Which relationships suck you dry and which ones nourish your soul?
A perfect storm of financial stressors is motivating many institutions, including colleges and universities, to re-think the products or programs they will continue to offer as they seek out new ways of managing their available resources in order to get the most bang for the buck. Whether it is “program prioritization” or “re-allocation of resources,” it is an intensely personal and, not uncommonly, painful process as employees must provide evidence of their unit’s sustainability and value to the greater institution.
Taking it to the Personal Level: Relationship Prioritization
However painful it may be, it makes good sense to evaluate a system, marshal its resources, and choose behaviors and relationships that provide a strong return on emotional and behavioral investments. Taking an objective look at your life and your interpersonal interactions can provide you with the solid data needed to re-prioritize and consciously allocate your own precious resources – which include time, patience, and energy.
Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, LPC, LMHC, NCC, is professor and chair of the Counseling, Adult and Higher Education department at Northern Illinois University. She is a licensed counselor whose focus includes working with individuals and families facing transitions. Her academic research explores development over the lifespan with a strong focus on women’s relationships.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
Self-Assessment of Relationships and Activities
As you prepare for a personal prioritization, here are some suggested areas for self-assessment that can help you streamline your life.
- Relationship history – has this relationship been a part of your life for “too long” or perhaps it is one that spans generations or blood? Is it a part of your future?
- Others’ needs – does your behavior fulfill the essential needs of someone else that you feel you are honor-bound to fulfill? Sunday dinner at the parents? Technology guru for less than technologically savvy colleagues at work? Drinking partner for a friend going through a break-up?
- Your needs – does fulfilling another’s needs leave you pumped and self-satisfied or drained and resentful?
- Success of the behavior/relationship – are you getting the results or benefits that you long for?
- Emotional investment yields proportional return – are the costs associated with this relationship (or behavior) in proportion to the returns?
- Necessity – would eliminating this relationship (or behavior) generate unbearable fallout or negative consequences for yourself or those for whom you care? Would you feel adrift without this person in your life?
- Future opportunities – what would the personal pay-out be by terminating the relationship or eliminating a behavior? What are the potential positive pay-offs that you can enjoy by re-allocating the resources invested in this relationship or behavior to a more beneficial engagement?
Re-Prioritizing for Enhanced Well-Being
Making the decision to streamline your life can bring unexpected benefits in terms of freedom from unnecessary obligations, opportunities to enhance the relationships that you value, and creating a life in which you invite the people, places, things, and attitudes you most value.
I encourage you to re-prioritize your life by focusing on growing the areas that are flourishing or fertile for growth. The seven areas above provide a framework for self-assessment and provide a helpful perspective on making decisions about your future. We all have limited resources and we should do what we can to turn our investments into satisfying returns.