I was spending some time with a good friend at the mall. We chatted over brunch and were going to head home, but I noticed a dress that I thought would look good on her. She demurred, said she didn’t have the money. The dress was $15.

Then she spotted a store that sold bags and wallets, and asked if I minded if she stopped there for a moment since she had been looking for a new wallet. She found the one she had been looking for and bought it. It cost $100.

I looked at her, and she explained that she had been saving the money for just this treat. She hadn’t changed her wallet in 10 years, and she had planned for this purchase, whereas for the dress, she hadn’t.

But by the way she told me that she had no money for the dress, I would have thought she was penniless.

We’re always complaining about our limited resources—time, money and energy—because they are, well, limited. We often say, “I don’t have enough time/money/energy” for that. Whatever that is. But that’s a misleading thought, both to ourselves and others, and it puts us in a mindset of lack and limitation when what we’re really doing is making choices, prioritizing and setting limits.

Do I hear you scoff? Think about it. Think about the number of times you refused to spend money on something because you didn’t have it and then splurged on something else. Same with time, energy and even love. When it’s important to us, we can usually find it or make it.

This is important to know because then we can ransom back what is truly important to us. We just have to consciously allocate our resources differently. Whether you want to spend more time with your family, take a trip to Hawaii, give more charitable contributions or start keeping the Torah’s commandments, the thing that has probably been stopping you is the belief that you are maxed out and can’t do it. While I don’t deny that we are all sapped and tapped, this is to a large extent because of our choices, preferences and priorities.

A mother who doesn’t have the strength/time to read her child a bedtime story but does have the time to go clothes shopping is making a statement about her priorities. Someone who can’t send their child to Jewish school school because of the expense but buys a new high-end car is doing the same. Don’t have time for date night with your spouse? Was the ball game good? Who scored? Not you.

We make an astounding amount of choices every single day. Most of them (obviously) are choices we make instinctively or by second nature. But how different might your life look if you consciously changed some of your choices?

Here are a few tips to help you be aware of them and choose more in keeping with your true self.

  1. List your choices. We tend to live a lot on autopilot. Once a day, stop and list 10 choices you made. Were they good choices? Were you even aware of making them? Will you continue to choose this way, or would you consider another direction? We are not prisoners of our previous choices. Every choice is free. The Chassidic masters taught that the world is recreated at every moment, and every person should believe that they too are reborn/recreated.
  2. It isn’t always binary. There are usually more options. But to make our decisions easier, we usually only give ourselves two options. A better option is to create a life where, from the get-go, we give ourselves more options. For example, how do you get to work? Do you drive, take the bus, walk, bike, carpool? Each of these possibilities offers you different scenic and practical options along the way. Where do you work? You can get a 9-to-5 job in an office, or you can get a job with a flex schedule or the ability to work part-time from home. Creatively brainstorming all your options in a situation will create more possibilities and therefore more solutions as well. And there are options we don’t even consider because they are far out of our comfort zone.
  3. Make a list of your priorities in life. Are you designating your resources in a way that is consistent with your priorities? If you aren’t (and most people aren’t), ask yourself how you can do it. Usually, it involves having ironclad rules that we don’t break in order to focus on our priorities. Make a commitment to what’s important to you, and don’t be afraid of the consequences.
  4. Switch yes and no. We often say yes to things we don’t really need or want to do, and no to things that are more in sync with who we are simply because we don’t want to hurt others or look bad. But we’re hurting ourselves most of all when we do that, and how much respect do we garner when we compromise our dearest-held values? Try for a week to (cautiously) switch yes and no a few times a day. See how liberating it is. See how much more time and energy you have to do what you really want and what’s most important to you.
  5. Be perfectly honest with yourself. We inevitably think that we have more or less time than we do, more or less money than we do, and more or less energy than we do. Be 100% clear on what you can realistically expect of yourself. This often entails drawing up schedules and budgets, and planning ahead. Knowledge is power. My friend wasn’t wrong; she didn’t have money for the dress because she had earmarked it for her wallet, and she chose to be in tune with her needs.
  6. You can start again. The concept of teshuvah—repenting and transforming ourselves—occupies almost two months on the Jewish calendar. But it’s an everyday choice. You can stop and change direction at any time by taking stock of your options, your goals and what you need to achieve them. Make a commitment to do just that, and don’t be afraid of discovering the “real you.”

You have the time. You have the money. You have the energy. Because you have the choice.