As part of my aim to spread energy and inspiration as a coach, I’ve started post daily thoughts and inspirations on Facebook and Twitter. This week, I came across a quote from Henry David Thoreau that got me thinking: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” I love this quote because it is so important for us to be aware of where we are spending our time and energy. Just by reading this quote you tend to think about where you waste energy: petty arguments, worries about money, or even thinking about people that irk you. When we open up to this, we can realize that maybe we don’t want to spend our time and energy on these things. For example, I may spend time worrying about money, negative relationships, or the dishes—all things that when I stop and think, I realize these things should be at the bottom of my priority list, so I want to reduce how much I’m paying for these things in life energy. Careful though! When we think about our wastefulness too much, we get into the mindset of scarcity: the fear of not having enough.
Whether we like it or not, where we spend our time reflects our values, and thus the direction we are presently heading. There is a theory about time and happiness that is reflected in a worksheet I’ll link below: when people spend their time in alignment with what they value, people tend to be happier. That makes sense; when we waste an afternoon on hold on the telephone we are frustrated! Thus, when we get a sense of what we are giving up for what, we can be more aware of where that line of action is directing us. East, west, or in a circle. If you go with Thoreau’s metaphor for a moment, what would it be like to “budget” you life? Is that the same thing as prioritizing?
Prioritizing can be so effective for some people because it creates intentional choice. Coaching is all about being more intentional about how we do things, think about things, and definitely how we spend our time. With that, you can then redirect and adjust your output. You may have once done this with your decision to pay for locally and ethically raised meat or eggs—I know students who have spent their money according to those values despite income—because it puts you in control of making your corner of the world a better place.
Time is tricky for so many of us. We all say at least once a day, “I don’t have time for that.” But time is not as finite as we think. It is a bit of a perceptual illusion when you think about it. We can also experience food and money like this sometimes. We may feel like there is never enough to be satisfied. When we are frustrated and are overwhelmed by our work, we may feel that there is never enough time.
Think about a recent really positive experience. Pull up that memory. How long did that memory actually last? Maybe only 10 minutes or so, but it might feel like longer. Maybe it feels longer because you think about it often. What makes those 5 minutes different is the quality of those minutes, your memory, your feeling, not the quantity. Sometimes something very important may only take 5 minutes. When we are really jazzed about something, we can make it happen so much faster because we are putting 100% of ourselves into it. The length of time is not what’s important. At the same time, when you’re in a brand new country with seemingly no certainty or control over your day, the first few weeks may feel endless.
So how can we turn these ideas to our advantage? Again, I find it is often about being aware and putting yourself in control of the choices you have in front of you. When you find yourself doing exactly what you want for every minute, you might not feel that same scarcity.