The internet defines important as:
- Strongly affecting the course of events or the nature of things; significant.
- Having high social rank or influence; prominent.
- Having or suggesting a consciousness of high position or authority; authoritative.
What’s interesting about the three possible definitions listed above, is that numbers 2 & 3 are within the world of status. Implying a comparison is made by judging someone’s perceived status or title against other people. With all of our social media consumption, we tend to use importance in these ways easily and often.
But looking at the first definition – “strongly affecting the course of events or the nature of things; significant” I would argue is the more difficult and much less understood version of the word important. This definition implies that we understand where we currently are and where we want to go in order to judge whether something will strongly affect the course of events.
Its absence in not completing an “important thing” is probably the best test of what is important. The consequences are much more easily seen and disruptive. Following a diet regimen faithfully leads to small daily improvements whereas not following this diet regimen will make you add pounds easily leading to even more frustration. Not attending to an issue because you don’t deem it important which then leads to a crisis because of your inaction can also be a sign of the importance of the item you chose not to do.
Assessing importance up front is very difficult without some type of clarity as to where you are headed. We don’t spend enough time thinking about the future because we are too busy trying to get through our day. Without clarity, it’s difficult to set priorities which is an outcome of assigning the degree of importance to anything.
What I deem as important may not be for you. And vice versa. Why does this happen? It is because of our focus, our interests, and the situations we find ourselves in. Importance can only be judged by context, background, and goals another person has or finds themselves in currently. When listening to others, we need to explore all of these tangential things before determining if someone is thinking clearly.
Very hard for us, as individuals, to judge ourselves as to whether or not what we deem essential is truly important until much later after our choices have been made. When we see what the outcomes are for the choices we have made. We use our imperfect recollections of the past to try to measure where we are today when everything around us seems basically the same. This is why this type of self-reflection is so difficult.
Spend some time thinking about what is important to you using what I have written to prompt you to dig deeper. You may be amazed at what you will begin to see and learn about yourself if you try.