Sometimes Scarcity is a Good Thing

The Greatest Button In The WorldIn my single days, I streamlined my morning routine so I could stay in bed as long as possible. When I started losing my hair, there was a part of me that was kind of glad about it, because not having it to wash or comb meant that I could slap the snooze button one more time.

During one period, which I will remember as having the greatest mornings of my life, I had a job that was literally a two-minute drive from my house. I could roll out of bed at 8:20, shower, dress, shove a Pop-Tart in my mouth on the way out the door, and be at my desk by 8:30. As you can plainly tell, those were heady days. Or I guess they were; I was asleep a lot.

Nowadays, I get up before the sun rises, an hour earlier than I have to, so I can exercise before getting ready for work. Oh, I still hate to get up early — every time the alarm goes off I have to spend a few minutes talking myself into getting up, and the talk has to be pretty spectacular or else I get bored and fall back asleep. There are still only 24 hours in a day, but I have a lot more in my life, like a wife and two kids, that I want to devote those hours to, so sleep takes a back seat. And that, my friends, is a little something we call prioritization. Or that’s what I would call it if my mouth could form six-syllable words at the dad-gummed crack of dawn.

The thing about having scarce resources — like time — is that it forces you to clarify what’s most important to you. Nobody really has unlimited resources, but a lot of people — teenage children of well-to-do parents; young, single people with good jobs; Kardashians — have effectively unlimited resources. They have more resources than they have obligations or interests to spend them on. People who find themselves in that situation tend to live a kind of unmoored life. It’s hard for them to tell what’s important to them, because they’re never forced to make clarifying choices.

Back when I was single Jason, you never would’ve mistaken me for a Kardashian, but I had a little disposable income and free time to burn. So burn it I did, with various random hobbies, video games, TV, sleep, and cataloging my vast collection of Beanie Babies. Every once in a very long while, I’d do something constructive with myself, like joining a mission trip to Mexico. But I never had to prioritize anything, so I didn’t, and I just floated from one time-killing activity to another.

But now that I’m married-father-of-two Jason, the minutes are a lot harder to come by. That forces me to ask myself, intently and repeatedly, “What really matters?”

It has the happy effect of stripping away a lot of the chaff from my life and helping me to understand who I am, what I’m about. So in those early morning hours, when I’m cursing the pre-dawn darkness, I take no small satisfaction in knowing that I’m getting up then so I can conserve more of my scarce time to spend with my family later. Look at what you spend your scarce resources on, then you’ll know what matters to you.