Joel Peterson said this in class when I was one of his students at Stanford, and--along with many of his other lessons--it's had a lasting impact on me. Similar sentiments have been expressed over the years by Joe Biden about "your budget" and (supposedly) G.K. Chesterton about "the stubs in a man's checkbook," but money's a less meaningful measure of value. Its relative nature makes it less helpful as a guide to what truly matters to each of us.
Time, in contrast, is a more accurate metric. We all have the same number of hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the year. And how we allocate that time says everything about what we value. I'm keenly aware that having (and lacking) money has a substantial impact on how we spend our time--and yet even when our decision to allocate time to an activity or task (or not) is influenced by our financial affairs, we're still saying something about what we value.
I have a conventional calendar, of course, where I note my obligations during each hour of the workday--but I also keep a set of calendars that are more personal. For many years I've used a simple tool called Don't Break the Chain to track whether I worked out, meditated, and got a good night's sleep (among other things) on any given day. Here's my workout calendar for the last three months:
While I haven't fallen completely off the wagon, it's evident that a more consistent routine which lasted through February fell away in March, and I've struggled to get back into that groove. When I compared this with my conventional calendar I realized that in February I had workouts scheduled in advance each day--a very clear expression of what I valued--and on a given day other activities had to push the workout off my calendar. I stopped doing that in March, for a number of reasons, and the result is that now on any given day the relationship is reversed--my workout has to push other activities off the calendar in order for it to occur.
I couldn't have articulated this at the time, but what's evident in hindsight is that two months ago I started to value other activities more and value my health and well-being less. And that may have been understandable and even justifiable in the short term, but it's definitely not sustainable for a middle-aged guy like me.
So what do I truly value? Calendar don't lie.