I clearly recall the lack of balance in my life as a college student. I was very good at leisure and social activities. I had a good job, so my finances and career were on track. A golf scholarship took care of my tuition. I was doing great! I enjoyed the rigid practice schedule necessary to keep my scholarship, but one major part of this scenario was heading south. My falling grades were beginning to upset the perfect little world I had created. Each time I fell behind in my schoolwork, my golf game suffered, which caused me to worry about staying on the team. A vicious cycle began to take hold: worry that my father would be angry over the poor grades, worry that I would lose my scholarship, worry that I would flunk out altogether. Even my girlfriend was getting on my nerves and we weren’t getting along. This total imbalance would not fly with my father, and it certainly wasn’t acceptable to me.
Fast-forward ten years. At my mother’s urging, my new wife and I attended a series of classes designed to help couples secure a positive future for their marriage. The facilitator was Dr. Ford, a very experienced psychologist who focused on the difference between spoken priorities and lived priorities. The part of the class that made the biggest impression on us revolved around an exercise whereby one of the men in the audience listed a number of priorities in his life on a blackboard.
It was your average list: family, wife, religion, career, health, finances, friends, dog. Dr. Ford then asked the man a series of questions. How many hours a week do you work? How many hours a week do you participate in activities with your friends or on your own? How much time do you spend with your kids, the whole family, your wife, the dog, etc. The man was able to easily answer all the questions.
After all the questions were answered, Dr. Ford wrote the same list, but in a different order from the original list. This list went like this: career, friends, kids, religion, health, dog, wife. As Dr. Ford was completing this list, a faint sobbing could be heard from the first row. Dr. Ford explained that the first list reflected the man’s spoken values priority order. The second list, written by Dr. Ford, reflected the lived values priority order. The sobbing in the front row grew louder. Dr. Ford and the husband had a short conversation. The husband was incensed by the doctor’s comments and insisted his wife and family were the top priority in his life, but his wife’s sobbing confirmed the doctor’s findings.