We’re often not honest with ourselves about our priorities. Here’s what I mean: My wife has been going to a new fitness class. Some of the moms on my daughter’s softball team invited her to a new class where you got two free sessions and then the opportunity to purchase a long-term package. My wife likes these other women. She enjoys hanging out with them and wants to get to know them better. My wife needs to exercise. It’s been one of her goals for a long time that she’s just never been able to accomplish. She has a long history of fits and starts. After taking the two free sessions, she enjoyed the classes.
After we talked about how she enjoyed the class, how she enjoyed the company, and how she needed to exercise, she told me that she declined to purchase the long-term package. Why? Well, the class is held across town. It’s about a 40-minute round trip from our house. Plus, the class is held at 9:30 on Fridays. So, by the time she drives to the class, takes the class, and drives back home, her entire morning is shot.
“Let’s get this straight,” I said.” You enjoy the company, you enjoyed the class, and doing it helps you accomplish a goal that you’ve had for a long time, right?” “Yes”, she answered. “But you don’t want to do it because it’s going to take up time and isn’t perfectly convenient for you, right?” “Yes”, she answered sheepishly.
Now, before we go forward, how many of us have had a similar experience? We’ve had something, some goal, that we’ve wanted to accomplish for a long time. And when opportunities arise that will help us achieve that goal, it’s never the right fit. It’s either too expensive, too time-consuming, or the timing is not right, so we don’t make any progress.
Most of the time, this type of thinking helps us. We examine the opportunities available, scrutinize them, and decide whether they fit into our lives. We have to learn to cut out the non-essentials or our lives would be a mess.
However, this scrutiny often holds us back. We use it as a façade to hide from the uncomfortable things that we need to do, but are scared or unwilling to do. Now, it might be true that a particular opportunity is not the right fit for you. It might really be beyond your budget. The time required by the opportunity might really not be worth the time investment that it requires. It really might be bad timing given where you are in life. But, if this is a goal that you’ve had for a long time and you still haven’t achieved it, you need to look in the mirror. You need to ask an honest question of yourself of whether you’re simply making excuses not to pursue your goal. Because if something is always too expensive, if it’s always too time-consuming, if the timing is never right, the reality is that your stated “goal” is not really a goal at all. It might be a wish, but it’s certainly not a priority.
When something is a priority, we will spend money on it even if it’s expensive. When something is a priority, we will invest significant amounts of our time in it. When something is a priority, we will block out our schedule to do it. We often deceive ourselves regarding our true goals and our true priorities. We say we have a goal to do something, or we say that a certain thing is a priority to us, yet we are not willing to invest our money in it, give our time to it, or to miss other opportunities to pursue it.
I don’t care what you tell yourself or others about your priorities or goals, if you want to know your true goals and your true priorities look in two places: your bank statement and your calendar. Because it’s not what we say that reflects our true goals and priorities, it’s what we do. Our time and our money are our two most precious resources. And what we do with them tells the truth about our goals and priorities.
This was the truth that confronted my wife about the fitness class. The class, in theory, met her goals in that it enabled her to enjoy the company of her friends and get in better shape. Further, the routine and schedule of the class provided her with the accountability that had been missing from her past attempts to exercise regularly. In other words, this class provided her with everything she said she needed and wanted. So, what she had to ask herself, was whether she truly wanted those things. Did she really want to hang out with these women enough to miss other activities that she wanted or needed to do.? Did she really want to exercise enough that she was willing to miss other activities that she wanted or needed to do? Did she want to exercise enough to pay for it? Did she want to exercise enough that she would make herself accountable to doing so by committing to the group and the class?
These are the hard questions that we have to ask and answer if we really want to improve. There are tons of activities that compete for our time and our attention. And the things that we give our time to, that we focus our attention on, and that we spend our money on, are our true priorities. So we must look at those things, those areas where we spend our time and our money, and determine if they are really advancing us towards our goals or whether they actually reflect our true goals, regardless of the story that we tell ourselves. It’s hard to look in the mirror and admit that we haven’t really cared about losing weight, or spending time with our kids, or connecting with our wife, or developing our friendships, or whatever “goal” we’ve claimed to have. However, that realization and admission is often the very thing that spurs us to make the necessary changes in our lives.
I’m proud to say that my wife committed to the class. The class won’t build lifelong friendships overnight or immediately turn her into a fitness model, but it is progress, it is improvement, and it is a step towards achieving her goal. We all need to look at our lives so closely.