Here’s an oversimplified theory to play with for today: there are only three piles in life.
- Things that are important
- Things that are unimportant
- Things that are unimportant but distract you from what is important
The dangerous pile is #3: as it’s the pile of misplaced energy. And it’s a hidden pile, one we often don’t realize we’re keeping.
Marketers go to great lengths to add to the 3rd pile in our lives. Our impulses and desires contribute to it too. We’re told dozens of times a day that what’s missing is a quick fix, or something we can buy. But expensive sneakers won’t make you healthier. A fancy car or necklace won’t make you a wiser, more fulfilled person. A deep need can’t be satisfied by a sequence of temporary distractions, as tempting and exhilarating as they might be.
The important things in life rarely come to us fast or depend on what we own. Yet it’s natural in society today that those forces drive our decisions. The result is we live lives tending to the wrong piles.
Unless you define the primary piles (#1 and #2) yourself, you inherit a value system someone else decided. You might be inheriting it from people who were failed by that very framework, but are unaware. Or you are using piles from a younger version of yourself who’s priorities are out of date. Why assume their system works now? Why not ask how it can be redesigned? Or study how people you trust and admire have shaped their piles? Make your own system and ask for feedback from those closest to you. Only they can guide you in shaping the piles most likely to shape your life into the experience you desire.
We all need other people to tell us what they think of the piles we’ve chosen and how well we are tending to them. Our habits often work against our own goals and we need help to close that gap. We’re all victim to our whims, weaknesses and egos. But if our friends know our piles, they can help us know when too much of our lives are invested in the wrong ones if we ask for their feedback. And if you don’t have a friend, be a friend to yourself. Keep a journal of where your energy goes and review it now and again so you’re honest about your piles instead of waiting for a mythical quick fix to come along someday.