Many of our needs are unrelated, or not much related, to money and the physical: privacy, quiet; love/socialization; hope, joyfulness; stimulation, creative outlets; meaningful work/service; congenial exercise, play; beauty around us, perhaps a specific expression such as music; information, inspiration.
The happiest people seem to be those who pay attention to and work to fill these needs in their lives.
But many of us have come to associate "needs" with an increasingly long list of services, accoutrements, entertainments, and "extras" that we feel we must have in our lives… and that drain our financial resources (and energy?) such that we "can’t get ahead" or are "stuck in a rut" having to support them. I suppose these would fall under the categories of needs that I left off of that list above: money, status, and sybaritic pleasures.
So, what about setting priorities?
Sure, some money is useful! We all deserve some pleasures in life. And status? Well, feeling good about ourselves is certainly important; and we do naturally wish for others to think well of us too. …Though what we reach for as symbols of worthiness aren’t necessarily true indicators of our value to others or to the world; often, these symbols (including the amount of money we have access to) are perhaps more the contrivances of elitists and (especially) admen! To put it another way, following the pack can be a might expensive – and if you come to think of it as unnecessarily so, then you clear a way for other possibilities… and perhaps a remedy for some major worries.
If you ever actually look closely at all that you assume you need, you may be startled at how many extras you’ve been giving yourself and calling them "basic expenses"…
How about reviewing the list of possible ongoing expenditures in the Personal
budgeting tips page? If you've worked through that at all, you know to question what you've been calling "basic expenses". ...And hopefully from that exercise, you've gained a little better perspective on what is relatively more important to you - at least in the financial arena. This puts you well on the way to setting your priorities.
Now take this a little deeper into your psyche...
Setting priorities is really a form of budgeting - of our time and attention.
So if we go back to the financial budgeting concepts I was speaking of, we can peel back the layers of need and desire to uncover our true needs and priorities. At the very least, this exercise will show us "holes" where deep desires can be fit in. And don't forget the concept of "paying yourself first" - in this case that would amount to setting aside time for your true needs as much as budgeting money for them (if any is needed).
A very helpful set of questions I find myself returning often to came from Debbie Ford's book The
- Will this choice empower or dis-empower?
- Is this an act of self-love or self-sabotage?
- Is this an act of faith or fear?
- Will this add to my life-force or drain my energy?
When you put priority-setting into this perspective, a whole lot of things become more clear, don't they?
The consequences of setting priorities according to our true needs can reverberate throughout our entire lives (and on into the lives of others we meet and who are touched by the greater joyfulness that ensues).