“The most important thing about me is…?”
It seems like an easy enough question to answer. As you start to think about it, however, the realization that there’s more to this question becomes apparent.
Maybe you immediately start thinking about your identity with a particular company, university, or sports team. Maybe it’s where you were raised, or where you came from. Or maybe it’s who your family is.
But, are these really your life’s top priorities?
Priorities are the things upon which we place the greatest value, the greatest emphasis. We often equate priorities with convictions and values; things we would not be willing to comprise if pressed.
I have found that priorities often play a great role in creating wealth; or prohibiting wealth creation. Just as our study habits influence our grades and our work ethic can impact our career trajectory, our priorities play a part in our financial health.
Priorities will likely determine how we allocate our resources. For example, if we really value good food and place a high priority on eating quality food, we will naturally allocate our resources towards such food. I have some friends that value quality beef, so they buy a half cow from a local farmer each year and have it butchered locally. The beef is kept in their freezer and used all year to feed their family. The cost is higher than if they bought the same meat at the grocery store, but they place a high priority on locally sourced quality beef. Allocating resources towards this priority is easy for my friends.
I know many that work 50-60 hours per week in high income positions. A priority for them is not having to worry about house and yard work when they get home. This priority propels them to hire housecleaning and yard services. They are happy to allocate some of their resources towards these services in order not have to spend their time doing them after a long day or week of work.
Some prioritize education and think nothing of allocating significant resources to send their kids to private schools where they can focus on education. Others prioritize aid and relief work and set aside resources to donate to specific organizations, or take trips to take part in relief efforts.
To be clear, there’s a need to have robust discussions over specific financial priorities. Such priorities might include whether to rent or buy a house, whether to lease or purchase a car, whether to fund college for your kids first, or retirement first, and whether to live in the city or the suburbs. All of these are necessary conversations that will impact your financial position both today, and into the future. But the priorities I am talking about today are not necessarily financial in nature; they are life priorities. These priorities transcend anything temporal – including finances – and speak to the heart of who we are as people.
The question to answer, then, is what are your priorities? Because those priorities are likely dominating your resources.
How can focused priorities aid in wealth creation?
A first century teacher once wrote that wherever your treasure is, your heart will be in the same place. He was making clear that the things we give the greatest priority to are the things our heart treasures most. In other words, we will allocate our resources to the things on which we place the highest value.
When our priorities are properly aligned with our goals in life, it can help us avoid frivolous or reckless spending. Consider the priority of adoption that many in America have for the orphans around the world. They allocate significant resources to adopt one or even two kids from other parts of the world. By keeping this priority in focus, they avoid spending resources on other things that would otherwise detract from their adoption goals.
Still others prioritize helping to ease the suffering of others, both domestic and foreign. They seek to give aid to victims of everything from violence and trafficking, to abuse and disease. This priority focuses their resources and spending towards a specific goal and keeps them from wasting resources on other things outside of that priority.
At the heart of these priorities are considerable qualities, such as compassion, generosity, and courage. These qualities, when released into our world cause people to undertake goals that are bigger than they are; goals that are bigger than a career or new car. And by seeking to better the lives of those around them, such people become wealthier than most.
It’s a mistake to think that wealth is nothing more than the sum of our accumulated assets. Wealth can be found in many forms. The currencies of contentment, self-control, patience, and priorities can not only help us accumulate material wealth, they can help us to become wealthy human beings. The kind of people that we all want to know.