On our paths to success and contentment, we constantly encounter external forces which can derail or sidetrack us. The more prepared we can be, the better our chances of successfully dealing with resistance.
I grew up in the Midwest, and on summer road trips, the windshield became a lethal canvas for abstract art with bugs as the paint. Looking back, while the windshield was bad for the bugs, it was good for us humans.
On our road trips through life, we’ve got to protect ourselves from all the things that can hit us in the face. We’ve got to be mindful of all the external forces and threats that can prevent us from living how we want. We need to be good stewards of our most valuable resources of time, attention, energy, and money.
Currently, I don’t think enough of us are doing it. Maybe we’re not aware of what we’re up against, maybe we haven’t proactively thought about what we truly want, and maybe it’s a combination of both. Either way, failure to pay attention will cause burnout and dissatisfaction. Our current state of affairs shows us most Americans are broke, sick and tired, unhappy at work, and spending too much time on screens.
The remedy is to get clear on what you want, what’s most important to you, and to make decisions based on those two things.
For over 20 years as a financial advisor, I’ve been helping people become better stewards of their most important and valuable resources. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Your most valuable resources
- What do you want?
- What’s most important?
- Saying “yes” and “no”
- Practical applications
Let’s get started.
Your most valuable resources
A war is being waged. It’s not an actual war where bullets are flying, but lives are at risk. Specifically, yours. If you’re not careful, you’ll lose.
I know. I get it. You just want to go about your day and live your life. But it’s not that simple. There are forces conspiring to strip you of your most valuable resources of time, attention, energy and money.
We’re asking a lot of our brains. On average, we make around 35,000 decisions a day. Assuming 8 hours of sleep, that’s 2,187 decisions an hour, and 36 decisions every minute.
Email is never-ending, with the average American dealing with over 125 a day.
There’s a never ending onslaught of pitches. It’s estimated the average person sees over 10,000 advertisements a day across all mediums. Marketers and algorithms are working around the clock to get you what you want, and suggest new things you didn’t even know existed.
Then there are the problems caused by our closest relationships. You’ve heard how you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Is that average going to get you the life you want?
The bottom line is this; you and I have finite resources. We’ve got 24 hours to get everything done. While our brains are amazing, we have limited processing power and can’t think about everything. At some point, our gas tanks hit empty every day. And unless you’re independently wealthy, you need to be a good steward of your money.
Your most precious and valuable resources are time, attention, energy, and money.
So, how best to figure out how to allocate yours?
What do you want?
The only way to live how you want is to know how you want to live.
When we’re approaching a transition like starting a family or moving into retirement, it’s a great time to reimagine how you’re living. But why not do that now?
Without intention, it’s possible to fall into the trap of living our lives on someone else’s terms. It’s time to stop doing that. It’s time to live on your terms. The sooner you can figure out how you want to live, the happier and more content you’ll be. Think about it like this: when you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. Instead of thinking about how you’d like your life to be when you’re facing a change, do it now.
We do this by setting goals. I’m fond of referring to goal setting as one of our superpowers. When we do it, we can envision the future we want, and to work to bring it to fruition. That’s pretty incredible if you think about it. But too many of us squander it by not taking advantage of it.
Setting goals for every aspect of your life is how you determine how you want to live. Once you’re clear on what you want, you can make plans and set about doing the work to bring them to life.
To help you in your process, you can access our Goals course for free.
What’s most important?
Goals are what you want, values help guide your decision making.
Every time you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to something else. Without a framework for making these decisions, you’ll just be winging it. When you clarify your values, they help you create an aligned framework. The more aligned you can be in your decision making, the better your chances of getting what you want.
Is it possible to perfectly align every decision with your values? No. But perfection is not the goal. The goal is to strive to make as many aligned decisions as possible. When you do that, you’ve done your best.. When you’ve done your best, you’ve positioned yourself for success, and you can confidently let the chips fall where they may.
To help you get clear on your values, you can access our Values course for free as well.
Saying “yes” and “no”
Your time, attention, energy, and money are scarce, so you need to know what you’re going to spend it on, and what you will not spend it on. Once you’ve made those decisions, you need to do your best to follow through via your behaviors.
It’s easy to say yes to things, and harder to say no. I imagine you’re a thoughtful and empathetic person, and don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. But it’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time. While this is going to sound selfish, you need to make sure you’re getting your needs met first. Think about it like this; when you’re on a plane and the flight attendant goes through the conversation about securing your oxygen mask first, then helping others. You have got to make sure you’re getting what you want and need out of your life first.
