Budget and retirement advice often contains the phrase ‘pay yourself first’ as a reminder to set aside for emergency savings and retirement funds. However, the same phrase is great reminder of what people who thrive tend to do on a regular basis with their time and energy.
They pay themselves first.
What does this mean? It means that they intentionally prioritize their health and well-being, their family and friends, and the projects they are passionate about.
There is a lot of data and literature about practices and habits of successful people. And, in practice, this will look different for everybody but below are some examples of how others make this work.
Exercise. Successful thriving people make time for it. Many work out first thing in the morning but you don’t have to be a morning person to prioritize exercise. I know someone who has arranged his schedule to work out in the late afternoon every day – often times meeting a trainer who helps keep him on target with his training. I know another who uses her lunch hour to walk.
Relationships. Whether it is breakfast with their kids, scheduling lunches with a friend, or networking over coffee with colleagues, people who thrive make time to create and sustain their relationships. Sometimes finding quality time involves creativity to make schedules work. I’ve seen people come in early and stay later to be able to have time to regularly attend events their daughter or son participates in. For full time parents with young children, sometimes this means coordinating play times to provide space for adult connection on the sidelines.
Personal passions. People who thrive regularly allocate time and energy for their personal passions – whether it be a painting, creating or playing music, writing, gardening, blogging, or whatever else drives their heart and soul. For some, these activities feel like ‘purpose’. For others, more simply a way to rejuvenate. Someone I know published a book despite a very busy schedule. I asked how he did it. He said he wrote for 1 hour every morning.
Connecting the brain and heart. This one is critical and so often doesn’t even make it onto the to-do list. But people who are successful in life take time to mediate, journal, track gratitude, plan their day for what’s important, or otherwise just think. For many this is a first thing in the morning exercise but for others, this is the last thing the do before going to bed ritual that helps clear their mind of the day and set the focus for the next.
Now, if you’re like me, you might have read these and had one of two reactions.
- Yeesh, I’m a failure, I don’t do any of these.
- I’m jazzed and I want to try all of these tomorrow.
Neither of these approaches is particularly helpful. If you aren’t currently paying yourself first, pick one thing, start small, and try it for a couple of weeks. If it works, keep it. If it doesn’t work, then chalk it up to a guilt-free learning experiment and try something different!