notes on board

Arranging Your Obligations: Putting Yourself First

You’re best prepared to live in and serve the world when you put yourself first. That’s why making time for your needs and desires before everything and everyone else is the best use of time for someone who strives for a simple, deliberate life.

But lots of people don’t think that’s the right idea — and plenty of people who like the idea in principle are too caught up in useless systems to really do it.

How much of your life’s stress comes from poorly arranging your priorities? Putting yourself first, then carefully choosing who and what comes next might make a daily difference in your life. Putting yourself first also makes you a better citizen of the world because you’re well-rested, well-prepared and properly equipped.

Here’s how I suggest arranging your priorities:

1. Put yourself first.

That means doing whatever it takes to be healthy and productive. You’re no good to others when you’re sleep-deprived or resent the work you have to do. Take the time and exert the energy to sort out your problems and situations before you move on to other issues. You’re a good person, and you’re good enough to rank at the top of your list every time.

2. Put those to whom you are committed second.

This is obvious, I hope. Your (let’s see if I can cover everyone) partner, spouse, lifemate, husband or wife — if you have one — doesn’t come first, but they come a close second. Not only is he or she a person who is wonderful enough to attract your attention, but you’ve obligated yourself. (I hope you find putting your partner second a joy as well as an obligation.) Of course, children fit into this category too.

3. Put other real people third.

People of all sorts are important, and people always come before organizations, companies and other situations. People matter. Systems, ultimately, never do.

4. Put small systems in which you are voluntarily involved fourth.

Your exercise class, your church, your social organizations and maybe your neighborhood independent coffee shop rank almost as important as real people because they’re where you meet real people and how you stay in contact with them. You choose to associate yourself with these groups and businesses because you find them useful and interesting, so they come ahead of other systems that want your time and energy.

5. Put big systems in which you’re caught fifth.

Your cell phone provider isn’t very important. If you don’t pay the bill, they will call — and you need to deal with them. But put them last. Politics and political systems into which you were born or happen to have stumbled aren’t important. The electric company provides a valuable service, but it isn’t a valuable priority for a life. Devote as little time to these essentially involuntary big systems as possible, and you’ll have more time for 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Doesn’t it sound simple? Here it is again, even simpler: Put yourself first, put things that matter second and put the unimportant and uninteresting nonsense of life last.

That seems like a good way to run a life, don’t you think?


  1. I think this is a great list. I have thought about these priorities previously, and have a similar list. For me, it’s:

    1. Me
    2. partner and son
    3. everyone and everything else

    But this post gives me more thought about my number 3. Perhaps I should further categorize. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment, Cynthia. It sounds like we’re on the same track.

      I’m glad to have you as part of the So Much More Life community.


  2. Hi Gip,

    I’m guessing you don’t have children 🙂

    They are usually #1 and sometimes I get my turn to be #1. As long as I get my turn every once in a while, I prefer that they come first as a rule. These developing years are crucial.

    One reason that marriages often fail with young children is that some men can’t get used to change in the relationship when the lightning bolt of incomparable emotion that hits their wives when their children are born.

    This is a temporary phase (OK, years, but still temporary) but some egos can’t handle it. They want to pretend like you can go back to couplehood and be free whenever convenient. They want to be #2 instead of accepting that the children are now #1 for both of you.

    Otherwise, I totally agree – people before other stuff!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Jess. I frankly expected more disagreement on this one. I thought someone would disagree based on some spiritual principle or something.

      Maybe very few of you are reading this week.


  3. Hi,

    I think perhaps I was misunderstood. I do have a child, though I claim no expertise in heterosexual marriage. 🙂

    It may seem to others that my son is what comes first, and in many ways, he is #1. When I said that I come first in my list, this is in basic needs. I make sure I get plenty of rest, plenty of exercise, and I eat well. Those are the basics in life. Since I take good care of myself and my body, I am able to be there for my son and partner, and hopefully I will be around a long time to do so. That is what I mean by putting myself first.


  4. Gip,

    Simple goodness, Gip, and great advice. Duly tweeted to our followers to share the info! Thanks again for stopping by and weighing in on our topics as well, your voice is important! 🙂 Hope your having a great week!

  5. Gip the next little while will see me drop in here on a deliberate nature as I get ready to go off grid to my tiny, minimal home – an RV in the middle of the Canadian “wilderness”.

    That means blogging, commenting and social media will be a special visit to the library for Internet access.

    In the meantime…putting yourself first may need to be put in perspective for some. There are exceptions too, for example when blogging you need to add value to your audience before you do anything else.

    So here’s an example of putting yourself first in action.

    I have a daughter. I still put myself first because…if I can’t look after myself, I am of no use to her. My well being is mandatory before anything else can happen. This is lost on some people and they see it as selfish. I’m willing to accept that.

    Sometimes, dogma gets in the way of progress when it comes to lateral thinking.

    1. It makes perfect sense, Stephen, that you can’t meet your daughter’s needs if you aren’t taking care of your own.

      Good luck with the next phase of your journey. It sounds very interesting. I have aspirations of living in a much smaller house, but I don’t see the path toward that at the moment. It will come.


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