Friday, April 9, 2010

What is Most Important to You?

What is most important to you?

It is a simple question, but one that few of us bother to ask ourselves. What are the most important things in our lives, and how are we going about preserving those things?

What are your priorities?

1. Your health and well-being?
2. A Spouse or loved one?
3. Your children or friends?
4. Owning a nice car or house?
5. Impressing people you don't know with your wealth and status?

The last two items on this list sound ridiculous when taken out of context. But for most people in America, items #4 and #5 are the top of their actual priority list, and really important things like #1-#3 are at the bottom.

Think I'm lying? Think about it. The divorce rate in this country is nearly 50%, and children are shuffled between parents like so many chattels. The vast majority of Americans are overweight, eat poorly, and rarely exercise, and have little or nothing saved for retirement.

And yet, we all have fancy cars and are mortgaged to the hilt to have houses we can't afford, right?

So re-read my question again and you'll see I was right. Today in America, we throw away spouses and children - trading them in like the leased cars we drive. We buy status goods to impress "others" - the unseen hoards of people who will allegedly be impressed by our ability to sign a loan document (but in truth, rarely are, as they, too, have signed similar loan documents and understand how little real talent it requires to own things).

It is a shame that in a country that harps about "values" we have so few real ones. And the people who harp about "values" the most seem to have the shallowest - whining about their "right" to inexpensive gas, or blaming the government for their self-induced financial woes.

In case you've really missed the point, what is really important to your own life, as we all will inevitably discover, is not owning things or impressing others, but first and foremost, our own good health and well-being, as well as the welfare and companionship of our spouse and loved ones.

To achieve these goals, you have to look after yourself. And by that, I don't mean going deeply into debt to purchase consumer goods that may make you feel good for a transient moment. Watch your diet, exercise regularly, and try to stay in good health. If you have no major health issues, you are very fortunate, so there is no excuse for allowing your health to degrade by overeating, smoking, and not exercising regularly.

And taking care of yourself and your loved ones means investing for your own future, not spending for the moment. Putting money in your 401(k), paying down debt, having money in your savings account. Yet so many spend all of their income and borrow yet more so they can have a new pickup truck and a deer stand, or a jet ski and a new car, while not funding their own savings or retirement. Once laid off, they cry "foul" as if someone else forced them to spend all their wealth and leave them destitute.

And by loved ones, I mean your real friends and loved ones, not abusive family members or baiting friends. I see many folks, often the same ones obsessed with impressing strangers, try hard to get into the good graces of the local cliques, whether they be in the neighborhood, at school, or at work. They desperately want acceptance from shallow people, who of course, will dangle it right out of reach. Or those who continually try to obtain acceptance from family members, who in turn respond with little more than abuse.

Find true friends and clutch them to your breast. Let the others go, for your own sake and your own sanity.

Take care of yourself, be kind to yourself. Figure out what is really most important to you.