How To Get Off The Treadmill and Never Have a Bucket List

There is a good explanation for why we get stuck trying to simply make money and rarely get around to building a life that matters. We are constantly fighting to balance two opposing daily realities: The Tyranny of the Urgent vs. The Priority of the Important.

Two Opposing Realities
Almost universally we let the Tyranny of the Urgent keep us from paying attention to the Priority of the Important, and as a result, we will never get off the treadmill.

The Tyranny of the Urgent
The Urgent things fly at us all day, everyday, causing us to live reactively and defensively as we hold life together as best we can. The Urgent things are tyrannical—they try to rule over us. Like small unruly kids, they scream and yell, poke and prod, and are relentlessly in front of us.
We don’t have to go find the Urgent things—they find us and rule over us. Overtime we resign ourselves to the notion that this is normal because everyone else around us seems to be doing the same thing. Welcome to the Treadmill.

The Treadmill of Making Money
One of the most Urgent daily tyrants is the need to make money to cover today’s bills. Think about it. That great-looking house, those shiny objects, and that expensive hobby quickly turned into a relentless liability to your cash flow.

Early on this taught you that the “clear and present danger” in life is not having enough money. So from the start you went in search of making money, with the idea that “later” your focus could shift to Making Meaning. But overtime you’ve gotten used to this pressure and have forgotten the excitement of pursuing a life of significance. You might now actually think the goal is itself just to make money.

See how the Treadmill has trained you?And because everyone else is doing it, it seems normal and natural—just the way it works.

But, it’s a dead end.

The Priority of the Important
In stark contrast to the Tyranny of the Urgent is the Priority of the Important. The Important things sit quietly and patiently in the corner and whisper,“I’m really Important. I can help you Make Meaning, not just money. Let me know when you have some time.”

The Important things require us to be proactive because they almost never seem urgent—things like thinking about what next year should look like, and what I really want out of my work and my life. We don’t make money today doing those kinds of things, so they don’t seem Important, and they’re definitely not as urgent as paying the bills.

Which do you want? Riches you don’t have time to use, or Wealth that allows you to live the life you really want? If you focus on the Tyranny of the Urgent and save the Important things for”later,”your best hope is that you will make money, and never as much as you could or should. But if you focus on the Priority of the Important now, you’ll be on the road to real Wealth:freedom. And freedom is the best evidence I can come up with that you are off the treadmill.

The Treadmill vs. A Life of Making Meaning
The Tyranny of the Urgent keeps us focused on making money—the classic treadmill. The Priority of the Important helps us focus on Making Meaning.

Don’t get me wrong. You have to make money. The problem is that we lose focus on why we want to make it. People who focus on making money rarely make a lot of it. People who focus on something bigger than making money, who see money as simply a resource, are much more likely to make a lot of it.

We all know this and are nodding yes. But right now we don’t have time to start proactively designing our future. We have urgent, pressing needs that must be taken care of first. Once we have those covered, we promise ourselves we’ll dive into building a life of significance. Except later never comes. The saddest statement in life is “I wish I had…”, but the second saddest is, “Someday I’m going to…”

Free Beer Tomorrow
The sign in the bar gets us to come back a couple days in a row before we realize tomorrow never comes. When I was in my twenties, a wise old sage said to me, “Chuck, life has a built-in problem. There are three resources, time, money, and energy, and unless we make it happen, we will never get all three at once. When I was your young age, I had all the time and energy, and no money to do anything about it. When I was in my forties, I had all the energy and all the money, and no time to do anything about it. And now in my later years I have all the time and all the money, and no energy to do anything about it.”

No Bucket Lists!
Later never comes. Go get time and money while you have the energy to build a great life. A bucket list is a dumb idea. We have to proactively figure out the very few Important things and people that matter, and prioritize them to the top of our to do list. Once you do, you will find that they take care of a lot of the Urgent things holding you hostage.

What are you doing this all for? Figure that out, then actually live life for that.

Carpe freaking diem already.


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