If you’re not, you’re at risk of becoming bitter. That’s not helping anyone. It’s important to put yourself first, then worry about the needs of others. Life is too short and too long not too.
Think back to the number of decisions, emails, and ads we deal with every day. Your ability to say “no” is more important than your ability to say “yes.” You’ve only got so much capacity. Taking on too many things will cause overwhelm and an inability to do the things you want to do. It’s more important to do fewer things really well than it is to do a lot of things poorly. You’ve got to get comfortable saying “no.”
So, how do you do it?
We can say “no” in a lot of ways. It’s not just saying the word. Armed with clear goals and values, you can take in information and make aligned and informed decisions. Let’s talk about how to do it.
The more scheduled we can be, the better. Now, that doesn’t mean every minute of your day should be filled with something. Rather, I encourage you to be super thoughtful about how you’d like to spend your day and create boundaries to make it happen. For example, if you’d like to have time to read, write, and or think every morning, block it into your calendar.
I’m sure there are things you want to do every day. Block these into your calendar.
Odds are, there are certain activities you need to do each day. These need to get blocked into your calendar.
Remember, this isn’t a game of perfect. It’s not always going to work out the way you want. The idea is to live with intention, and to let the chips fall where they may. As you’re working to figure out your calendar, it’s important to go back and audit how you’re spending your time. It’s been proven that our minds wander almost half the time. If you can cut down on that, you’ll be able to fit more in.
You’ll also find opportunities to optimize how you’re spending your time. Perhaps you can cut out travel time and hold some of your meetings virtually? I’m confident you’ll spend more time living on your terms when you set an intention to do so.
I believe your undivided attention is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person. As time goes on and technology advances and becomes more ubiquitous, I think this becomes even more accurate. But I can’t give my undivided attention to everyone. In fact, I can’t give it that many people, so I need to be very careful about who I choose to give it to. Stop giving your attention to people you don’t want to give it to.
When you get clear on your goals and values, that will help to inform you of what you should spend your time and attention on, and what you shouldn’t. Is spending time watching TV, gaming, or playing fantasy football aligned with your most important priorities? Maybe yes, maybe no. You need to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about the answer to that question. Is what I’m doing going to get me where I want to go? If no, stop doing it.
You’re the only one who knows how much sleep you need to get. When you’ve got a fully charged battery, you’ll perform better in every aspect of life. When you’re running on empty, you’re not able to show up and perform the way you need to. Rest and relaxation are an integral component to your overall success. Much of our culture today celebrates hard work and hustle, and so do I. But I also recognize that your physiological needs must be addressed in order to get what you want.
We live in a wonderful time. The ability to click a button and have a product arrive almost immediately at our home is amazing. But it also demands we be thoughtful about our consumer behavior. It’s also important to be mindful of monthly subscriptions. While $20 may not seem like a lot of money, it’s easy to let small charges pile up.
While I’ve spent a lot of time talking about external forces like marketers, it’s also critical to be prepared for more serious events like sickness and death. The impact of these things can be catastrophic to our personal finances. Because of that, you must be prepared by owning the proper insurances, and having a fully funded emergency fund.
Our relationships and our communities make life worth living. But they can also be the source of our biggest frustrations.
Each of us is living in a variety of systems, as well as under several assumptions. Perhaps your family expects you to become a doctor, or maybe everyone in your family is an entrepreneur. Maybe you’re expected to be married and start a family by a certain age, and to go to church on Sundays. If you’re happy with your path, great! If you’re not, I encourage you to think additionally about what changes you’d like to make. Again, you’ve got one chance at life. It’s important to live it on your terms.
We’ve all heard how we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with. What if your five people are going to yield the average you’re looking for?
While we’re all on similar paths, we’re at different stages and can have different priorities. Should you determine there’s someone in your life that you’d like to spend less time with, you don’t need to cut them out of your life completely. You can scale back the time you spend with them and the amount of attention you give to them.
Life is too short and too long to not be crystal clear in how you want it to be. You’ve got one crack at it, and you need to be ruthless in how you’re allocating your most important resources.
When you decide to live intentionally, you can begin deciding based on your biggest priorities. At that point, you’ve positioned yourself for success.
Start living on your terms.
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