In this post I’m going to share some personal stuff on values and priorities…
Since starting our own business, I often get asked by people if it was “worth the sacrifice”. What they are often referring to is the huge workload of carrying so many responsibilities and wearing so many hats, on top of being the one that actually delivers the service. You see, one of the differences between working for others and working for yourself is that you can generally achieve more material success by working harder, particularly if you sell your time, as we consultants do. So the temptation to be a workaholic looms at all times. Now if you want to know what someone’s priorities in life are, don’t ask them – look at their actions instead.
Speaking for myself, when asked the question above, I always and very honestly answer “yes”. Why? – because I have never sacrificed the things most important to me, and nor do I plan to. Instead I follow my priorities (listed here in order):
1. My emotional and physical health – without this, I cannot give energy to others, including family, friends and clients. It means regular exercise and sports, taking time for hobbies and music and doing something about all those emotional scars that we seem to pick up through life.
2. My wife – I know well the difference between going out into the world when there is peace in the home versus when there is not. There is a good reason that when parents take their kids to therapy they are often told to go and work on their own relationship. When I married Gisele (my second wife), I made a list of what I wanted to be like as a husband. I still read it every month, 7 years later… I cannot claim to be the perfect husband, but I can claim to work very hard at it.
3. My child – My little boy falls in here, and the reason is because by doing the first two, this priority becomes much easier to achieve, but not so easy the other way around…
4. My family and friends – I don’t believe the human spirit can be happy without this. Time simply must be made for family and friends.
5. My job – Yes, I 100% need this to feel fulfilled and earn a living. But outside of the odd exception, I know that I must stop short of sacrificing the above four priorities. I was recently asked by a client if I could deliver a large project in the evenings and on weekends. This would have meant not seeing my kid on many days, and not putting him in his bed at night. I said no, and I said why, and the client understood. Doing my job to the best of my abilities takes energy, which has to come from somewhere. It comes from priorities 1 – 4.
However, being able to live your life according to your priorities requires attention to four critical areas:
a) Know what they are – think ahead to the last days of your life – how would you have ideally spent your time? Now I don’t mean “where would you like to spend your vacations” – I mean real life – what you do day in and day out.
b) Being organized – you have to be organized enough to know where your limit is. This requires that you estimate work realistically, allocate time for the unpredictable, maintain a to-do list and book time to do your important work on your calendar.
c) Learn to say “no” – when dealing with a fixed pie (such as your time), “yes” to one thing typically means “no” to something else. Saying “no” is actually about saying yes to the right things. Keep in mind that once you say yes, others are going to depend on you, and it is too late to drop the ball. Saying “no” requires tact and good negotiating skills.
d) Living below your means – if you have made life choices that have left you in deep debt, surviving month-to-month on your paycheque, then chances are that money is going to have to be king, and out the window goes your priority list. Live simple – it is easier on the planet too.
Russel Horwitz, Principal