There is this saying, which has been on my mind recently — “People make time for what they want.”
People usually quote that sentence when they are being ignored by someone. Meaning, if you really want to see someone, you will make time for that person.
With that hint of bitterness, the ignored person will usually file the issue away.
But if you overcome this reaction, this short statement offers several more insights — about our perception, our worth and our priorities.
Read on to learn what these insights are.
- Two Perspectives
- Perspective A: In Relation to Other People
- Perspective B: In Relation to Yourself
“People make time for what they want” sounds straightforward enough. But in truth, there are two perspectives here:
- Perspective A: in relation to other people
- Perspective B: in relation to yourself
Let’s look at these two perspectives in turn.
Perspective A: In Relation to Other People
“People make time for what they want.”
Most people take this to mean, “If someone wants to see you, they’ll make time for you.” If not, you must not be important to them.
At this point, it’s easy to feel angry and start acting passive-aggressively. But easy is usually not best.
To not let this bother you, consider the following factors.
First, there is the chance that certain outside events occurred in the other person’s life that you don’t know about. Maybe they are …
- … experiencing heart-break
- … dealing with a loss in their family
- … suffering from depression
- … struggling to keep their job
- … experiencing severe health issues
Things are often more complicated than they look.
For example, during the early stages of being self-employed, I didn’t have enough money to hang out with people. But I was too embarrassed to admit it, so I just claimed lack of time.
So try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. They might just be dealing with something you are not aware of.
The reason for someone’s lack of time might be something positive. They might have decided to focus on their most important goal for a while by deliberately cutting out all distractions. Some people refer to that as monk mode.
Such behavior should be encouraged, not punished. The person in question is trying to actualize their dreams. For that, they need time. And in the end, you might very well rejoice in their transformation.
Different people need different amounts of alone time.
Extroverts thrive in social settings. They recharge themselves by being around other people.
In contrast, introverts need to spend a lot of time by themselves to not burn out.
This is another reason why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge if someone won’t make times for us.
People like me — without kids — don’t quite understand what it means to have kids.
Suddenly, every other project takes a backseat. Another life, one that carries your genes, depends on you. This is now your mission.
As a result, most parents don’t get enough sleep, are worried about money, and concerned about the future.
Can you really blame them for not paying enough attention to you?
Consider Your Perception of Time
We all have double standards about time.
When we are concerned with our own time, we are (somewhat) more averse to wasting it. That is because we realize it’s a limited resource.
But when it comes to other people’s time, we suddenly become very generous. “Why can’t you help me move all day?” “Why can’t you come on that weekend trip with me?”
Our time counts. The other’s person’s time — not so much.
Remember this predilection, next time you are demanding more time from somebody.
Consider Value Differences
No two people are exactly the same.
That is because we all had different life experiences.
These different experiences lead to different learnings which are then condensed into values.
For one person, their most important value might be independence. For another person, it might be community. For a third person, it might be status.
Because of these value differences, we all prefer to spend our time differently.
For you, spending time with other people might best express your dominant value of “connection.”
For me, training in a certain sport for five hours a day might best express my dominant value of “achievement.”
Do not fight other people’s values. Understand — you can’t change people. Accept them for what they are and how they choose to spend their time.
If that includes you, great.
If it doesn’t include you, that doesn’t make them a bad person. It just means that your value differences are too vast to be bridged.
It’s a social law — the more available you are, the less people will want to spend with you. Neediness is unattractive.
I had a friend, kind-hearted, smart, well-educated. But some days, he would call me 10 times or more often.
I told myself to be patient with him. That he meant well. But eventually, I cut off contact. Even though I liked him, I could not stand his behavior.
I have been on the receiving end as well. For example, like many men, I have been shut down by women for being too accommodating.
You can get angry at that. Or you can accept that dynamic for what it is and start to modify your behavior. Once you do, more people will start to make time for you.
Consider Your Own Worth
This is a difficult one, so please bear with me.
When other people are too busy for you, it is oftentimes a reflection of your (current) worth.
Let’s try to define worth. It is a mix of different qualities, like:
- Sexual Attractiveness
- Financial Worth
Worth differs from person to person. That is why we don’t just hang out with anybody. We prefer lucrative exchanges.
I give you what I got — my wit, my patience, my “blank.” And you give me what you got — your energy, your enthusiasm, your “blank.”
For this to work, we must both be within the same range. If your worth is 7 and mine is 6, we can probably find an arrangement.
But if your worth is a 9 and mine is a 6, it won’t work.
For the lower-worth person, that will be painful. We will be quick to blame the other person for not giving us what we want.
But we can overcome this.
The first step is to realize you are by no means worthless. You are just of less worth relative to the other person. That can be changed. Invest in yourself, and you will catch up.
Second, understand the other person doesn’t owe you anything. Instead, keep valuing them for the what they possess. Learn from them, if just from a distance.
Third, realize that everybody is outgunned by someone. That genius / that model / that rich guy? They will all sooner or later meet their master. In this sense, we are all equally vulnerable.
To understand all is to forgive all.Leo Tolstoy
Consider What You Got
Make time for people who make time for you — provided it’s a fair exchange in worth. Build the relationship. Most importantly, show your appreciation.
Time isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing.Miles Davis
When you show the people you surround yourself with that you are thankful for their support, they will continue to provide it.
