Over the past few months I’ve been asking myself “which of my values are truly most important to me?” and trying to figure out where they all fall in terms of my priorities.
I’ve often said that giving back and helping others is really important, but the election forced me to consider whether I’m simply saying or actually living that. Yes, I’ve donated some money over the years to causes I care about, but not as much as reflects my internal commitment to those issues. Or, perhaps I should say, what I believe to be my commitment level to those issues.
And therein lies the rub – there are many things that I think are important to me, but don’t actually put much money or time towards. I then feel guilty that I’m not living in alignment with what I believe my values are without really putting to the test whether those actually are my values, or just what I think my values are (or should be).
I often share this quote by Lynn Twist: “If you want a clear picture of your priorities in life, who you are and what you care about, look at your checkbook, your credit card bills and bank statement.” While this is absolutely true, I’m starting to believe this idea is equally true for how you spend your time – if not more so – as a way of determining your values and priorities. AND, if you are deciding whether something is actually important to you by seeing if you can budget time to it first, it can save you money since you’ll be spending time as way to measure something’s importance before deciding to put your money towards it.
Let’s double back to my example from earlier where I felt the need to help others and give more back. While I have a history of saying “yes, those things DO matter to me!” there’s been a gap between talk and action. So, I decided that before I pulled out my credit card and did a one-off donation to somewhere as per usual, I would use “ time spent” as a metric instead to see whether I truly was invested.
Regardless of which side of the isle you’re on, there has been no shortage of causes to get involved with after the election, so finding a cause looking for help wasn’t hard. And to make it easy on myself I simply made the commitment to attend a single meeting, ultimately choosing to visit the newly-formed community action group called Get Organized Brooklyn. Once there, I realized there was a specific cause I wanted to get involve in – connection with people in communities different than my own and facilitating conversation through activities/events – so I said “Yolo!” signed up to be a part of that sub-committee.
That was two months ago and I’m now attending bi-monthly sub-committee meetings, as well as acting as a facilitator for that committee. It’s a decent time commitment (b/c it’s both attending meetings and moving things forward in-between), yet I find myself excited to do the work and energized by being involved in something I care about. And while I haven’t donated any money yet I’ve certainly given a fair amount of time, and no longer feel that disconnect between what I say I value and how I’m acting, which I’ll be honest feels really freaking good.
Does this mean I won’t give money moving forward? Absolutely not! I’m already thinking about how to do so. But when I do, it’s going to be much more targeted and allow me to see the direct impact of my donation. For example, we need to start investing in communication infrastructure (like $10/mo) to help us better stay in touch and motivate our committee members, so I think that’s where my next donation will be. It’s not super sexy (“I’m paying for email distribution guys!!”) and while it’s not “a lot” of money, I know how valuable that infrastructure will be to the team and so am excited to donate to fulfill a direct need.
I’m curious – are there areas of your life where you feel what you say you want to do and what you actually do are out of alignment? Do you think this idea of budgeting your time towards that thing (or things) as a way of inexpensively testing out whether it truly is important to you is a good idea? If so, write back and let me know what your challenge is, whether you think this idea of time budgeting can help, and if/how you’re going to test it out!
The Gare-ber Baby