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One simple question can help you decide how to spend your time and energy

Jan 26, 2012
Winter is a good time to hibernate. Sometimes, the sun won’t shine, the floor is cold, and my bed is so cozy that to leave it seems indefensible.


Most days, though, life demands more than shallow breathing under a blanket. To get me going, I rely on a question that always helps me figure out what to do next.


 The question is, “Do I want this more than I want that?” There are always different situations to fill in the “this” and “that” portion of the question. But the question itself reminds me that whatever I do is a choice, and that I am the one making it.


So. Do I want to snuggle in bed longer more than I want my children to have a great morning getting ready for school? Do I want to eat this piece of chocolate cake more than I want to not have a headache tomorrow? Do I want to buy this tchotchke more than I want to spend a week on the beach in January? Do I want to look at this person’s photos on Facebook more than I want to be prepared for my meeting this afternoon?


It may seem as if I’m saying that there are obvious answers to all of these questions. Not necessarily. Sometimes, maybe we need the chocolate cake. Sometimes maybe we really do need to stay in bed longer.


But whatever the answer is, asking the question clarifies that time and energy is limited. And that we make a bazillion choices each day that create our lives.


How we spend our time and energy matters. If we say we want to be healthier, but we keep eating lousy food, there is some part of us that wants the lousy food, or the easy habit, or the camaraderie of friends, or whatever else is associated with lousy food more than we want to be healthy. If you don’t like your job, but you don’t do anything to change that reality, something about you wants the comfort of predictability, or the stability of a paycheck, or the feeling of being put upon, or something more than you want to change.


 Just asking the question can help us get clear about what we’re choosing. We can notice that we are making choices. As we notice, over time we become more deliberate in the ways we spend our time. We begin to see that what we do has real impact on our lives.


We begin to notice that if we stay up late, the morning isn’t as strong. Or that if we don’t move our bodies regularly, we have less stamina and ability to get things done. That if we choose to hang out with friends every night we don’t pay as much attention to the business of running a household, or our other relationships, or our finances.


Time and energy are our two greatest resources. Who hasn’t worked on a project and found, as the deadline approaches and time crunches, that they might have better used that breezier, luxurious time earlier in the project?


Life has the ultimate deadline, of course. And our project is now, today. Maybe today is our breezy, luxurious time. What are we going to do with our energy today? Do we want this more than we want that?

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