Many years ago, I took a negotiations class as part of my MBA program. One nice Saturday morning at 9:00 am, the professor started class with the question, “How many of you would rather be somewhere else?”
Many people, including myself, raised their hands sheepishly, but were willing to play along. The professor asked a few of us to say where we would rather be. (I said home in bed. I did not have kids yet, and sleeping in was still an option.) He went around the room and collected responses on the whiteboard.
Then he told us we were all wrong! That if we would rather be somewhere else, then that is where we would be. Our priorities, preferences and motivations were reflected in our choice to get up and go to class that morning. If I would really rather be sleeping in, then I would still be in bed. But instead, my priority of learning how to negotiate, or my motivation to get a good grade in the class made me choose to set the alarm in the morning and drive an hour to get to the class in downtown Chicago. The fact that I was there proved that I would rather be in class than in bed sleeping. Whoa!
Ultimately, what we choose to do is a reflection of our real priorities, our actual preferences, and our true motivations. It’s not what we would rather do, or what is on our to-do list, or what we say we want.
Obviously, this lesson struck a chord, since I remember it 7 years later. Every now and then I remember that morning and ask myself: What does my current activity say about my priorities? Why is it that I choose to do this and not something else that might better reflect my values and goals? As you can imagine, this thought usually arises when I’m procrastinating or avoiding taking action or making a decision. Taking a look at how you spend your time through this lens can be eye-opening and push you toward taking a step in the right direction.
Taking this lesson to its logical conclusion then, there is nothing that you would rather be doing than reading this blog post. If there were something that better fit with your true priorities, preferences and motivations in this moment, you would be doing that instead.
So, now that you’re done reading, let me ask this:
What will you do next?