) we spend going fishing, hunting, shopping, golfing, swimming, hiking, and so many other things. We have all of this “free” time. The question is, do we spend our free time and money on our claimed priorities? Do we spend it on the things we say are most important to us, or do we spend it on the competing alternatives?
Make a list. Just pick your top five to ten. It won’t take long. See what matches and what doesn’t. Do the things claimed as priorities align with the actions, the time and money spent? Making priorities, priorities may not be the easiest thing in the world, but I’ll leave you with a question which may put the need to do so in a bit of perspective, “What would your eighty year old self wish that you were spending time and money on now?” — JT Cope IV