Prioritizing Values


Hi, everybody. I’m Mike Staver. This is Mondays with Mike, a weekly video series where I answer questions from people just like you. Here’s this week’s question.

“I understand that a values-driven life is better, but how does one prioritize values? For instance, family is one of my core values, so is financial security. I work a lot, so I have financial security for my family. However, my family tells me I’m never with them even when I’m present. They are right, I am constantly on my phone or computer trying to make money.

I was sitting in a five-star resort recently, and my kids and my partner were out enjoying the beach. I was sitting there looking at the beautiful escape in Mexico. I was struck with the fact that I was sitting in a room, a hotel room that could have been any other hotel room working while my family was at the beach. They pretty much ignored me when I saw them later that afternoon. In fact, I would go so far as to say they were mad at me. My partner said they were mad because I ignored them in service of work. I was resentful and angry because I have made all the money that got them to this nice resort.

In fact, in my immaturity I actually said to them at dinner that night, ‘You should be more grateful. It’s my work that allows you to sit at this table and be on this beach.’ As I often do, I did not realize I had stuck my foot in my mouth. When I said that, my partner and both kids who are teenagers said, ‘We really don’t care about your work or your money. We would rather stay in a lesser-priced resort and have time with you than you be emotionally and physically absent.’ How in the hell did I get here?


I’ll tell you how you got here. You didn’t get there because you didn’t prioritize your values. You got there because your values are prioritized. Let me say that again. You didn’t get to where you are because you didn’t prioritize your values. You got there because your values are prioritized. Now, this is going to hurt. It’s going to give you a little pressure, friend. This is going to give a lot of you a little pressure. Your value is money. Your value is work. Your family’s probably not in the top three. I would say your work is your number one value. Maybe money is number one and work is number two. Your family at best is number three. I got no shame in it. A lot of people do that. They justify it. They get mad, they get irritated. They get– what do I want to say? They get self-righteous, right? I’ve done it before. I’ve done it before.

I can remember years ago someone said to me, “I would rather, you not travel on Sundays so that your weekend is not taken up traveling with work.” I remember looking at them saying, “I’m going to do that.” My heart, I was scared to death, I was going to lose a ton of money, but I didn’t. I didn’t. We just made a new decision in our company that I’m probably not going to take appointments or coaching sessions on a specific day of the week. I don’t know what day of the week that is.

Because your behavior must shift. You can’t just say, “Now my family’s more important,” and think that miraculously, you’re not going to sit in a hotel room in Mexico somewhere not working because you’re, if I may say so, addicted to it. That’s what’s happened. You’ve already prioritized it. Here’s what you do. You shift your behavior. You have discipline and endure the discomfort, unless your family really isn’t a priority. Unless your kids really aren’t a priority. Then just tell them.

I know some of you are bursting into flames right now, you’re casting all kinds of moral aspersions on this person. I would rather you say, “You’re right. You guys aren’t the top priority, my work and my money is,” than for you to keep telling them how important they are and then not prove it in your behavior. I appreciate your vulnerability and your honesty with yourself. Good for you. You got there because you did stack your priorities. The way you get out is you restack them. You don’t tell anybody, you just start doing the things you need to do to get your priorities straight, right?

If family is your number one priority, then you ask your family a question. What would I need to do for you to feel valued and important? They’ve already told you at least twice that time, and presence is most important. Spend more time, have more presence. That doesn’t mean that you work longer hours or work in the middle of the night so nobody knows. It means that you restack the deck, which means it’s probably going to require you to make some changes to how you believe about your life.

I was in Hawaii years ago, and I was talking to a sailboat captain. The sailboat captain said to me, “I used to work in New York city. I had a one-and-a-half-hour commute each way. I made a ton of money.” We came to Hawaii and I rode on this very sailboat. My wife said, “Wouldn’t it be great to do this?” I was laying on that boat, thinking about work. I was in Hawaii on a sailboat thinking about work, a big catamaran. He said, I went to the captain, ask him if he would sell the boat. He said, not for two years, so I went back to New York. We made a plan. Now I have two of these boats. This is what I do. Life is about choices. It sounds like your family’s giving you a choice to make. What choice are you going to make?

Hope that was helpful. That was a very powerful question.

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