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how to stop putting yourself last on your list

soccer teamThe photo to the right is Griffin with his soccer team after their first game of the season. You can see from all the happy faces that they are off to a great start!

This is Griffin’s fifth year playing soccer—the longest time he has ever devoted himself passionately to any activity—and he recently told me how glad he is that he’s never given it up.

If you’ve followed my work for any length of time you know that I believe that when you get clear on your deepest values and align your actions with them, you feel so much happier and more effective.

How can you make sure your actions are in alignment with what you value most?

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell

Have you heard of the story of the American banker and the Mexican fisherman? I love it because it illustrates well the argument that you don’t need to make a lot of money to live a rich life.

The Mexican Fisherman Story

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, “Only a little while”.

The banker then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The banker then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The banker scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA, and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the banker replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?”

The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions…Then what?”

The banker said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

In that story the Mexican fisherman obviously had a little more insight into what wealth actually is than the investment banker. But an insight that seems obvious in a story may not seem so obvious in real life.

So ask yourself: do you wish you had more time for yourself and your health? More time to spend with your family and friends?

Of course you do! And yet those relationships are often the ones that are left on the back burner as we pursue other things—most often obligations related to our jobs.

So here’s the question: what if you had plenty of time to get heart-healthy exercise, or sit in meditation, or write in your journal, or read your favorite literary magazine, or take a walk in your neighborhood?

What if you were able to answer your child’s call the first time and not respond with “just a minute” because you felt like you had to respond to a work-related email first?

What if you had the time and energy to host regular gatherings for your friends and family?

It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? In fact, it would be awesome!

But if you’re like me, carving out that sort of time in your life is going to take some attention, and—more importantly—some intention.

Your Take-Action Challenge:

making a planFirst the attention part: find a pen and a piece of paper or open a Word document on your computer. List your usual daily activities in order of how much time you spend on them, from the most time to the least.

If you’re drawing a blank, general categories are daily tasks (like household chores), work, school, church, time with partner, time with children, time with friends, time for self (quiet time), time for self-care (exercise), entertainment, and “lost” time (Facebook).

Got it? Now review this list. And ask yourself if these activities are in alignment with your values, your goals and your dreams.

They probably aren’t, right?

Now get another sheet of paper or work within your Word document. Take the list you just made and rearrange it so that the list order—from most time to least time spent in the day—reflects your true priorities.

Now to start on the intention part. The big question is: Which areas of your life need more attention and which need less?

You can answer that question by creating an “ideal” schedule in which you get to do everything you want in a day—even things that you’re currently leaving out of your daily activities but want to start including. And then write down a plan to align your time spent with your priorities.

If making a plan sounds too daunting, I’ll leave you with a place to start. What’s one small thing you can you do *today* so that your two lists come closer together? Think of a tiny action, like meditating for 2 minutes while your coffee or tea brews, hopping in place for 30 seconds while you wait for your computer to restart, or sending a quick note with an “I’m thinking of you and I love you.” message to your mom or best friend (I’ve timed myself and it takes no more than 2 minutes to write the note, lick the envelope shut, stamp it, and put it out in the mailbox.).

Then tell yourself every day to look for that one small thing (you can think up a new one or borrow from the day before) you can do that will put you more in alignment with your true values. I can promise that you will find every day that you do this happier and more satisfying.

And if you’re having any trouble figuring out what your true values are, and the actions you can take to line up with them, that’s what I’m here for! Just sign up for a completely complimentary Discovery Session with me. Find out more and sign up here: https://midwifeforyourlife.fullslate.com/