Do you ever struggle with aligning your priorities with your actions? Beth, one of my clients, was recently struggling with this. She told me that her family was her priority, yet she was barely fitting them in around her business, rather than the other way around. She was taking on more commissions and at the same time increasing her output for exhibitions at galleries.
In reality, your priorities are defined by how and where you spend your time. By that definition, family was not Beth’s number one priority.
To get clearer on your priorities, during the next few weeks develop a list of your needs, wants, and values. “What’s the difference?” you ask.
A need is something you must have in order to be your best, such as time, space, money, love, information, food, etc. Needs are prerequisite conditions for personal fulfillment.Unsatisfied needs are the single most prevalent cause of personal dissatisfaction. Most of us don’t sufficiently build conditions of fulfillment in our lives. Instead we fill our tanks with wants (i.e., “stuff”).
If there is urgency, it’s probably a need.
A want is something that you relate to by trying to acquire or experience it, such as a car, a vacation, a house, a new sewing machine, etc. There’s nothing wrong with wants, but they will only increase happiness if you meet your needs first.
If there’s a craving or desire, it’s probably a want.
Values are behaviors or preferences that you naturally gravitate to or that are prompted from within and not by needs or wants. An example might be security or adventure or creativity. You can find lists of values by searching on the Internet. In Beth’s case, she says family is one of her top values.
If there is a natural and uncomplicated pull, it’s probably a value.
The same thing can be a need, a want, or a value for different people or for the same person at different times. For example, a new sewing machine can be both a need and a want. If your current machine is outdated and required for your work — for you to be your best— it’s probably a need. If the current machine meets your work requirements, only more bells and whistles would be nice, you can see it’s likely a want.
Another example. beauty may be a value for you. You may need to have beauty in your surroundings for you to be at your best. For someone else, beauty in their surroundings is nice, but not required. It’s a want.
Once you are clear on what your needs and wants are, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fulfill your wants. You just need to be clear on which is which.
Audit your time
Take time to complete a “calendar audit.” Look at your calendar for the last couple of months. Look at every bit of time, personal as well as business, and compare your expenditure of time with your needs, wants, and values. What did you learn?
Go back and create objectives and action plans to better align your words — what you say your values are — and your actions. Make some adjustments to your calendar for how you spend your time. Remember that the most fulfilling goals are those that align with your values.
In Beth’s case, she realized that she needed to set better boundaries for herself, including a non-negotiable “quitting” time in her studio. She also made adjustments to her calendar and made appointments for her family, so they really were her priority.
It’s Your Turn
Are your priorities aligned with your wants, your needs, and your values? What did you learn from the audit and what changes do you need to make?