Recently I was talking with a friend about how I wanted to do something, but I didn’t have time.
“Don’t have time!” was the response, “I don’t buy that. We all have the same amount of time. What you mean is that it is not a priority.”
I protested, “No, you don’t understand – I have this commitment and that commitment – I have to make money to pay the bills. I’m a freelancer and when I am busy that takes most of my time. I have to invest time with my spouse to keep our relationship together. I just don’t have any more time.”
“Mike,” He said, “It’s not a matter of time, It is a matter of priorites.”
He went on, “What if I told you that I had a Mercedes Benz for you – one that I didn’t want anymore, and handed you the keys. What if I told you that the only condition was that you had to pick it up before tomorrow at noon, at a place that was a 2 hour drive from here.”
He said this knowing I had meetings galore booked for the next day. Fair enough. I’d break whatever commitments or plan I had, and I’d go and get the free Benz.
So now I have been trying to work that in to my speech. If I catch myself saying “I don’t have time for that”, I will attempt to correct myself and say “That is not a priority for me”. This is much closer to the truth.
It is a double edged sword.
On the one hand, I have lost the excuse. When I say “I don’t have time”, it’s as if I am stating a fact about my environment – something I can’t control like the weather. As soon as I say “it isn’t a priority for me”, I realize I am responsible for my own lack of interest.
At the same time, I become aware of how it doesn’t have to be that way. I could make anything a priority for me. Likewise, if something is taking up my time and I don’t want it to, I could arrange my life so it is no longer a priority. It is an empowering way to shift thought about the stuff you have to get done each day. Things take time, and time calls for priorities, but ultimately, you get to choose what your priorities are.
Throughout our decision to move, we had hundreds of decisions about priorities, big and small. We had decisions about the priority of things we are taking with us and things we weren’t, and we had decisions about the priority of our careers, the adventure awaiting us in Victoria, the possibility of actually affording real estate there, leaving the comforts of Vancouver, and so on. I’ve been thinking about my priorities a lot lately.
So yesterday, it seemed kind of funny when I got a fortune in a fortune cookie after eating at a local Chinese restaurant:
“NOW IS THE TIME TO SET PRIORITIES”
Truer words were never spoken. Excuse me – I have a lotto ticket I need to buy.