Some years ago, when my wife and I were beginning to think about homeownership, we spoke with recent homeowner friends. On one such visit, we marveled at the greenery surrounding their place (a national park in Mumbai). Our friend said that their decision to settle there was based on a specific need. He said, “We knew what’s outside the walls was outside our control, and what’s inside we could fix. So we picked a location that was going to stay green.”
Hearing our friends made my wife and I realize we had to be clear about what was most important to us.
Not knowing what’s most important to you can cause you future regret. It can have you making poor trade-offs when the time comes. 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐍𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐡 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫?
Each of us has multiple objectives guiding us so taking them all into account is a necessary first step.
𝐌𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐨𝐛𝐣𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧’𝐭 𝐚𝐛𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐭𝐞. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐧 “𝐚𝐬 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐬…” 𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦.
𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘱𝘢𝘺 𝘢𝘴 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘴 𝘐’𝘷𝘦 𝘧𝘭𝘦𝘹𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴 𝘴𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘣𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘺 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺. But such contingencies may not all be immediately apparent.
The process of listing down all your objectives and pitting them against each other two at a time eventually brings out what you value most. Farnam Street offers a simple way. For a big decision you’re considering:
👉On a post-it write one thing that’s important to you. Do this for all objectives, and you should end up with a bunch of post-its.
👉Stick the one you think is the most important objective on the wall.
Take another and stick it alongside.
👉Now ask: If I could have only one of these two, what would it be?
👉Along the way, add weights to the objectives.
👉Continue with the post-it battles until you’ve the most important thing.
💡Quick tip I learned from Jehad Affoneh that you can use to rank objectives: Imagine you’ve $10 to spend on your objectives and you can spend in $1 increments, how would you do it?
Probing what’s important to you is an exercise in self-awareness. It clarifies where you want to go and, later on, what trade-offs you’re okay making. It forces you to ask questions of yourself that you may have taken for granted. The best part about this practice is that it travels well across parts of your life: work, relationships, or values.