For nearly a year now, I’ve lived in Costa Rica, reinventing my life through a renewed sense of personal freedom. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting people from all over the world who have the same ideals and thoughts on life – such stark similarities I’ve never found in other people, until I moved here. The other day, I sat with a group of expats and one topic kept us going; the topic of why people say they’ll do something, but don’t actually intend to do it.
All of us have experienced the same thing. We announced we were moving to Costa Rica and loads of family and friends rejoiced, “Oh, we are definitely coming to visit!” Fast forward five months, six months, for my husband and I nearly a year in, and a dismal percentage of those people have actually showed up.
It’s not about friendship or love being defined by whether or not people visit. We get it; life happens. It might be expensive, it might be hard to get time off of work, etc. But if these obstacles stand in your way today, didn’t they also stand in your way the day you said you would definitely come and visit? The question is, why say it at all? Is it for your own reassurance that you’re a good friend? Is it because you believed that’s what we wanted to hear?
We’ve all heard the rationalization before: people make time for the things that are a priority in their life. And naturally if a good friend or family member promises you a visit in your new (tropical, beautiful, exotic) home, your are lead to believe it’s a priority for them.
What has become crystal clear to me is that many people seem to have a cloudy vision of what their priorities really are. Perhaps they do truly WANT to come and visit; but of course they can’t be outdone at the Secret Santa gift exchange, they’ve got to have an updated wardrobe for their work conferences this year and if they don’t show up for a certain number of events for whatever professional association they’re a part of this year, their chances for that next great job offer or promotion will be seriously dampened – leading of course to a lack of money and time which seem to be the most common denominators in the “obstacles” category.
As a group of us sit here in Costa Rica, having freed ourselves from the rat race and figured out that indeed if you really want to travel, there’s plenty of ways to come up with money and time we bounced ideas around the table trying to figure out what truly prevents people from following through with what they say. What we came up with as a group, is that the root is in one of modern society’s favorite words. PrioritieS, thingS that are a priority, – there’s a very real issue for people here.
The word “priority” was adopted in the English language in the 1400’s and only had a singular version, meant for the very first or prior thing for any given person. The word priority meant what priority really means for quite a long time…until as with so many things, humans decided maybe they could alter reality by coming up with a new definition. In the 1900’s the word gained a plural version, and suddenly people were expected to focus on multiple “first things.”
If you take a look at yourself and the people around you, how often are you pulled and stretched and shoved in multiple directions at once? When you tell your boss you’re overwhelmed, how often is the response something to the tune of “you just need to take a step back and get your priorities in order,” as if THAT was any help at all. I’m sure there are plenty of people who have had to choose between taking time off of work for a friend’s destination wedding and taking time off for a personal travel experience.
True life: It’s tough when society expects you to be able to put multiple things “first.” But guess what? You’ll go crazy trying to meet all of society’s demands, just as you would if you try to ‘make everyone happy,’ for instance, something we all know is impossible.
At the most basic of elements contributing to human happiness is the ability first for a person to define what they want and only thereafter figure out a way to go after it. Get back to the basics. If you only felt obligated to define ONE priority what would it be? To provide for your family? Adventure? Health? To further your career? Travel?
I know what you’re thinking; “I want all of those things.” Who doesn’t?! Labeling your utmost priority is not saying there’s nothing else that matters to you, it’s simply giving yourself an anchor, a focal point as a basis for your personal decisions – to prevent that very feeling of being overwhelmed which so many of us are all too familiar with.
If furthering your career is your number one priority right now, own it! When your friend up and moves to Costa Rica, say “wow, that sounds amazing, I’d love to go there someday, I’m just not sure I can make that happen this year as I am really trying to focus on work.” A true friend will love, respect and support you for this honesty and everyone can go on focusing on their priority leading to an enhanced level of personal happiness we all deserve.