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Clarify Your Priorities

It’s that time of year again.

My local grocery chain is collecting donations for the local food bank. This is wonderful. It is a worthy cause and a great way for the store to give back to the community.

My past self would donate – a lot. Not because I am such a generous person. Rather, it is because I could not say NO.

I used to average 2-3 trips to the grocery store each week. Each time I went through the checkout, I would be asked, “Would you like to donate to the food bank today?”

This is the moment my inner people pleaser would begin to hyperventilate and send me messages like: You have to donate. You don’t want to look bad. The cashier is judging you. It’s just a couple of dollars. Don’t be selfish. How dare you say No?

Because of my need to please, and fear of judgement, I would donate each time I went through the checkout. So, let’s do the math. If the campaign lasts four weeks, and I visit three times per week, and my average donation is $5.00, then my grand total equals: $60.

You might say $60 isn’t so much. Now compound that throughout the rest of the year, for every store, coworker, or friend who is asking for a donation. It adds up quick!

Because I did not have the ability to say NO, I lost control of my money.

The turning point came when I received an email with a list of the best and worst charities, based on percent of dollar that went to the actual person in need. I realized that I had donated money to some of the worst entities on the list – scammers that were using my giving nature to line their own greedy pockets. At that moment, I knew I had to reclaim control of my money and my mind.

The antidote to this kind of fear-based decision making is – clarifying priorities.

So, how do we clarify our priorities? Well, we decide what is important and define our values and goals. Then we take action around those values and goals. Here’s how I did it:

  • What is important? Taking care of Veterans

  • What are my values? At least 90% of my donation should go to programming, not administrative or other expenses.

  • What are my goals? I want to pay off my car, so I can afford to designate 1% of my income to charitable donations this year.

  • Take action: Go to and find the charity that fits my criteria.

Now, when I am asked if I want to make a donation, I don’t have to think or debate with my inner people pleaser. My decision is made. I know what action to take and why I am taking that action. My answer is simple:

“No thank you.”

“I have already distributed my charitable donations this year.”

“No, but good luck with your campaign.”

When we clarify our priorities we aren’t caught off guard when someone requests something from us. We are prepared, ahead of time, with our answer. The internal debate with our inner people pleaser is eliminated. We have already identified what we want and therefore what we will do in the future.

If we learn to clarify our priorities, create healthy boundaries, and say no with confidence, we will take control of our time, money and sanity.

It’s time to clarify your priorities.

What is important to you? What do you value? What are your goals?

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