Also, by showing them your appreciation, you start a ripple effect. They will pass on the positivity they received from you to other people.
Third, when you treat the people around you fairly, high-worth individuals tend to notice. They might now consider spending time with you where before they didn’t.
Perspective B: In Relation to Yourself
Now, let’s look at how “People make time for what they want” applies to your own life. There are three major learnings here.
Learning 1: Your Purpose Is Already There
When I sit down with clients or friends, sooner or later, we always end up at the same question — “What is your most important goal?”
Interestingly, almost everybody has this expectation that there is some secret purpose out there, one they have not yet discovered. If they just did, their business / life would suddenly improve.
From my experience, that is never true.
There is no secret, yet to be discovered purpose. Your historical data is already telling you what your mission is. You are just not listening.
This is where, “People make time for what they want” comes in. It is the key to recognize that in-plain-sight purpose.
Let’s say your fondest memory of your childhood was collecting comic books. In school, teachers would get angry at you because you were always doodling. You got excellent grades in art class. When you went to college to study marketing, you did the graphic design for your department’s newspaper, for free. On the weekends, to relax from your corporate job, you go to the Guggenheim or the Frick Collection.
When told like this, it sounds trivial. Obviously, this person needs to do something visual — design work at the very least, if not creating art — to fulfill their potential.
But it’s never that trivial when it is us. We are all blind to ourselves. But the tool we have to overcome this blindness is to ask ourselves:
“What is it that I have always made time for?”
There are several steps to this process and the first one is to take a step back.
Look at your own life as if you were a stranger to it. Someone watching a movie about else’s someone’s life.
Then look for patterns. What type of activities did that stranger invest their time in, again and again? What did they keep doing, even if there was not much time at all, because of work or family obligations? What is so entwined in their being that they simply can’t stop doing it?
Next, take a piece of paper and draw a table.
Now think of your life as 100 points you have spent already. In the first column, write down the major activities you have engaged in so far; anything that ever got your attention.
This could include:
- childhood activities
- educational experiences
- reoccurring conversations
- reoccurring conflicts
In the next column, write down how many of your 100 points these activities have received.
In the third column, note down underlying themes, like a preference for visual art, wanting attention, needing social connection, striving for independence or engaging in physical activities.
Now take this list to both someone who knows you very well and to someone who doesn’t know you at all. Show it to them both and ask them, “In your opinion, what is it that I keep making time for in my life?” “What is the common theme here?”
If you keep pushing this process, you will eventually arrive at an insight — the motive that drives you, that has always driven you, but which you could not yet acknowledge to yourself.
In this way, we realign our false self-image with our true core. What we think what we are and what we are finally become the same thing.
“People make time for what they want” is the key to understanding all of that. Because given time, our true core cannot help but shine through.
Learning 2: You Must Say “No”
As we just saw, we all make time for what we want.
But the question is how much time we make for our most important priority, or how much we allow nonessential activities to distract us.
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.William Penn
Therefore, we must learn to say “No”.
Refusing people, especially people close to you, is hard. They will feel let down by you. Sometimes, you might even damage the relationship beyond repair.
You have to do it anyway.
Not telling them “No” is the easy way out. You avoid confrontation in the moment.
But in the long term, you pay for it dearly. All these distractions compound. Eventually, you will have wasted your life away, just to fulfill other people’s expectations.
The same applies to projects. There are so many good and even great projects you could say “Yes” to, especially if you are a smart, capable person. People will shower you with interesting opportunities.
Here, the difficulty is not to let somebody else down, but to overcome our own greediness. We don’t want to choose — we want to have it all.
He who is everywhere is nowhere.Seneca
Condition yourself to make “No” your default answer. Only in a very few instances, when the outside request aligns with your personal mission, do you say “Yes”. That is maybe one in a hundred (or less).
People make time for what they want. But only a few people are resolute about it. Become one of these people.
Learning 3: You Must Communicate Smartly
It is not just enough to tell people “No”. You must also be efficient about it.
On the one hand, ideally, you don’t want to lie. A web of lies is not only strenuous to uphold — it also spoils your own character. Plus, when people find out about your lie, the relationship is spoiled too.
On the other hand, you must avoid wasting energy by constantly entering into conflicts.
When you tell your mother, “No, I don’t want to spend Christmas with you” she will get angry. So will your colleque, when you refuse to last-minute fix the project he messed up. Likewise, your girlfriend won’t be happy if you call her out on her princess behavior.
Yes, you could tell them the truth. But the ensuing argument might not only bind you up for several hours. It will also continue to distract you for days and possibly weeks to come, as you keep pondering and feeling bad about it.
You must decide on a case basis. Oftentimes, it is more efficient to give a very soft “No” or even tell a lie, to not get emotionally side tracked. Here are some options:
- Tell them, “Let me check my calendar” to gain time
- Tell them you’ll think about it, then let it fade it out. Most people will get the message.
- Tell them you will get back to them by email, then tell them “No” in writing. It’s easier to do.
- Say you are too busy with work currently
- Point them to another resource
There are instances where you should tell the other person a hard “No,” either because they are mature enough to deal with it or because the relationships deserves it.
Either way, be strategic about your choices. Aim to protect your time, so you can accomplish what is really important to you — your goal in life.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry