How what you say reveals what you really care about

Warning: this is not an original idea. You may have heard it before. It can change your life, though…

Knowing what you care about is important. It helps you spend your time, and your energy, on things that will produce lasting happiness. But sadly, many of us lie to ourselves about our priorities.

One culprit is the phrase, “I don’t have time”. (Or, “I didn’t have time”.) I’ve used this phrase often and I still use it from time to time, despite my best efforts to eradicate it from my vocabulary.

See, “I don’t have time” is a lie.

To begin with, no one “has” time. We live and time passes, but we don’t know how much longer we’ll live. More importantly, even if we can’t choose how much time we “have”, we can choose how to spend our time.

(True, people have different degrees of freedom. But if you’re reading this, you have at least a certain degree of time freedom.)

It would be more factual to say: “I won’t spend my time on that” or “I didn’t spend my time on that”. You could, but you won’t. You could have, but you didn’t.

Even better would be to admit to yourself that you didn’t make this particular thing a priority. You didn’t make time for it. It wasn’t important enough for you.

From now on, every time you have the urge to say (or even think), “I don’t have time for X“, replace it with “X is not a priority for me right now”.

“I didn’t have time to go to a yoga class today” becomes “going to a yoga class was not a priority for me today”. Rather than “I didn’t have time to call my mother”, you tell yourself, “calling mom wasn’t a priority today”.

It might sound ruthless, at first. And certainly, when you speak with others, you might want to phrase it more gently, like “I didn’t get to X today”. But the ruthlessness has a purpose: it reminds you what your priorities really are.

Because your priorities are not what you say they are; your priorities are revealed by what you do. (This is because you have some freedom to spend your time as you wish.)

Acknowledging that you are in charge of how you spend your time—acknowledging that it is not externally forced on you—reminds you that it is your responsibility to change, too.

It reminds you that if going to the gym is really a priority for you, then you need to do it, rather than blaming an unspecified entity that somehow robbed you of your time.

In other words, it helps you stop lying to yourself.

Yours,

— Peter

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